• Tya Shannon

My Journey to Wild Leaf

Updated: Sep 10, 2020

Hi I’m Tya, owner of Wild Leaf. I was born in Perth, Australia, on the first day of spring. My name derives from an aboriginal word that roughly translates as “The earth at flowering time”. I was destined to be a gardener! I spent my early years on a farm being headbutted by goats (the best way to motivate a baby to walk!) and helping my Mum feed the animals. But I never felt like I belonged in Australia. I was always so keenly aware that the hot, dry climate didn’t suit me. People tend to be either warm weather or cold weather people, don’t you find? I prefer lush, green landscapes, and the interior of my home is no exception.

True to my name, I’ve always felt protective of the natural world. In my twenties I was driven to better understand humanity’s relationship with nature and why we, as a species, have done so much damage. I studied Sustainable Development at university and it opened my eyes to so many different ideas. I particularly love concepts, philosophies and designs that focus on better integrating our lives with nature. I think you’d agree that houseplants help to provide that integration. My degree also gave me the chance to study evolution, biology and environmental science, which helped me understand how plants grow and evolve.

To me, spaces don’t feel friendly without plants. After moving to Bristol in 2016, I couldn’t find any large houseplants locally, so I trawled eBay and Gumtree and re-homed a two metre tall Ficus elastica and various other large plants. Since opening the shop I've accumulated two large variegated Monstera deliciosa, a three metre tall Kentia Palm, and so many smaller plants that I get in a muddle when I try to count them. I’ve become a little obsessed with rainforest cacti, philodendrons, and jewel orchids. I was still renovating my home when I walked past the empty shop on Overton Road and decided on a whim to find the owner and ask if I could rent it. I found myself managing contractors at home, fitting out the shop, AND parenting my then three-year-old daughter Finny. It’s safe to say I didn’t get much sleep that year!

After living in London for ten years, I was really craving community. Wild Leaf has cemented me in my Bristol neighbourhood and I couldn’t be happier. It feels wonderful to be recognised in the street and to know so many of my customers by name. And getting to know my staff has been fantastic, plant people are just the best! I’m determined to not be your stereotypical boss, instead I want to be the most supportive employer I possible can be. I treat my staff as a team of creative individuals and encourage their autonomy. The people who work with me are the biggest and best investment my company will ever make and I want them to thrive.

Robi has been with Wild Leaf since early 2018, she has a natural entrepreneurial spirit and I’m getting her more involved in the business side of things. Freddy is an illustrator who’s obsessed with plants. He walked into the shop one day last year and asked for a job. Luckily for me, he kept coming back until I employed him and I can’t imagine Wild Leaf without him now. Jayde is our newest member (again, she kept coming in until I gave her a job!), she works on Sundays and Robi has been educating her in Wild Leaf plant lore. Iona, Octavia and Andru have gone on to follow their passions, but we all keep in touch.

I love the idea of building a company that enhances the lives of every person who works for it, buys its products, or lives near it. My staff inspire the vision of Wild Leaf and its direction through their creative ideas, and it’s important to me that Wild Leaf is able to support their talents. Customers love Freddy’s illustrated plant care zine and Robi’s digital marketing prowess is inspiring! Freddy can propagate almost any plant, and Robi can identify and destroy any plant pest known to man. Jade is a talented photography student, and I hope to find ways in which Wild Leaf can support her ambitions.

I can’t wait to see where Wild Leaf goes from here. Our next step will be a bigger shop on Gloucester Road (soon, hopefully!). Robi, Freddy and I have so many ideas for the business that our heads are spinning. We want to keep our customers involved in our growth so we’ll be posting regularly on Instagram about our new shop renovations. Fingers crossed we’ll get that new lease signed soon! Thank you for reading our blog and growing with us. In my next blog post I’ll talk about how and why we do things differently at Wild Leaf, about plant culture in Bristol, and my favourite plant trends. I’ll also be introducing a blog-based competition, so keep an eye out plant people!

Here I am with my Mum and my Grandma on the farm near Manjimup, Western Australia