This month's plant curator: Jardine Hansen


Why are you so attracted to plants and nature?
I’m not sure what exactly is it that draws me in but I think everyone has a primal and essential connection to nature. I have made it a bit of a life priority to spend as much time with nature whether it’s in the garden, out wandering in the bush or arranging flowers for work. I think the more time I spend observing it, the more it teaches me. Most gardeners I know are kind, patient and resilient types, I’m pretty sure they’ve learnt that from being around plants and I hope to be the same one day. Plants also just make me joyous and hopeful, the way they’ll strive to grow in the most difficult of places like a crack in the pavement or on a canyon wall.   
What are some of your favourite plants and why?
Ah! So many. Really all plants have remarkable things about them if you examine. In an attempt to be specific I like scented plants, edible plants, ornamental grasses, really big trees especially ghost gums or redwoods or weeping willows in fog and pretty much any cold climate flowering plant. And also vines, I think vines have such incredible adaptations.
Just to pick a tiny few I adore flannel flowers because they are a beautiful tough little native that look like the grow via moon light, they really are gleaming. They are soft to the touch, quite like old flannel. They grow along ridge lines in The Blue Mountains and around Northern Sydney/Central Coast in rugged areas, looking like they aren’t hardy enough to survive and yet they thrive.
I also really adore helleborus, my nan used to grow them really well in the Southern Highlands and I’ve always adored their muted interesting colours and somewhat shy, downward facing flowers. There’s nothing quite like a freckled hellebore.
I have had an enduring love of scented geranium (actually pelargoniums) for a number of years. And non scented geranium too. The are such a hardy little plant and I love that they seem to be in every nanna’s garden. They propagate really readily from cuttings too which is a great way to share them with friends or grow your collection. The scented ones are particularly interesting to me as they are perfect botanical mimics when it comes to scent. They come in a huge array of fragrances like peppermint, choc mint, lime, orange, apricot, apple, strawberry, ginger, rose etc and often have interesting foliage shapes and textures. The strange thing is, they aren’t related to all these other plants which they smell the same as, rather they have evolved these scents perhaps to attract pollinators. If you gently rub the foliage, you’ll release the scent. One day I plan to plant rows and rows of all the different types.
You can also use the leaves in baking, making jellies/jams, distilling the oil from them.
How do plants inform your floral work?
I try to make arrangements which are reminiscent of a garden which has allowed to grow a little wild. I try to use types of plants and flowers which are harmonious in that they would be found growing in a similar climate. I like observing the shapes a plant/tree/vine will take in nature and allowing that to inform the overall shape and feel of my work. I try to accent the beauty of each element I use by arranging them in a way that hopefully invites the viewer to observe the uniqueness of each bloom/leaf
Why have you chosen elk for us?
The are so unique and sculptural, I think if I were an architect I’d look to them for inspiration. They make great indoor company as they are pretty low maintenance and don’t require a lot of light. They are epiphytic, meaning they grow on another plant (but gently so, they just use the other plant as a friend to lean on but don’t actually take any nutrients/water etc from their friend) so if you imagine them growing on the bough of another tree, they don’t get a lot of light or even water as they are pretty sheltered. I think it’s always a good idea to find out what conditions your plants would enjoy if they were out in the world and then try to give them that in your house. They can live in a pot or be mounted on a wall/plant, pretty flexible really. They are a little special to me as I have a great photo of my dad standing next to a gloriously large elkhorn growing on a fig tree at his old house in Queensland, he used to throw tea leaves and old banana skins into it.

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