Ewan Harding wants Australians to love native plants. “[They’re] not only beautiful, but conditioned for this country and provide a lot for our ecosystems, soils and wildlife,” says the owner of Native Home, House of Plants.

The Abbotsford nursery and cafe stocks Australian flowers and plants exclusively, ranging from more common species (eucalyptus, acacia and banksia) to less familiar natives that largely come from the Mallee region on the Victorian and New South Wales border – one of Harding’s favourite areas.

“The harsh conditions there have resulted in some pretty whack and unusual plant features that are really cool,” says Harding.

Native Home, House of Plants brings together Harding’s experience in horticulture and construction, including building stages and art installations at festivals including Strawberry Fields and Rainbow Serpent.

“This became a good way to utilise my construction skills in a creative space I was excited about,” says Harding.

He worked on the Australian festival circuit for roughly 18 months designing stages and sets that incorporated Australian native plants before deciding “to create an inner-city oasis hang-out”.

The nursery has been built with native timbers including ironbark, Victoria ash and white cyprus.

“The ironbark beams and rafters of the pergola are the standout feature,” Harding says.

He repurposed an existing fence on the Johnston Street property to clad the bathroom block at the back, and also used materials leftover from past festival structures in the fit-out.

“I wanted a very open space to keep the outdoors inside while providing as much protection as possible for a sheltered food and drink area,” says Harding.

Inside are murals by local artist Chris Henderson – who goes by the name SIRHC – including one featuring a banksia, acacia and wattlebird at the front entrance. Harding will also host rotating exhibitions that showcase work by Indigenous artists from different remote communities around Australia.

“It was important for me to provide a space that connects the Indigenous community with the nursery, the area and the people in a meaningful way,” he says.

Native Home’s focus is on plants, but the food and drink offering has been carefully considered, with beans from Reverence Coffee, and a rotating list of single origins.

The limited menu includes jaffles made with Zeally Bay’s 34-hour sourdough from Torquay. All coffee and food waste is composted on-site and the return of take-away cups is encouraged.

“It’s a common misconception that biodegradable cups are properly recycled,” Harding says. “We prefer customers to bring them back so we can compost them.”

Harding hopes to make Native Home a licenced venue in time for summer. Plants on trolleys will roll away to the sides, making room for up to 100 people.

Native Home, House of Plants
366 Johnston Street, Abbotsford
(03) 9417 6818

Hours:
Tue to Fri 7am–5pm
Sat & Sun 8am–4pm