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VICE Weekends Presented by Weis

We Asked People Who Like Plants What It Is About Plants They Like

"You can have a play and see what happens. It's about not taking yourself too seriously."

by Rebecca Varcoe
02 December 2016, 9:35pm

This article is part of our VICE Weekends summer series, presented by Weis

Rebecca Varcoe edits one of our favourite Melbourne zines Funny Ha Ha and likes plants. She spoke to some other people who also like plants.

If The Block is the reason countless suburban homeowners all over Australia dream of marble bench tops, what's responsible for the sudden passion so many inner-city young creative types have developed for collecting house plants? Social media is full of plant buy/swap/sell groups, with millennials who can barely keep themselves alive now nurturing fiddle leaf figs and monsteras into blooming health. We caught up with a few people to figure out what it is about plants that's got everyone feeling at one with the earth right now.

Jason Chongue of The Plant Society

Jason Chongue's house is a green oasis with plants covering every single surface in every single room. At last count he thinks he topped 200 plants. Jason heads up The Plant Society, a plant social network that provides a knowledge bank of skills and techniques for people enthusiasts, or anyone clamouring to get a slice of plant action.

VICE: How did you start collecting plants?
Jason Chongue: I had a lot already and I learnt a lot about gardening from my grandma. A lot of these plants were given to me from friends and family, or I'd get cuttings from people and we'd swap them. Then I started getting into collecting the rarer ones.

How do you maintain them all?
It's actually not that hard! I just walk around and water them? For me, it's therapeutic. I'll get home and be in the garden for an hour or two. I've been known to garden in the dark.

Why do you think everyone's getting into plant collecting all of a sudden?
I think there's all of these things now that are more approachable for younger people, so that's making a difference.

What are some resources or places to go to nurture a relationship to plants?
The Plant Hunter is a really good blog now, and more and more, younger people are promoting it, which makes a huge difference. I also volunteer at the Botanical Gardens; the Friends of the Gardens are quite old school and I've been trying to get more younger members involved so we will be able to pass the knowledge on.

What's some advice you can pass on?
A large part of what we at The Plant Society do is educate people. We say to people, 'Okay, you want this obliqua. It has taken six to eight months for this to propagate, so don't expect to pay $10 for it, but also, you shouldn't pay $200 for it, because that's ridiculous.' Gardening is about patience. People want it now. Recently a girl came back to a workshop of ours and said, 'Oh, every time I get a new leaf I get so excited!' and that's part of it.

Do you have a favourite plant?
I'm still loving my variegated monstera. I go between that and the watermelon peperomia. My favourites are always the ones that no one else has.

Sarah Booth of B'OK Flowers

Sarah Booth does it all. Co-owner of Tiggy Cafe at Schoolhouse Studios, writer, part of the team behind Flour Market, and now head flower lady at B'OK Flowers, which is an evolving flower project adorning all your favourite places with beautiful arrangements. With a converted toilet studio out back of Tiggy and a pair of shears, Sarah's teaching herself the floristry ropes.

VICE: Why flowers?
Sarah Booth: I've worked as a writer and editor and I got to the point this year where I was concerned I was going to be behind a computer until I'm 40. And that really stressed me out, because I get really drained behind the computer, even though I love what I do and have a good relationship with the internet.

How did you make the switch?
I thought, I've got to do something else, a secondary thing that re-energises me. So I started doing this. I have absolutely no flower experience, but I found that as soon as I started, it was such a joy. I've always loved flowers and foraging for stuff and creating arrangements at home, but now I'm teaching myself flower names and what's what, and it's slowly turned into something else.

What's it like stepping into a new industry as someone who is self-taught?
You learn so much by just doing it. I'm not a florist, and there are some incredible florists that I'd like to learn from and that have so much knowledge, but you can have a play and see what happens. It's about not taking yourself too seriously.

Do you just work out of this little room?
Yeah! What happened was, when I made the decision to do the flowers, I needed a space to do it from. I live around the corner and was coming into Tiggy every day when Raph was selling it, so we were chatting about changing this space from a toilet and me working out of it, but then I ended up buying the cafe! So now I work in here, and run out there, and then run back in here.

You do so many things, are you ever not doing a thing?
I'm always doing a thing!

Mike and Sayaka of Little Buddha Hair

Everyone deserves to have their hair cut surrounded by pot plants. Collingwood salon Little Buddha as well as Mike and Sayaka's adjoining Johnson St residence are lovingly curated spaces full of the very best green things.

VICE: Why all the plants?
Mike: I don't know actually, we're on a main street so the plants cut the pollution I suppose? Why all the plants, Say? Why did we start buying all these plants?
Sayaka: We always liked them!

Do you have a favourite?
Mike: I think for me it's the sansevieria.

It's a beautiful planter box that it's in too.
Mike: I bought that box back in 2003. It had sansevieria in it then too, but I learnt the hard way that sansevieria don't like to get too wet. That's how I killed all my plants when I first got them, I kept watering them and watering them because I thought I was helping them.
Sayaka: That's how you kill them, too much love.
Mike: Now when anything starts to look unhealthy we take it outside and try to let them fix themselves.

Do you have anywhere you recommend people get pots from?
Mike: Glen Waverley Antiques Bazaar, but it can be expensive. Junk Company in the city just past the Vic Market is another, and around the corner at Tongue and Groove.

Why do you think everyone's into old junky pots and plants again?
Sayaka: It's a '70s thing
Mike: Yeah, it's cyclical. It all comes around, we all want to be like our grandmothers.

Rosaleen Ryan of Mamoru

Rosaleen Ryan's plant love is public knowledge, with her flora feelings channeled into her work as an artist and as jeweller at Mamoru. Her pieces feature flowers and plant life suspended in resin, then suspended from your lobes. Her houseplants and garden are just as fascinating.

VICE: You use so much natural flora in your jewellery. Do you get anything from your own garden, or do you source it elsewhere?
Rosaleen Ryan: I try to pick it all by hand, specifically. My parents live in the Dandenongs so a lot of the references came from there. I first started embedding with a lot of the wattle because our family wattle tree died, so we had to get rid of it. For my show, Garden State at Small Space Jewellery, it's going to be all about Brunswick's overhanging fruit, which is why I've got lots of lemons and limes drying.

You've got a great garden of your own, too.
This is the first time I've really had a garden. It's interesting, I used to have a lot more succulents, but now I don't see the need because I can grow a mandarin tree and a feijoa.

Why do you like plants so much?
Isn't it easier to say why wouldn't you like plants? I don't understand people who don't like plants or don't try to like plants. I'm even a fan of people who buy plants all the time and accidentally kill them.

This article is presented by Weis