Home » News » A Q&A with Kali Hamerton Stove, co-founder of The Glasshouse

A Q&A with Kali Hamerton Stove, co-founder of The Glasshouse

Ahead of their stall at the Houseplant Festival next Sunday 22 October, we spoke to Kali Hamerton Stove, Managing Director and co-founder of The Glasshouse, to find out more about their houseplant growing social enterprise. 

Kali Hamerton Stove, Managing Director and co-founder of The Glasshouse

Can you tell us a bit about The Glasshouse and how you came up with the idea?

The Glasshouse is an award-winning social enterprise nurturing houseplants with women in prison whilst providing horticultural training and employment.  We sell our very special plants through our webshop (theglasshouse.co.uk), our shop on the high street of Cranbrook, Kent and through our installation service for offices and hospitality.

We founded The Glasshouse in February 2020 when we learned about the serious and un-met need for employment and housing for women leaving prison. We noticed empty glasshouses at HMP East Sutton Park and had the idea to utilise this disused space to help address this need. With my co-founder Melissa Murdoch and our talented support team, we are determined to reduce reoffending by ensuring women released from prison have improved opportunities and are prepared for release. The Glasshouse offers intensive training and resettlement support which ensures women have the best chance at a second chance of a good life.

The Glasshouse has become a respected social enterprise and a place where women preparing for release from prison can develop skills and experience in horticulture, customer service, logistics, health and safety and marketing.

The Glasshouse team pot our plants into handmade grey Italian clay pots with specifically designed compost and care information. We also sell plant care products and nature-inspired gifts. Our primary business is designing, installing and maintaining indoor plants and outdoor living spaces for corporate clients including Hoare Bank, Big Society Capital, Lloyds Bank Foundation and The Conduit private members’ club in central London.

Why do you think growing plants is such a beneficial experience for the women you work with?  

Women are offered the opportunity to join The Glasshouse training and employment programme at the end of their prison sentence. The organisation primarily works with HMP East Sutton Park, an open women’s prison in Kent, but also provides training to other closed women’s prisons.  The Glasshouse training team has the opportunity to grow their skills and prepare for life outside whilst working with clients.

Houseplants have experienced a huge revival in recent years with most homes including plants as interior design additions. A growing appreciation for a cleaner, healthier environment has made them even more sought after. Being a part of The Glasshouse and learning about horticulture, whilst caring for our more than 25 plant varieties, really provides the women with an interesting and valuable base to grow from, personally and professionally.  They learn about environmental and sustainability credentials, with peat free compost used as standard, single-use plastic avoided and recycled and recyclable packaging.

When not working in the shop, wrapping online orders or planning the next installation in an office, The Glasshouse women are busy at the company’s ‘Growing HQ’ where they learn about nurturing, propagating and growing tropical and indoor plants.  Women also have the opportunity to work towards a qualification in horticulture,  To support our training, the women also develop and deliver houseplant workshops to the public and corporate clients – this really builds their confidence and allows them to share their knowledge and be the expert. The women have run these informative, fun sessions for U3A, horticultural societies and corporate team building events.

What are some of the plants you grow?

We have so many!  All for indoors, Including phlebodium, asplenium, sanseveria, Pepperomia, Pilea, Agloanema, Monstera and Ficus.

Are there any challenges in growing houseplants in the UK?

We don’t have full-blown commercial growing operations, so many of our plants are grown from smaller plants or plug plants. It would be expensive and take a lot more expertise to set up a growing operation on par with what is established in Holland or Belgium. Because our primary focus is providing paid employment to women in prison, we use this labour force to work in our growing facility.  With this, it’s important that every woman is trained well around temperature management and water delivery.  Human error is a part of our process and we learn from every mistake!

Have any of the women you’ve worked with gone on to continue working with plants?

Oh yes!  We have employed many of the women ourselves and they now maintain the plants we have in place in offices and hospitality sites across London.  Some women were more interested in hard landscaping and they now work for landscaping or construction companies.  Some women have gone on to start their own growing or gardening services.  We try to stay in touch and have regular contact with all the women we’ve worked with.  We currently have a 0% reoffending rate, which is really unique and incredible.  We are so proud of all the women through our programme and how hard they are working to make a better life for themselves.

What does the future hold for The Glasshouse?

So much! Our installation and maintenance business is growing exponentially and this is an important part of our work as it helps us support more women and offer more training and employment.  We are also looking to expand The Glasshouse programme to more women’s prisons throughout the UK.  Everyday is different, we have new learning and opportunities come up all the time.  So far we’ve grown whilst being able to provide an outstanding level of service to our clients and support women in prison – this will always be our baseline.

The Glasshouse team will be selling some of their houseplants at the Houseplant Festival on Sunday 22 October: book Houseplant Festival tickets

Photos by Diana Yule

Posted on Posted in News