Byther Farm Gardening Podcast – Anya Lautenbach, The Garden Fairy. Season 2 Episode 2. Show notes.
I first met Anya Lautenbach in November 2023 and was delighted when she agreed to chat with me for this gardening podcast. In this episode we talk about her love of propagation, her experiences on Instagram, ADHD as a super-power and her new book. The Money-Saving Gardener: Create Your Dream Garden at a Fraction of the Cost by Anya Lautenbach is published by DK, 8 February.
Listen to this episode of the podcast
A transcript of the conversation between Liz Zorab and Anya The Garden Fairy is available below.
Anya The Garden Fairy on Instagram
Buy The Money-Saving Gardener by Anya Lautenbach (affiliate link)
Image of Anya credit – DK © Britt Willoughby Dyer
Season 1 of our podcast is available via YouTube
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Gardening podcast with Anya Lautenbach, The Garden Fairy transcipt
Hello and welcome back to the Byther Farm podcast and today I am delighted to be able to chat with the Fairy Gardener, Anya Lautenbach.
This episode was made possible through the generosity of our supporters on Patreon. If you’d like to see videos and hear podcasts before everyone else, become a supporter of Liz Zorab on Patreon to support our work here at Byther Farm.
Liz – I said your name right there?
Anya – Perfect. Well done. Your German is great.
And you’re welcome. Thank you for chatting today.
Anya – Oh, thank you so much for having me.
Liz – So if anybody is unaware of who you are and what you do, would you mind doing a very brief introduction to people?
Anya – Well, I’m mainly on social media. I am, I think I can call myself an influencer. And recently I started calling myself a writer as well. I know, it’s exciting. Yes, it doesn’t come easily, you know, all those new descriptions. But actually, I’m just Anya and I am a mum of two boys. I am a self-taught gardener, a self-taught , I wouldn’t even call it a florist, I just enjoy playing with flowers,but I’m mainly pottering around and yeah, just nothing professional, all kind of self-taught and relaxing and enjoying. It’s wonderful. And you’ve actually been gardening for a very long time.
Not going to give your age away, but there have been decades of gardening.
Yes, you know, I sometimes… I’m not so good with the… I have to use a calculator. Sometimes when people ask me, because I often give that information on social media, when I say I’ve been propagating for 30 years. So I actually had to take a calculator and do 46 minus 30, which gave me the right number. I started propagating when I was about 12. So even though I’m 46, but I have been propagating for a long time and just gardening, first watching and witnessing, and obviously without knowing, just absorbing it all.
Yes, someone asked me why I started gardening or what was it about gardening and I said I’d seen, kind of got interested and I watched a Gardener’s World programme way, way, way back then and Geoff Hamilton, who was the presenter then, showed how you could take cuttings of asters and they would make new plants and I didn’t really believe it. But that weekend at our local fruit and vegetable shop, they had some asters in pots outside and I bought one and I tried it and it worked. And that was it. I was completely hooked on gardening because nature is so clever.
Yes, totally, totally. I have a similar story, slightly more dodgy. When I was about, before 12 actually, my friend’s mum went to this wonderful spa and they had this massive glasshouse. I’m Polish, I grew up on the Baltic Sea and it was next to the Baltic Sea, a beautiful place with those amazing glasshouses. And I witnessed my mum constantly propagating. So I went to one of those glasshouses, I took a few leaves as cuttings, put them in my pockets. And when I came back, I showed my mom. My mom wasn’t impressed. She said, you shouldn’t be doing this. And obviously, I’m not encouraging people to do it. But I was so excited when every single leaf created roots.
And yes, and it’s just, since then, every time, when you propagate a lot, I have probably propagated thousands of plants, seeing the roots, seeing the process so many times. But even today, after so many years and so many roots and cuttings, I get the same buzz from seeing new roots.
Liz – Okay, so we are just going to reiterate to anybody listening, don’t help yourself to other people’s plants. The next thing to do is to ask, because gardeners by nature are incredibly generous people and will usually share a cutting or two with you.
Anya – Totally, totally, but I do say to people you know especially when you visit famous gardens and people always think well if I just take one little cutting nobody will suffer and nobody will mind.
