The gardening bug is a hard one to shake. What might start off as some Woolies parsley growing in the windowsill above the sink can quickly evolve into obsessively spraying Seasol on your asters and getting elbow-deep in dirt to dig up this month's potato harvest.
Whether you're wanting some tips on affordable places to get a start on your own patch of green or you're wanting to know where you can find the best variety of natives and endangered plants to splurge on, here are the top ten places to buy plants in Sydney.
One of your first ports of call should be your local council nursery. Councils (like Randwick) are interested in keeping the plants endemic to the local area in people's gardens and front curbs, so they're a great place to pick up natives and cheap saplings. This also means the plants you'll get from your council nursery will usually grow well in your yard soil, because they're suited to the conditions of the area. Local councils, including the City of Sydney, also often run free plant giveaways from time to time, so keep an eye out. But be warned — the lines at these things are longer than you'd expect, so get their early or prepare for at least an hour wait.
Did you know you can buy plants straight out of the Royal Botanic Gardens? The Growing Friends' Nursery sells plants that have been propagated using living collections from the gardens, the Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan and the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah. Not only does this nursery offer a range of native, exotic, rare, hard-to-find and endangered plants, but the money you spend here goes straight to supporting Botanic Gardens projects, which are largely run by volunteers.
Marrickville Market always provides an amazing excuse to spend a few hours gorging on fresh produce, fresh bread and homemade fudge, but they're also a great place to find some really beautiful plants for a reasonable price. They've got a stunning range of established plants and seedlings, including natives, and usually have some great deals on herbs and small potted flowers. Head to the food stalls first and get your fill — chances are, you'll find your hands full once you've stocked up on a crate of leafy bargains.
This small nursery is absolute magic. What it lacks in size it more than makes up for in charm — and its finely curated selection of plants, which include everything from orchids to cacti. The staff are great and always ready to help when you just can't figure out what you've done to make your indoor rubber tree look so sad. They understand that shoppers come from all levels of green experience, offering hard-to-kill Zanzibar Gems (the magic plant that thrives on neglect and only needs watering once every three months) for those with black thumbs as well as being able to talk through the intricacies of garden layouts with the pros. Possibly the most welcoming on the list, the Newtown Garden Market also has great standing deals — like four flowering plants for $10 and six herbs for $25 — meaning you can build your own flowerbed or herb garden in one trip.
If you're looking for a bigger selection to choose from, Sydney's Plant Market out in Annangrove is a great choice. They've got a huge range of established trees and shrubs and, best of all, an excellent selection of carnivorous plants. It doesn't get much cooler than having a plant that will go all Little Shop of Horrorsand devour the bugs in your house.
Honeysuckle Garden, in both Mosman and Bondi Junction, is definitely worth considering if you're going to take the plunge into landscaping a large garden. They get bonus points for sourcing most of their beautiful selection from the delightfully named Honeysuckle Park, a five-acre production nursery in Dural which is worth visiting in itself — particularly if you're looking for more mature trees, including magnolias and camellias. And for aspirational plant daydreaming, you may want to check out the Plantspiration section of their website, where you can open yourself up to the world of magnificently camp plant names. My favourites include the Teddy Bear magnolia, the chain of hearts, fiddle-leaf figs and flapjacks. It's a world you never knew you never knew.
A visit to Eden Gardens is a day in itself, and probably best suited if you're a pro wanting a large selection — if you're just a plant lover it can be a bit overwhelming. Either way, it's a great adventure; the centre is designed to work as a series of themed gardens in itself, so it's lovely just to wander through and gather ideas. Plus, you can finish up with a coffee at the Dragonfly Café.
Although we'd rather support small, local businesses, don't discount Bunnings altogether. The home improvement chain not only offers all the higher end gardening paraphernalia you'll need if you're going to go full Costa, but you can also find good terracotta pots of all sizes for a reasonable price. We've got word from a gardening old-hat that Bunnings restocks on Thursdays and Fridays, so Wednesdays are usually the day to grab things on sale.
Flower Power garden centres are located all across the state, and again have the benefit of a large range and good display (as well as a café to keep you caffeinated). Best of all, the Mascot store runs terrarium workshops, so you can get access to all their tools and knowhow to make magic little gardens trapped in glass. Their website is also worth a look for info on seasonal plants, handy DIY tips for the garden and even recipes for the harvest from your veggie patch. They frequently have great sales and they'll even deliver bigger purchases to you don't have a car and/or upper body strength.
Last — but certainly not least — don't forget all of the free options available to you for filling out your garden. Say you see a beautiful rosemary bush sprawling across your neighbour's front path, why not lean across the fence and — after some obligatory weather chat and maybe some flattery — ask if you can take a small clipping to plant in your garden? Or break out of the food economy entirely and start growing your own veggies from kitchen scraps. Never underestimate the power of the four Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle, Rihanna.