This website uses cookies to improve your experience navigating our site. By continuing to browse, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

OK, I understand

Antique Perennials

Gardens

Apparently around 150 plants can fit in one carry-on bag… or so modern day planthunters Matt Reed and Michael Morant inform us, in this incredibly moving story!

The duo from Antique Perennials, a nursery in Kinglake, 45km North East of central Melbourne, talk to Georgina Reid of The Planthunter about losing their property in the Black Saturday bushfires, re-building from scratch, and the incredibly diverse plants available to grow in Australian gardens.

31st July, 2017

Kniphofia ‘Strawberries and Cream’ (centre), Helenium ‘Wyndley’ (right) and Helenium ‘Crimson Beauty’ at Antique Perennials. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Agapanthus ’Bressingham Blue’, Helenium ‘Zimblesturn’ (yellow shrub at back right) and Helenium ‘Crimson Beauty’ (back right). Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Echinacea ‘Rich Red’. This plant was bred by Matt and Michael. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Matt Reed (left) and Michael Morant of Antique Perennials. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Sanguisorba ‘Cangshan Cranberry’. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Miscanthus ‘Kleine Fontaine’. The tree in the background is an 80-year-old English oak, which was killed in the Black Saturday fires. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

The stock beds at Antique Perennials are turned over every year. Plants are pulled up, divided, organic matter added, and re-planted. Aster ‘Otis’, the blue flowering plant in foreground, was bred by Michael and named after his son. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Aster ‘Twilight’ (front), Echinacea ‘Razzamatazz’ (middle right), Veronicastrum ‘Coen Jenson’ (middle left). Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Matt Reed (left) and Michael Morant with Hercules the dog. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Echinops ‘Veitchs Blue’. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Achillea ‘Mondepagode’ (front), Echinacea ‘Double Decker’ (centre), Helianthus biglovii (rear). Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Georgina Reid
Monday 31st July 2017

‘We try to grow plants that look great in the garden, year after year. That’s our point of difference.’ – Matt Reed.

 

Some people go overseas and return home with their carry-on luggage jammed full of duty free alcohol, perfume and last minute gifts for grandparents and nephews. Others, like Matt Reed and Michael Morant, fill their suitcases with plants. The pair are modern day plant hunters, passionate about sniffing out new and interesting perennials to introduce into Australia through their business, Antique Perennials.

Until Australian quarantine laws changed a few years back (due to the threat of Xyllela, a very scary bacterium that affects a wide range of food crops and ornamental plants – it’s not in Australia yet, but is causing havoc in many parts of the world), Matt and Michael would head overseas every 18 months or so. ‘We’d visit plant collectors, plant explorers and rare plant nurseries, looking for new plants to bring home,’ Matt tells me. They’d clean all the soil off each plant, get it inspected and certified, pack into moist towelling and place in their hand luggage. ‘We can get around 150 plants in one carry-on bag,’ he tells me. ‘They’re too precious to go underneath in the hold.’ Once they reach Australia the plants would spend three to six months in quarantine before the pair could bring their valuable babies home to their nursery in Kinglake, north-east of Melbourne.

Matt and Michael started Antique Perennials around 18 years ago. ‘I’d been collecting rare and unusual plants for 20 years, and realised my one-acre garden in Kinglake easily had enough plants in it to propagate from and start a nursery.’ tells Matt. So they did, and while Matt tells me demand for their plants has always outstripped supply, the road hasn’t always been easy.

In 2009, both Matt and Michael’s homes and the nursery were destroyed by the Black Saturday bushfires. ‘All that was left was a few fence posts,’ Matt tells me. ‘All our years of plant collecting just vaporised.’ With the support of fellow plant lovers and customers, the pair rebuilt their plant collection. ‘We had plants sent back to us from all over Australia, from people who had heard what had happened,’ Matt says. ‘We’re definitely bigger and better now than we were before the fires.’

The pair now operate the nursery from a former potato farm, with rich soil and a good water supply. They grow around 1000 different plants on four acres, focusing on ‘garden-worthy’ perennial plants rather than ‘pot-worthy’ plants. ‘We try to grow plants that look great in the garden, year after year,’ Matt says. ‘They may not look as good in a pot at the nursery, but once they get in the garden they’re fantastic. That’s our point of difference.’

Matt and Michael focus on growing herbaceous perennials – plants that flower in spring and summer, and often either die back or are cut back in winter. In contract to to the relatively stable growth habit of a box hedge, for example, perennials provide textural contrast, a sense of movement and seasonality within a garden. They’re ephemeral, colourful, seasonal beauties that create achingly beautiful summer gardens full of movement and life, and quiet, austere winter spaces holding both promise and reprieve. They’re the medium of northern hemisphere designers and plant people such as Piet Oudolf, Beth Chatto, and  Dan Pearson, and are gaining popularity in Australia, thanks to folk like Matt and Michael.