But just imagine that this garden will have thousands of people and each of them will just have a little cutting the garden will just end up as a, you know, a collection of dry sticks. Yes. So we have to be aware. Yes, there is always that danger. And I mean, I certainly, when everyone asks me, can I take a cutting? I will give them the cutting rather than letting them help themselves. So I’m controlling how much people are taking from my beloved plant.
Oh, do you know, I always say on my Instagram and also just on social media, I say, if you’re local, just feel free to come around and I can give you seeds for free and cuttings. But then, you know, I have to be quite careful so I don’t have crowds of people turning up on my doorstep. So, Anya, your social media following has become huge you are heading towards half a million followers on Instagram that’s amazing oh thank you does it feel strange that so many people are following you or does it feel just what a fantastic celebration well do you know I obviously you know we I wouldn’t lie if I would say I don’t care about
the numbers I think now my Facebook became even bigger so I’ve got over 1.2, I think, millions of followers. So I, of course, I think, you know, it’s incredible that so many people want to see what I, you know, what I do every day. But I, yeah, I think, I don’t know, I think it’s, it really is incredible. But I always feel like I’m just talking to a small group of friends.
You know, I don’t feel even when you know, when we do lives, and when people, you know, it’s a huge amount of people, you know, sometimes you stand in your garden this morning, I had my pajamas on and my, my, my boots. And I truly feel like I’m just, you know, I live in a wonderful little village. And this is a great community, you know, sometimes people stop and I sell local honey, so people sometimes come and buy honey.
And I truly feel, it doesn’t feel like a big number, you know? It almost feels like a few neighbours popping around for a chat and a coffee.
Liz – I know when I talk to people, when I make videos, people say to me, oh, it’s like you’re just talking to me, and the answer is that’s because I am. So I’m not talking to ‘you guys’ out there, I’m talking to one person and usually I’m thinking about telling either my mother or my father who are no longer with us. I want to tell them what I’m doing and explain things to them. So I am having a conversation with one person and hopefully it comes across like that.
Yeah, totally, totally. Yes, it is. It’s a lovely connection. You know, I mean, being a digital creator can be sometimes quite isolating because we work as you know we don’t have a team of people we hardly ever speak to anyone the way we normally do with businesses so it can be quite isolating and so knowing that there are people out there makes us feel slightly less lonely I guess Yes, yes. Certainly, let alone, you know, that’s one of those things. Yes, that’s true.
You mentioned earlier on that you now can call yourself a writer. So your new book, The Money-Saving Gardener, will be out on February the 1st.
Anya – February the 8th.
February the 8th. Sorry. I got the date wrong. I’m sorry about that.
No, you got it right. You know, we had the delay just because, yeah. That’s okay. These things happen.
Liz – So, 8th of February. So, how long has this writing process taken? When did you have the idea? Tell me a bit about the writing process.
Anya – I wanted to find my way, how to capture my content. At some point I realized how useful it could be for other people. I started gardening as a result of my personal crisis and I realized how healing the process of creating a garden by propagation was and growing from seeds.
So for many years I’ve been thinking how could I capture all my top tips and all my instructions so that people could benefit from it, having it all in one place. And I started thinking about the book, because that would be the easiest way. You know, everybody could have all my plant lists and all the instructions and all the details so that the book becomes an extension of my videos. In 2022 that was, which, you know, it’s a long process actually. It was two years ago when I got approached by a publisher. And they said, we’ve been watching you for a while and we really enjoy your videos and your content. And have you thought of writing a book?
And so it started, you know, I’m Polish, so 16 years ago, I couldn’t speak one, couldn’t build a sentence in English. So the first thing that came to my mind was, how many words do you need from me? Because do I even know that many words? And I said, well, about 40,000. I said, what? 40,000?
I said to my husband, do you think I know 40,000 English words, horticultural words? And then I said, I surely can repeat some. And so it started.
Liz – It’s really exciting. And I’ve been very lucky enough to have a sneak preview of your book. Beautiful pictures. It’s beautifully laid out.
And I love how you relate so much of it back to your mother, your grandmother, to your upbringing. So we can really get a feel for how you learnt and why you learnt to do all this propagating. And your sheer excitement every time that goes right, every time you get there, that you can see the roots, that comes across in your book over and over again. It’s absolutely brilliant.
