Plant Life Balance

Q&A: Jana Stewart, Owner of Microcosm

The home of ‘Plant Parenthood’, Jana’s micro nursery, Microcosm, is now in full bloom in Petersham, Sydney.

Why do you think plants are so popular right now, and what prompted you to get greening?
I think a big part is that we are missing that connection with nature. We all spend so much of our time indoors now and you really notice the difference in your state of mind when you have green around. We are naturally drawn to green spaces whether it’s a park to spend our lunch break or a weekend getaway. From a science perspective, we feel better around plants and green is the colour that is most relaxing to our eyes, so I think all this makes it pretty easy to get hooked! Plus plants make any space look amazing!

What inspired your selection?
I focus on plants that will suit indoors, aren’t too fussy, but still a bit different to what you usually see. I can’t tell you how many hearts have been broken from a Maidenhair fern so I don’t stock them 😝 I want people to have the best experience with their plant so they want more. I make sure all the plants are healthy and strong when I select them from the nurseries and personally offer advice to everyone that comes in.

What’s your favourite plant and why?
I don’t really have a favourite but I’m a sci-fi nerd so carnivorous plants have always been super cool to me. Also native orchids, Australia has many beautiful and weird orchids that not many people are familiar with.

People often consider orchids difficult to care for and keep alive, do you have any quick and dirty tips for us?
Purchase native orchids, the Dendrobium Speciosum that is native to Sydney is perfect because it’s used to our climate. The common orchids you see in nurseries are often from South America, so imagine a rainforest, keep them in bathrooms that are bright and really steamy. My main tip would be to give them fertiliser and water. Orchids naturally grow on other plants, so they’re not getting food from the soil. You want to give them food in the water that is going to be flushed through and give them that extra nutrients to stay healthy.

Did you find it difficult or expensive to set up your plants?
There is definitely trial and error at the start of working out what people will like for example I loooove Elkhorn and Staghorns especially the big huge ones but no one has space for one of them so now I just stock a few big statement plants, which change and the rest as manageable sizes for an apartment or townhouse.

What has the customer response to your greenery been?
People love it. I share the space with INSACIOUS who offer creative coaching and use the space as a platform for artists to show their work. We both love checking out galleries but noticed that they can often feel a bit sterile. The plants in our space help to make everyone feel comfortable to hang around and chat with the artists, and people always comment on how the space has a very welcoming feeling which I take full credit for with the plants haha!

Have you noticed any trends from your customers when it comes to interacting with the plants? E.g do people comment on them, do regulars ask for advice about plants?
I offer advice to everyone that comes in looking at plants and people really appreciate it. I always tell people to send me a pic or msg on Insta if they are ever unsure of something and it’s nice receiving a msg from someone months later saying how big their plant has grown or should they re-pot. I like that I get to be a part of their home 🙂

Do you think your greenery has increased your customer base?
Definitely. For me, my main focus is on plants but for the shop as a whole we stock products from locals artists and makers and one of the biggest comments we get on the space from the artists is how great the space looks and feels with all the plants. Customers always comment on how relaxed they feel, which for me is a huge compliment.

Tell us more about your Plant Parenthood program?
The workshop is for anyone and everyone. You don’t have to bring a thing, just yourself. I start the workshop with an intro into plants, understanding the benefits of having plants in your life and being surrounded by greenery and then from there we move onto more of a planting 101, discussing the importance of drainage, soil, light and watering etc. I like to explore common problems i.e. brown tips on the edge of a green leaf – people often think this is from underwatering, when it’s actually overwatering. It’s kind of like a Dolly Doctor session for plants! People always come with lots of questions! Oh and you get to take home your own Mr Kilty pot and plant too!

How do you rate your Plant Life Balance?
I’d say it’s definitely on the leafier side! The reason Microcosm started was because I was running out of room for plants in my townhouse so I thought hey, if I have my own space that means I can own more plants… right?!
328 Stanmore Rd, Petersham NSW (located within MiniMart)

Upcoming Microcosm workshops:
Plants with Benefits: Willoughby Council x Microcosm, 13 February (tickets here
Plant Parenthood: Noel & Gladys x Microcosm, 17 February (tickets here
Plant Parenthood @ Daisy’s Milk Bar, Petersham 3 March (tickets here)

Join the Plant Life Balance community – sign up to our newsletter for fortnightly inspiration and tips, and post your plants online using #myplantlifebalance.