I love talking to people like Matt Reed, it reminds me of the incredibly diverse and beautiful plants available to grow in Australian gardens. The botanical world is vast – way, way, WAY bigger than we’re led to believe at large hardware store nurseries. There’s so much more to discover, grow and understand. Passionate growers like Matt Reed and Michael Morant from Antique Perennials remind us to think outside the box hedge!

View Comments

Similar Stories

Gardens

Cherrie Miriklis-Pavlou

We visit the bountiful garden of the woman behind Melbourne's iconic florist, Flowers Vasette.
Georgina Reid

Gardens

Grand Bickleigh Vale

One of Edna Walling's greatest feats was designing Bickleigh Vale; a unique 10-hectare housing development she created in the 1920s. Today t...
Georgina Reid

Gardens

Lambley Nursery

Artist Criss Canning and her husband David Glenn own Lambley Nursery, an amazing plant nursery in central Victoria, renowned for their incr...
Georgina Reid

This Week

News

Free To Feed’s Annual Fundraising Bake Sale Is On This Friday!

Do something GREAT this Good Friday and help raise funds for a worthy cause!
Sally Tabart

Architecture

Hello 2019 Victorian Architecture Awards Shortlist

Celebrating design longevity with the State’s top residential architecture projects.
Elle Murrell

Art

'Mirka For Melbourne' Fundraiser Exhibition Opens At Heide

Mirka for Melbourne' opens this week, showcasing important acquisitions from the studio of Mirka Mora, funded by your donations!

Food

Alice Zaslavsky's Gefilte Fish Fritters

There’s no Passover dish that sparks more of a reaction than gefilte fish, so today we share the perfect 'gateway' recipe!
Alice Zaslavsky

Homes

A Family Rental With Real Heart

The Caufield Californian bungalow of interior designer Sara Levitas, her Rabbi husband Noam, and family.

Dream Job

From Intern to Senior Landscape Designer – Growing A Career At Eckersley Garden Architecture

26-year-old Joshua Cocks charts his journey from University intern to working across award-winning projects, with one of Australia's top fir...
Elle Murrell

News

Ebony Truscott's Modern Day Masterpieces

A stunning exhibition of still-life paintings on now in Collingwood.
Sally Tabart

Art

Charting A Contemporary Artist’s Remarkable Oeuvre

Spanning almost four decades, Rosslynd Piggott’s ‘I sense you but I cannot see you’ is on now at NGV.
Elle Murrell

Studio Visit

Carving Out A New Career With Courtney Petley

The New Zealand based designer and maker shares her handcrafted kitchen utensils, created with reclaimed timber.
Miriam McGarry

News

WIN $500 To Spend At The New Australian HAY Online Store!

You could win $500 to spend at this just-launched e-shop for the Danish design icons, thanks to Cult!
01:01:05

Podcast

TDF Talks With Chef-Turned-Sustainable-Farmer Paul West

A surprisingly hilarious chat with the River Cottage Australia host, covering his atypical career path, and his philosophies on living a mor...

Architecture

A Thoroughly Tactile Terrace

Bringing new light and life to a narrow North Fitzroy home, with Olaver Architecture.
Miriam McGarry

News

The Bold And Brilliant Exhibition ‘Fashioning Black Identity’

African and African diaspora fashion, photography and portraiture at Cairns Art Gallery.
Miriam McGarry

TDF Collect

Announcing Our Next Exhibition, Elizabeth Barnett's 'Blue'

A new body of work from Macedon artist Elizabeth Barnett, opening Saturday April 27th at our Collingwood gallery.

Architecture

A Spectacular Unfolding House Overlooking Sydney Harbour

A minimalist marvel with serious harbour views, by Matthew Woodward Architecture in Vaucluse, Sydney.
Miriam McGarry

Similar Stories

Gardens

Cherrie Miriklis-Pavlou

We visit the bountiful garden of the woman behind Melbourne's iconic florist, Flowers Vasette.
Georgina Reid

Gardens

Grand Bickleigh Vale

A garden designed in the 1920s by one of Australia's most renowned garden designers, Edna Walling.
Georgina Reid

Gardens

Lambley Nursery

Artist Criss Canning and her husband David Glenn own Lambley Nursery, an amazing plant nursery in central Victoria, renowned for their incr...
Georgina Reid