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Fill your garden with gorgeous green babies.
Gardening has recently enjoyed a resurgence of popularity, resulting in a cavalcade of young green thumbs. Keeping a lush garden, whether it's indoors or outdoors, is a viscerally satisfying accomplishment. And the benefits of a well-tended garden are manifold: fresh produce (that actually tastes like it should, instead of a pale, near-death supermarket imitation), flavoursome herbs, clean air and a whole swathe of green babies to greet you when you walk through the door. This is not to mention the mental health benefits of gardening, which have been well-documented and even used to rehabilitate young people with serious behavioural or mental health problems.
But where do you start when you've never so much as looked at a scoop of soil before? And where can you turn for help? Eschew Bunnings with a firm hand and head on down to these local boutique nurseries for solid advice, rare finds and an abundance of crazy plant-lovin' folk.
Part the not-for-profit sustainability reserve on Merri Creek, CERES Nursery is the spot to go for all your herbs and produce. While you're there you might want to pick up some non-toxic fertilisers too, because you don't want to be ingesting anything nasty when you finally harvest your produce. The nursery also stocks basic indoor and outdoor plants as well as a hefty range of natives.
A trip to CERES Community Environment Park in Brunswick East is the perfect starting point for anyone looking to get into gardening as the centre, which extends way beyond the nursery, is a living, breathing, thriving example of the benefits of ethical agriculture. They also sell their organically grown fruits and veggies at the CERES Organic Grocery Market — and wouldn't you know it, it all tastes like it should.
The South Melbourne Market is the perfect place for a spot of weekend plant hunting as you can graze your way through the food and coffee stalls at the same time. This is a good spot for intermediate plant parents. There are several plant retailers you can haggle with to secure the best price — and if you know what you want (and you vaguely know how to keep it alive), you'll be able to back your car up and quickly fill the boot with all the fiddle leafs and rubber plants to your little heart's desire. Some of the retailers are knowledgeable and willing to field questions, but if in doubt you can always turn to this nifty little online community for all the plant info you could ever need.
The Fitzroy Market is a monthly affair (the third Saturday of every month, to be exact) and has been running for six years. While the stalls change month-to-month, and the focus is mostly on clothes and homewares, it's also an absolute gem for bulk buying succulents and cacti. Some vendors sell succulents as cheap as $1. Make sure you have a plan of attack before heading in though, otherwise you'll be overwhelmed and leave with an armful of mismatched plants. Plan a multi-species succulent tray or have a terrarium ready so your new plant children have somewhere to settle in.
If your interest in gardening is for the purposes of home-beautification, Mr Kitly in Brunswick is the shop for you. Hidden away in an upstairs studio, it's a mecca for plant people, boasting a large range of rare and reasonable indoor plants alongside darling ceramics, chic plant stands, weird crafts and beautiful artwork. Owner and operator Bree Claffey has even written a book named Indoor Green: Living with Plants (punctuated by beaut photography by Lauren Bamford), so you can trust that the Mr Kitly crew know their stuff.
Last — but by no means least — is Loose Leaf. You may know of them from their prolific Instagram following but it's more likely that you've wandered into the Loose Leaf studio expecting a retail space and found anything but. Their approach to gardening is almost spiritual and an inspiration to anyone wondering what a little greenery could add to their home. The studio specialises in commercial installations and workshops ranging from terrarium building to bouquet arrangement. They're also currently writing and photographing a book. This is the place to come to track down any uncommon plants you've set your heart on (Chinese money plant, we're looking at you) but they also stock plants for all levels of expertise, as well as some sweet ceramic planters that go beyond your stock-standard ceramic pot.
Published on March 30, 2016 by Imogen Baker