Oh, thank you so much. Well, I hope people can really, really believe in themselves when it comes to gardening, because I’m just a self-taught gardener. And I think, not that I want to make it relaxed. It is so relaxing. Nature is so accommodating, and I really hope that this book, even though it is a horticultural book, it shows people the real emotions behind it. And as you said, the pretty pictures, I’m also really glad that this book has been created by so many women.
Because, you know, we, I realized, you know, when I was writing my own book, I was very lucky to have so many old books. You mentioned Geoff Hamilton. I’ve got all the gardeners from the past. I’ve got all their books because my mother-in-law, when she passed away, I was the one that obviously got her spade and her books. So I’ve got all the books from 1970s and 60s and 80s.
And I realized one day when I started writing my book, I actually didn’t read them all, but I just looked at the names on the books and not a single book was written by a woman. And I said to my husband, I wonder why? Then I thought, ah, I know, because they were all looking after the kids when the men were writing their books. And now, you know, I’m so glad there will be more women in the world of, you know, in the British horticulture.
Liz – Yes. And there is a really nice movement at the moment of a lot of women authors being published, a lot of women’s voices are being heard. Yes, obviously, Anya is at the moment going hurrah, making wonderful hurrah noises, faces at me, as we chat. But it is really important that not just that women’s voices are heard, but women’s voices of all different backgrounds. I mean, looking back, the only books by women
that I’ve found are about women gardeners, are all about women who are in quite privileged positions and really quite well off because they had someone else doing the childcare so they could spend the time in the gardens. And to have a new flush for the 21st century of women gardeners of all different backgrounds, different ethnicities, different abilities and different voices is so good. It’s so good.
But, you know, it’s quite fascinating because obviously I come from a different world. My grandparents have survived the Second World War. So in fact, I am the third post-war generation. And when I moved to the UK 16 years ago to learn English, I realized that the world of gardens is filled with, well, or it may sound a little bit like it’s for privileged people. You know, the Queen going to Chelsea Flower Show and everything is so posh and people, you know, growing roses and where in my country, gardens were just this, it wasn’t a choice. It was, you know, it was necessity, growing, you know, staying sane, you know, all those traumatized
people, like my grandparents, who came after the war, they were growing because they wanted to survive, you know, there was no counseling, there was no, and there was nothing else in our shops. So for me, gardens were actually, well, not for poor people, but it was just a way of surviving.
Liz – Absolutely. That makes, you know, it makes complete sense and very much in some ways in alignment with what I do. So I grow most of our vegetables, most of our fruits as my contribution to our family’s economy. Because when I got ill, I didn’t feel up to going out to work. So I said, right, I’ll stay at home and grow all of our food. Now, you know, we had the comfort of being able to do that because it doesn’t happen immediately. But honestly, I wish I had been able to learn more growing skills from previous generations.
My dad did inspire me, but he wasn’t a huge food grower and his way of gardening was very much 1960s and 70s plaster everything with chemicals. So I had to learn to garden naturally, you know, to start again working with nature.
Anya – Yes totally that’s the only way to do it. For us, it was, you know, we didn’t even have garden centers. So everything was very natural because, and that’s what inspired me really, you know, the legacy of the previous generations, which I, as you said, I mentioned in my book, I almost feel like I am the connection between the past and the future. Because obviously, I’ve got two little boys, they’re extremely wildlife friendly and environmentally conscious.
You know, the knowledge is unbelievable for the age they are at. But also what I have learned from from the past, not that my parents or my grandparents consciously did it, it was just a way of living very natural. You know, storing one of the things that I might get into at some point was storing of your vegetables. Because in the wintertime we couldn’t buy anything, you know, during the communism obviously which I survived as well, we didn’t have anything in the shops apart from vinegar. So, you know, all the pickles were not just because we wanted to make them, we just had to. So it’s incredible what you can store and for how long if you do it right?
Liz – It is. So I can a lot of vegetables and fruit.
Anya – Oh, brilliant.
Liz – So I do pressure canning, which terrifies me every time I do it. But I’m also aware that it’s an ideal way to store the harvest to be able to use during the winter.
