Prick, a boutique devoted not to fashion or flowers but cacti and succulents is turning heads in London. And now owner Gynelle Leon has written a new book full of tips about how to choose and design succulents and cacti (and just as important, how to keep them alive):
Photography by Jon Devo except where noted.
Peer into a few windows as you wander down Kingsland Road in Dalston, East London and you quickly realize you are in the right neck of the woods for a shop that sells indoor plants; there’s the hair salon with a Chinese money plant (Pilea peperomioides) proudly displayed on the counter, and the barbers with a swiss cheese plant (Monstera deliciosa) snaking up the walls.
But if it’s cacti you are after, it’s 492 Kingsland Road you should head for—home to Prick, a minimalist haven for all things succulent and spiny.
I first met Leon at an Royal Horticultural Society urban gardening show in London, and had a ball geeking out with her over houseplants. It’s clear she is passionate and knowledgable about cacti and succulents, rather than someone who’s simply jumped on the bandwagon of recent fervor for all things spiny. Leon sold her flat, gave up her job and conducted a year of research before opening the shop in July 2016.
Prick has become a local landmark, and a destination for London’s plant geeks and anyone looking for that hard-to-find gift. People travel miles to visit, or jump off the bus when they spot the forest of cacti in the window. The stock is ever-changing, topped up by Leon’s regular forays to cactus nurseries in the UK, Holland, Belgium and France.
The boutique is minimal: white walls, floating wooden shelves—this isn’t your standard garden center layout. It looks more like your average London flat, in fact, so buyers can see exactly how the plants will look in their own home; rather than facing huge trays full of one species, the cacti are lovingly displayed as individuals. This is no coincidence, Leon explains. “My home has white walls and shelves and is very minimal, and most people in London are probably renting a small white space, so it’s about being able to come in and see that’s what it would look like in my house. It’s easier for you to see the plant.”
Every price range is catered for, from tiny cacti that would make fantastic “pocket money” Christmas presents for children to give to their mums and dads, to giant, venerable specimens that can cost hundreds of pounds. Another canny move was for Leon to offer her own range of pots. Leon, fed up with ill-fitting cachepots and cacti and succulents planted direct into pots with no drainage holes, found a UK pottery mill to produce “Prick Pots,” her bespoke, hand-finished terra cotta pot range that fit her plastic pots perfectly, allowing them to sit snugly within, while excess water can be drained away after watering. They are elegant, simple, and coordinate with any modern home.
“It’s very easy to kill a cactus if you overwater it. People kill them with kindness,” Leon points out. And that’s a worry when some of her stock is more than 40 years old. “I love them, I do get emotionally attached to some of them, and I get upset rather than happy when they sell.” She makes sure to take her customers’ details and checks in afterward to make sure they are keeping their baby alive.
And if you’re worried about what to plant your cacti in, Prick also sells Leon’s own cactus compost mix, made up of one part John Innes No. 2 compost, one part pumice, and one part coir or topsoil.
If you are outside the EU, you can check out some of Prick’s wonderful cacti and succulents in her new book of the same name.
Leon was inspired to write the book as a manual for all the customers who come in seeking care advice for their plants, and to showcase the diverse and fascinating the world of succulent plants, from the fat baby fingers of Frithia pulchra to the tall columns of Cereus. (Not to mention the truly bizarre Seussian styles of Sinocrassula yunnanensis cristata.)
N.B.: See more of our favorite florists in London: