Meet the horticulturist helping urbanites create their own personal oasis.
Name: Josh Douglass || AKA: Dougo || Often found: In the Greenhouse, no surprises there! || Listening to: Genisis Owusu, The Jungle Giants or The Chats || Whilst sipping: Coffee or beer, depending on the time of day || Passionately discussing: The state of the environment or when season three of Rick and Morty is going to drop on Netflix || And working on: Re-potting something.
Michael Pollan once said, “the single greatest lesson the garden teaches is that our relationship to the planet need not be zero-sum… as long as the sun still shines and people still can plan and plant, think and do, we can find ways to provide for ourselves without diminishing the world.”
For Josh Douglass, Founder of Greenhouse Co, nothing brings him more joy than spending his days making friends with all manner of ferns, flowers and houseplants.
“I think that, in the most basic terms, we like how plants make us feel. But on a deeper level, the way plants make us feel probably has a lot to do with our evolution as a species – our reliance on nature for food, shelter, materials which evolved into the manipulation of plants for agriculture.”
“I think having plants in your home is a great way to maintain a connection to nature, especially if you live in an apartment in the city.”
“And personally, I associate plants with adventure. I love imagining the beautiful, sometimes harsh and complex ecosystems that many of the plants in my collection have evolved in. It makes you feel a certain connection to these places and a responsibility to ensure these places survive for future generations to experience as well.”
This sense of adventure is something that Josh has felt, even has a young boy. Whether it’s gorgeous orchids or jungle cacti, the humble horticulturist is a veteran when it comes to all things green.
“I’ve always been fascinated by nature and the outdoors for as long as I can remember. I used to do weekend sport at an oval near where I grew up, and one of the houses that backed onto the oval had a backyard filled with greenhouses. I used to look at it every time we drove past.”
“I was fascinated by the aesthetic of the greenhouses and the sense of adventure that greenhouses full of tropical plants gave me.”
“But my love of plants specifically started when I was eight years old and my Dad took me to a local orchid grower and bought me some orchids. I managed to kill most of them, but ever since then, I’ve been hooked!”
Of course, the seedlings for the idea of Greenhouse Co, a company that provides a range of indoor plants and handcrafted ceramic pots, didn’t begin to sprout until many years later when Josh moved to the Central Coast with his partner.
“We were on a road trip to one of the most reputable local retail nurseries to find an indoor plant and a pot. There were a lot of beautiful indoor plants, so we chose one, a Hoya. Then the challenge of finding a pot began.
“We eventually found one that was passable but it didn’t have a drainage hole and the plastic pot that the plant was in was way too small for the ceramic pot we’d chosen. No worries, I thought, I’ll just repot it. We started looking for a plastic pot that would fit concealed inside the ceramic pot but we just couldn’t find one. After all that, we ended up driving home with a plant that didn’t fit the ceramic pot we couldn’t pot directly into, and a 25L bag of potting mix to repot a plant into a 1.5L plastic pot we didn’t have.”
“This got me thinking… what a bloody nightmare. It would be even worse if you had no idea about plants!”
All that hassle got Josh thinking. What if there was a way to provide people with a choice of beautiful plants and ceramics, without all that mucking about? What if you could make sure that the plant’s plastic pot fits perfectly in any ceramic? And what if it was delivered right to your doorstep, and all you had to do was take it out of the box and decide where to put it? Wouldn’t that be great?
Fast forward to today and Greenhouse Co is now a thriving business which delivers a little bit of the jungle to city slickers in New South Wales. Each plant is delivered in a reusable plastic pot (so that it can be easily lifted out for watering and rehomed when it grows) and recyclable packaging, including coir fibre (an already-recycled product that is 100% compostable) and calico bags. What’s more, each plant is personally selected and vetted by Josh himself.
“My customer is the type of person who loves plants, greenery and something a bit out of the ordinary but they don’t have the time to carry out rigorous care activities for their plants.”
“The plants need to be tough enough to handle a bit of neglect every now and then, and be easy to care for with some basic instructions. So, I make sure the plants I select are as healthy as possible. Sometimes I’ll buy stuff and hold onto it for a while to make sure it’s big enough or healthy enough before it goes on the website.
“Also, I’m a bit biased towards certain plants. For example, I’m obsessed with jungle cacti so there are lots on the website. I’ve also become fascinated with caudex plants at the moment so you can expect a few more to pop up in the future!”
Once you’ve chosen your new green friend from Greenhouse Co, the next step is to pick their new home - a beautiful ceramic pot made by local pottery artists.
“The organic nature of handmade pottery really appeals to me.”
“Similar to the plants themselves, each piece is different and unique, and that makes them beautiful and a perfect medium for indoor plants. It allows me to provide something different that my customers won’t ever find at a big store. On top of that, I get the chance to work with some awesome, talented people. It’s a no-brainer really.”
As we head into the silly season, Josh is busy filling orders, running between his greenhouse and desk (from which his humble Heart-Leaf Philodendron watches on in amusement). For him, plants are the perfect gift, whether it’s to yourself or someone else. It’s a sign that you trust them with something living, and want to gift something that will grow with them; a gesture of love, supporting their health and mental wellbeing. But most importantly, it’s an easy option when you don’t remember their shirt size!
Images via: Greenhouse Co
Produced by: NASH + BANKS
Videography: by Pictures by Sean
Editing by: The Solid State