Have you ever bought a plant and watered it like clockwork only to watch it die a slow, mysterious death?
Liz Turner, owner and curator of new Preston store Plantsmith, says overwatering is “one of the biggest killers of plants.”
And she should know. Turner studied a now-unavailable degree in horticulture at Melbourne University and interned at the Royal Botanic Gardens before running a garden-design consultancy for more than a decade.
Plantsmith aims to fill in knowledge gaps for the plant-purchasing layperson, keen beginners and experienced gardeners who want to learn more. You’ll leave with a new green friend and the specialised information on what to do with it once you get it home.
“The idea came about from being frustrated by homewares stores where people get no advice or the wrong advice,” Turner says. “I want people to be able to come in here, sit down, flick through books, talk to me and learn.
“There’s been a boom in the industry but not a lot of knowledge to go with it.”
The name Plantsmith is a play on old trades, such as goldsmiths and blacksmiths, and speaks to the skills and craftsmanship celebrated in-store.
More than 200 varieties of indoor plants are here, carefully selected by Turner and sourced from predominantly Victorian growers, with some from NSW. She avoided going any further away to ensure climate compatibility and to support local businesses.
Ferns, cacti, succulents, palms and all manner of “unusual” plants blanket benches and tables. Terrariums chill in the window. A range of hanging plants spruce up the deliberately stark, white space, including the dynamic Rhipsalis or “jungle cactus”.
“It’s super low-maintenance, like a succulent, and likes humidity so you can’t really overwater it. It’s really architectural,” Turner says. “Another popular one is the foxtail or fishtail palm. It does well indoors, stays stunted and bonsaied, but outside it can grow to 10 metres tall.”
Begonias and string of pearls are other favourites, she says.
“We wanted to have a range of price points to be fair and to reflect the diversity of the area. Our plants range from $14 to about $200.”
The former restaurant turned shopfront is east-facing – so focusing on indoor plants was a “no-brainer” – and Turner salvaged as much as possible during the build. The store also sells pots by local makers, including Turner’s artist neighbour Clare Whitney who created some brightly coloured options to balance the minimalist ceramics Turner had already found.
Plantsmith also sells gardening tools such as secateurs, misters and gloves, which suit beginners and make great gifts.
Turner also runs group classes around the basics of plant care, from pruning to propagation, as well as guest workshops including cactus pot painting.
107 High Street, Preston
(03) 9480 4044
Wed & Thu 12pm–5pm
Sat & Sun 10am–4pm
This article was updated on August 17, 2018 at 9.55am.