Jason Chongue is a Melbourne based architect, interior designer and plant cultivator. In August 2016, he launched The Plant Society with partner Nathan Smith. Together they promote positive and open conversations about gardening and greenery. Their passion lies in providing a supportive social network for gardeners of all levels.
1. What started your love for plants?
I grew up gardening as a past time with my grandma and family. I guess it stuck with me and I continued gardening wherever and whenever I could. I grew up surrounded by greenery and I would plant any seed or cutting I could get my hands on. I’d spend hours submerged in and amongst greenery. I still find it so relaxing. As an architect and interior designer I would garden before and after work as a form of relaxation.
2. How many plants do you have in your own home? Do you have a favourite? (Just like choosing your favourite child, I’m sure!)
We now have over 400 plants in the house! It sounds like a lot but it doesn’t feel overwhelming as most people imagine. When it comes to a favourite it’s becoming harder to narrow one down. I have a few of course and they often change! Monstera deliciosa (Fruit salad plant), Ficus deltoidea (Mistletoe ficus) and Hoya (Wax flower plant) are on the list this week. When you have a large plant collection the next addition is generally a gem. Something rare and unusual that will compliment the collection.
3. What was your inspiration to start The Plant Society?
We launched The Plant Society to share gardening knowledge with everyone. We don’t believe people have green or black thumbs but rather you simply need to build up your knowledge and experience with plants. We were inspired by gardening clubs of the past and the nostalgia of the local corner store; where you knew the owners and could walk in and talk about anything.
4. We are total brown thumbs at ZAKKIA, what is sure sign way to know if our plants are stressed out?
The first gardening fundamentals to get right are water, natural light and nutrition.
Often we find people choose the wrong plant for their interior. Take clues from the natural lighting in your space and try to choose your plant accordingly. I sway towards tropical indoor plants as you can easily relate your indoor space to a tropical rainforest.
Plants tell you if something is wrong and when they are stressed out. Changes like yellowing, browning and pale leaves will hint towards a range of problems however these signs will help you work out what’s wrong. Go back to the fundamentals and try and identify what might be the problem.
5. In our studio we have a huge window that gets sun for most of the day, what plants would you suggest for a light filled room like our studio?
The hardier species like Schefflera (Umbrella Tree), Ficus Elastica (Rubber Plant), Monstera deliciosa (Fruit Salad Plant), Spathiphyllum (Peace Lily) and Rhipsalis (Mistletoe Cactus) are great for dealing with brighter sunlight throughout the day.
6. Our meeting room also needs some plant life! It gets no sun at all – what plants would you suggest for a low light spot?
When it comes to spaces with no natural light, we employ the trick of having a doppelganger plant. This isn’t an ideal scenario however it’s better than using plastic plants. Place one plant in ideal lighting within your space and the other in the room with no natural light. Rotate the two plants regularly. A weekly rotation is best.
We always choose hardy plants for this scenario. Plants like Zamioculcas zamiifolia (Zanzibar Gem) and Epiremnum aureum (Devil’s Ivy) are good options.
7. We’re excited to bring out our new Botanical Vases in our next collection which will allow anyone to create new plants at home. What is your favourite plant to propagate and do you have any tips for a successful propagation?
We love propagating Epipremnum aureum (Devil’s Ivy). It’s super easy to do and propagates well in water. Make sure you take a clean cutting and do so in the warmer months so that the cutting take and root.
8. What’s your favourite thing about spring?
Spring for us is when plants really come to life. Outdoors and Indoors most plants go into dormancy over the cooler months and around now is the time plants start thriving. New growth is always so exciting. Who isn’t happier with days filled with sun and thriving plants?!
Some exciting news! Jason is releasing a book titled after the Plant Society which is your 101 guide on how to care for and style your home with indoor plants. You can preorder the book now by clicking here and it will be released on the 1st of November! I know I’m grabbing a copy to turn my brown thumb into a green one. It also makes the perfect Christmas gift for the plant lover in your life.
You can also visit them if you’re in the Melbourne area: 33 Peel Street, Collingwood, VIC, 3066, Australia