Hi everyone, Iain here.
We have just finished stage one of the plant out in The Cosmopolitan Double Bay. For those of you haven’t visited the Cosmo yet, it’s a boutique shopping arcade in a waterside eastern suburb of Sydney – think upmarket fashion, beauty, European style cafes, and delicious fine produce.
We worked on the design of this permanent install with our long-time collaborators AZB The Creative (Gazebo, The Captain, Italo House). Fronted by the charismatic design guru that is Alex Zabotto-Bentley, AZB work on some mind-blowing projects in Australia and beyond. After a visit to the AZB studio in Surry Hills, I was briefed and ready to go. Working with this team is always a delightfully fun challenge because we both like to push the boundaries of contemporary plant styling to create something unique that will stop people in their tracks.
Shopping Centres are full of plants these days, which is awesome, but we wanted to move away from the more commonly used themes of Fiddle Leaf Figs or Kentia Palms in pots with Devils Ivy, Peace Lilies and Philodendron Xanadu. As I said, we are boundary pushers and always love the opportunity to show what unique ideas we can conjure up.
While many industries have seen a downturn in business over the past six months with the global pandemic mayhem, the retail horticulture industry has been booming. The increase in people working from home has seen indoor plants sell out quickly, with an influx of online shops appearing that deliver directly to your door. The flip side of this is that the nurseries I use to source plants have been barren. I have nightmareish visions of people panic-buying Monsteras in 2020 toilet paper purchase proportions! Fortunately for me, AZB, The Cosmopolitan, and the visitors to Double Bay, October has seen a lot of stunning plant materials arrive in the wholesale nurseries (just in time for this project!). Another big High Five for Spring.
Alex and his team always like to select their own pots, so once they sent the photos and specs through, I knew the dimensions and volumes I had to play with. I was looking for two BIG feature specimens. If you read our last blog, you will know that I am a big fan (pun intended!) of Australian Fan Palms – Licuala ramsayi. I selected two 75L specimens which I had intended to use separately, but once I put them side by side in the van, I knew they were destined to be together in one big pot.
I also wanted to find something tall and delicate, and I was lucky enough to spot two big, wild Weeping Figs (Ficus benjamina) at Explosive Growth Nursery in Dural.
I just wanted to take a moment to do a big shout-out for Explosive Growth Nursery here actually. Most of the nurseries I source from are trade-only, but Explosive Growth is also open to the public. Matt and his team have a fantastic variety of indoor plants, big succulents and cacti, and all your normal garden plants. It’s well worth a little trip out to Dural if you’re looking for some new plant pals for your home or garden, and they are far better value for money than the big green and red hardware store or the well-known franchised garden centre (if you catch my drift).
So, with the big specimens sorted, I also picked up a really interesting Happy Plant (Dracaena fragrans massangeana) from a private seller, and a lush Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia Nicolai) to go in the medium-sized pots.
With the smaller pots, I wanted to use something a bit different. Referring to the last blog again, Fatsia Japonica has been one of my favourite plants for a long time now. It is really interesting, has an amazing growth habit, and… well, how could you not love those big glossy leaves? Personally, I think it’s criminally underused, and if you do start to see it becoming more mainstream, make sure you tell everyone that the big handsome Scotsman from Pop-Up Gardens predicted this trend, like an unintelligible horticultural Nostradamus.
Again, I wanted to have a variety of form and texture in the medium-sized pots too, so I finally settled on Euphorbia tirucalli ‘Green Sticks’ and Cardboard Plant (Zamia furfuracea). These are both plants I have a big soft spot for, and they provided an excellent textural contrast to the large glossy leaves of the larger plants.
All that was left was to pick a selection of weird and wonderful smaller plants to go in around the larger specimens. This was absolutely the ‘kid in the sweet shop’ moment for me, where I got to fill a few trolleys full of planty goodness. My absolute standouts were: Dracaena reflexa ‘Song of India’, Philodendron ‘Silver Swords’, Neomarica gracillis (Brazilian Walking Iris) and Monstera adonsonii. That last one was a bit of a spin-out for me because last year these Monstera were basically collector’s items, and you had to search far and wide even to get your hands on a cutting. Using them as fillers was actually great – they provide the perfect additional texture and softness trailing over the edge of the pots. I’m so stoked I was able to use them!
When I have the level of creative freedom that I did for this project, I tend to slip into the creative zone and begin throwing plants together based purely on instinct. So, several days on from this install, I’m still looking at images of the finished pots and am seeing little contrasts in colour, variegation and form and thinking “Wow, that looks sick Iain, good job!”. I’m really pleased with how everything turned out.
We’re going to be going back regularly to maintain these plants, so you can follow their progress on our socials as they grow, flower and flourish. Phase 2 at Cosmo is a massive outdoor installation, which I am already planning and re-planning in my head. Look out for that later in the year.
So yeah, look, I wrote a blog. I hope you enjoyed reading about the creative process that goes on behind the scenes of the installations we work on. If you want to know more about any of the plants I used, plants you have at home, or you just want to give me mad props for a job well done, drop us an email or hit us up on Insta.
See ya next time!