Plant Life Balance

From plastic to fantastic – how to green up a shopping centre

Jason Chongue shares why it’s time to end the trend of plastic plants in public places.

Plant Life Balance frond and regular contributor Jason Chongue knows that living things are just better. He was recently engaged to help popular retail precinct Melbourne Central to bring a little more life to the shopping experience, so we caught up with him to ask how exactly a large city shopping complex moves from plastic to fantastic…

Tell us about your recent journey with Melbourne Central?

Our relationship with Melbourne Central has been a thoroughly collaborative approach. We recently curated plants within the bridge links between Melbourne Central and Emporium, filling them with plants that over time will grow more wild. The curation has been inspired by conservatories where plants were appreciated in the public realm.

What was the process to transform the space?

With any Plant Curation project, our process intimately involves the space and our clients. We want to make sure the design reflects our clients and the spaces we are working with – we approached the project by being sympathetic to the interior and the transient nature of the bridge links.

Our planting incorporates deep green foliage that can withstand the traffic and continue to thrive.

In all our work, we take into consideration the conditions on hand and aesthetically how we want the plants to complement the space.

Did you encounter any challenges? 

As we are dealing with live plants there are always challenges. Often these challenges relate to the conditions changing throughout the seasons or people physically interfering with the plants. We can ensure the best results by regular review after the plants have been installed and adjusting the design appropriately.

Given the switch from fake to real, how have you coached the business owners to take care and maintain the plants?

We’ve made sure to honestly educate our clients, and understand their perspectives. We spend time teaching our clients how to nurture their plants and always provide remote support. It’s quite common for us to care for plants in large commercial spaces because this needs to be done outside regular trading hours – often 5 am or after the centre closes.

We know that real plants have a positive effect on psychology and health, so why are people still using fake plants?

Good question! This goes back to plants being alive, which means they can die. When clients are busy, plants are often their last concern. For a long time, the best solution was fake plants as they looked green and didn’t need care.

But what we’ve learnt is that fake plants only look good for a short time without care as well.

The plastic fades and deteriorates in an awful way.

Gardening is often looked at negatively in commercial spaces. If you asked someone if they wanted to look after plants in commercial spaces at 5 am in the morning, the majority of people would say no. In order to promote a positive effect and encourage people to include plants everywhere we live, we need to think about gardening as a lifestyle with many benefits, and not as a chore.

Jason is owner of The Plant Society in Melbourne and Sydney. Follow him Instagram for more indoor inspiration. 

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