There's a silly myth that says playing classical music to plants can help them grow. Something far stranger is happening in the industrial part of Collingwood: an indoor jungle nourished by the smell of slow-cooked lamb from nearby institution Jim's Greek Tavern.
“We didn't want to be another high-street florist,” says Charlie Lawler, who owns the jungle – aka Loose Leaf – with his partner, Wona Bae. The duo met in Germany 10 years ago. He was working for the UN. She was doing her Masters in German floristry. Which is the thing to do, apparently, after one has mastered Japanese flower arranging, Ikebana, and its Korean equivalent, Kokozi – which Bae has. Adding to her cred, Bae grew up on a flower farm and ran her own shop in Korea for seven years.
The front section of the roomy warehouse belongs to Bae and is packed with stunning blooms of all varieties. “So many florists say, 'I hate this type of flower’. Well, I hate that sentence,” she says.
Her only dictums are freshness and seasonality. Alongside standards such as lilies and roses, you will find a hydroponic pineapple sprouting from a giant jar, plus blowfish-like Swan plants and small wire frames containing “air plants”, which grow sans soil.
Lawler's no slouch, either. His grandparents owned a nursery in Hobart, and he has a background in permaculture. His share of Loose Leaf is populated by hardy, low-maintenance plants such as the Rat's Tail Cactus (which looks exactly as its name suggests) hordes of exotic-looking succulents and intricate terrariums by Lulu & Angel. “If you put them in the right spot, they'll basically live forever,” he says.
Though Bae already holds classes at Loose Leaf, the duo's endgame is a dedicated floristry school. “This space is about inviting people to discover the plant and flower world,” Lawler says. “We don't want to be preachy about what you can or can't do. It's really about experimentation. That's how we learned.”