Anya – Yeah, totally. Totally. And we’re going back to the money saving aspect, you know, I think I really, you know, I when I grew up when I was growing up, my mom was a single mom, so we didn’t have much money. But we always had a lovely garden. And we always had a lovely, healthy food. And I think that’s what inspired me to put it all in a book. So you know, when when the when the country where actually the world is facing the high cost of living crisis. I think people will truly benefit from the simple, simple ideas how to create gardens and not spending much money.
Yes, I think you’re absolutely right. Thank you so much for sharing all those tips. I was reading and I was looking through thinking, yes, I do that. Yes. Oh, brilliant. So that was great to find more hints and tips. And so there was some sort of confirmation of the things that I do. It’s like, oh, yes, other people do that. That’s good. But just to then learn other things as well. I just love a book that does that balance of reassuring and then also stretching your imagination and teaching you new things.
Yes. I mean, it’s incredible what you can learn. I myself have learned so much from my kids. You know, we observe nature all the time. I often go with the torch at night and I encourage people to do the same because then you see your garden from a different angle and you learn so much about the whole ecosystem that is not visible to people during the day. And this way you can save money because you realize, oh, this is beneficial, this is useful. I just need to encourage more of that. And as a result, it will save me money and create an amazing garden.
You know, the book, I think why I’m so excited about this book is one is obviously because it will help people to really create amazing gardens at the fraction of the cost. And as the book says, as the cover says, it really will be the case. But what I’m also really excited about is the fact that this book will become my tool to raise awareness about ADHD and other neurodivergent conditions.
Because I myself have been diagnosed with ADHD. I am also a mom of a neurodivergent son. And I wouldn’t have done I wouldn’t have done this. And I wouldn’t have the drive to do what I’m doing with that little. Well, maybe I did have a potential but with such little amount of, you know, whether that is my language, a massive barrier for me, or it was at some point, but my ADHD was almost like my superpower.
And it’s almost like having wings. You know, and it truly is. And I hope I don’t have to sit in anymore. And I don’t need to try hard so that people accept me for who I am. But there will be so so many kids out there, and their parents, and also their teachers, and NHS and everything else that comes as a chain reaction to someone feeling really bad, as a result of not being accepted, of being bullied, of struggling mentally as a result of their neurodiversity. So this is so, so promising for me and I’m truly, truly hope, I’m hoping that I will be able to make a difference.
I hope so too. I mean, you’ve made some amazing short videos.
Thanks. I mean, you know, one of the things I don’t see it because I just do it what, you know, I’ve got the most basic equipment. And I don’t have any special tools and, you know, I’m just in my garage, you know, whatever people have. I truly just have two Apple boxes, which I bought on eBay for five pounds each and, you know, basic, basic equipment. But people say that it’s simple and it comes across, you know, easy to follow. So I’m truly pleased about it.
Well, and that’s the thing is that, you know, all the fancy equipment and all the beautiful environment is beautiful, but in the end, it’s you that becomes the relatable thing. So it’s you who is so relatable. It’s you who people want to watch because they see something in themselves in you.
Oh, thanks. Well, I’m pleased to, I’m always pleased to hear it because as you know, you create videos yourself. So you know how much goes into a video. You know, we don’t have those, you know, a team of people behind us for the daily videos, you know, working on the sound and working on the look, you know, sometimes honestly my some of my videos, if you would see how I create them, it’s a good job that people don’t know how we make them yeah enjoy and enjoy the result.
Yeah, a number of times I’ve been almost lying on the ground trying to get the camera at the right angle to build and then yeah i can’t see whether i’m in shot or not i do quite a lot of videos where either the top of my head or the bottom of my head is cut off because I can’t see what I’m doing and that’s okay because that’s just real life.
I know. You know the best I had this funny situation where, you know, when you want to create a video of pruning something and it’s only one plant that you have to prune and you have pruned it and then you realize that press record.
Liz – Yes I’ve got several that say well just now I harvested all of these cabbages. You can’t stick them back in the ground. Yes exactly. It’s okay if you’re just planting out seedlings you can do that repeatedly but if you’re cutting something you can only cut it once.
Anya – Yes I do sometimes I scream and think, God, what have I done?
