Images: Ross Caddaye
Spending her days as a florist at Flowers Vasette, Melbourne’s largest florist, Gaylene’s driving passions in life are flowers, her plants, and books (if you’re wondering, she’s currently reading Boy Swallows Universe).
It just makes me happy when I look at my plants.”
As Plant Life Balance sits down with her for a chat, Gaylene begins unravelling the story behind her love of plants and the strong lineage of gardeners that led her where she is now.
So how did you first get into gardening?
Everyone in my family – my mother, father, aunties, and uncles – they’re all gardeners! When we were little, before I was even old enough to go to school, every day was spent in the garden. My mother wasn’t house proud, she was garden proud.
What’s your favourite plant in the house?
The fiddle leaf fig has to be my favourite. We probably can’t ever sell our flat, because he wouldn’t fit in the elevator! Johnny, my husband says, “Well, we could leave him here?” But I say, what, leave our child behind?!
Take us through your plant care routine – there’s obviously a lot to do with over a hundred plants!
Once a fortnight or so I take all the plants off the shelf, put them all on the table and really check over them properly. Check their leaves, have I over-watered this, under-watered this?
It’s like therapy and I forget about anything else, about any problems.
How would you sum up your style?
My friend once said that I’m a “sentimental maximalist”. A lot of things I have were originally my parents’. And I’ve kind of used them in a different way to how they did.
I also like finding things! Since moving to the city, Jonathan and I have found plenty of things that people were throwing away. I love second hand shops.
I have this little chair, which is part of a set – I’m now the fourth generation to have those pieces. My great grandmother in 1872 brought those from England to Tasmania when she was an 18 year old girl.
What would you say your spirit flower is?
If I were a flower, I’d be a violet. The colour, the perfume, the sentimental feeling about them. I used to have little jars of violets on my dressing table when I was a girl, and one of the growers my mother had for her shop always had violets, this sweet little old lady. We actually timed our wedding to make sure violets were in season!
What kind of impact have plants had on your life?
It makes me happy when I look at my plants – for example, getting my acorn seeds to grow or if I’ve brought something back to life that was half-dead – there’s such a sense of satisfaction. Quite unlike anything I’ve ever felt before.
I think having plants can even enrich friendships because you know other people who are plant-y, and you’ve got this thing in common. One of my friends came to work one day, and gave me a bag of lemons that she picked from the tree in her garden. I was wrapped, and ended up growing a little lemon tree from the seeds in that fruit. I love that…that plants allow you to give to each other things, to share.
Spotted something in Gaylene’s home that you would love to try in yours? Head to your nearest Plant Life Balance accredited nursery and have a chat with the experts.