Liz – I went through a really terrible phase a few years ago of forgetting to press, check the sound.
So I do record a 10 or even a 20 minute video and I get back inside and all you can see is my there’s just zero. Yeah, sometimes it is tricky. Yeah, definitely. Actually, now I kind of have got into this really good habit of before I do anything else, I do a sound check. But yeah, so I don’t have to lose the sound. I don’t often lose sound, but I still do occasionally lose like the top of my head or…
Anya – Yeah, yeah. hair is all over the place.
Liz – So what is next? The book is out 8th of February and then you all are you going to be chatting around at all with your book? Are you going to be doing some signings?
Yes I think my my diary is filling up. I’m truly, truly grateful for every order because it will make a difference. It will make a difference to so many people. So I will be traveling, obviously promoting the book. As I said, I would like to do more public speaking and obviously related to gardening, but it will be also motivational. Because as I just said, I came to this country 16 years ago. When I was picked up, I worked for Mr. Mohammed Al Fayyad. And when I was picked up by one of his bodyguards, he said, how was your journey? And I could not understand what he said.
So it was truly, it was hard. It was very hard because obviously I was, I wasn’t stupid, but I just couldn’t join any conversations here. So that was 16 years ago. And I, in the past 10 years, so many things have happened as a result of, you know, my drive, my vision. And I would like to share it with other women. You know, it was only in 2022, a few weeks before I got approached by my publisher that I actually wanted to stop doing what I do on Instagram. I could completely, I lost motivation and I have experienced a few things. It was just a chain of events that made me slightly, you know, I’m very realistic and I’m not delusional about things. I thought that nobody will ever give me a chance to… nobody will ever listen to my voice.
And, you know, I will never have a chance to do what I really want to do within British horticulture. I just thought, you know, actually, I think I’ve done enough. And I enjoyed it. It was great. I’m sure it made a few differences, made a difference to a few people, but I think I’m done now. And it was kind of a soul-crushing few events. And it was a few weeks before I got approached by a publisher, what I then realized how close I was to quitting and how close I was to walking away from something
that I worked so hard on. And I didn’t, which, you know, obviously in my case you didn’t walk away yeah it was you know it wasn’t it wasn’t even it wasn’t a dramatic kind of walk away but you know so many women I see it all the time so many women on social media not only within the gardening industry. But you know I follow comedians and you know there’s so many talented women and I’m pretty sure they feel the same as we all feel the same you know we keep producing those videos, we keep producing this inspiring content, you know, Instagram gives us a little bit of, you know, it’s almost like this carrot, you know, oh, now you can have your subscription. And we just I want the subscription.
And we keep doing it. We keep doing it. And then you got 100 pounds at the end of the month. And you think, God, what should I get the shoes for the kids or, you know, feed the whole family? So it’s there’s not a huge amount of money in in what we do. No, and it can be really demotivating, but it’s not only about that because outside of social media there are so many doors that could be open to you if you If you don’t give up and you keep going and if you still have your vision.
So just keep going, keep doing what you do. If you believe that what you do really makes sense and you truly, truly, it comes truly from your heart and from your soul and you want to make a difference to the society, to the world, just keep doing, just keep doing.
Anya, you’re going to make a fantastic motivational speaker.
Oh, thank you. What I was going to say is keep going and keep going not keep doing. But no, truly. Doing the same thing, you know, keep going on, yeah.
Keep on going. Yeah, just don’t give up. Just never give up. You know, even if you have a moment, I have learned over the years, you know, having ADHD, I hardly ever relax. I found I had a coach, ADHD coach, just to get me through because I knew that there will be new things coming my way, you know, the publisher has warned me that if if I will succeed, you know, there will be so many things I have to truly juggle. And I have learned to relax.
So what I think is so important for us all to remember that if you have this moment of doubt, if you really think like you, you, you are like I was in 2022, that you just want to walk away, just give yourself a break, maybe do a completely different thing for a while, and then go back. So just learn to rest rather than quitting.
Very, very wise words. Anya, thank you so much for joining me today. I can’t wait to actually get hold of a copy of your book. It’s going to be really exciting.
And thank you so much, Liz. Thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure talking to you.
You’re very, very welcome.
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