The Plant Society

We first met Melbourne architect, interior designer and plant cultivator Jason Chongue and his partner Nathan Smith when we photographed their charming plant-filled home in Abbotsford last year.

Today we introduce Jason and Nathan’s new business – The Plant Society. Part plant-store, part consultancy, The Plant Society is about preserving rare and interesting plant species, and sharing botanical knowledge. Having set up shop in a Collingwood warehouse earlier this year, Jason is also about to release his first book!

Elle Murrell

Jason Chongue, co-founder of The Plant Society. Photo  – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Inside The Plant Society’s first permanent shop, at 33 Peel Street in Collingwood, Melbourne.Photo  – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

‘By celebrating plants and all things green, we hope to establish a knowledge bank of skills and techniques that can be enjoyed by all plant enthusiasts, whatever their skill level,’ tells Jason. Photo  – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Jason’s new book ‘Plant Society’ is out November 1st. Photo  – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Founders of The Plant Society, Jason Chongue and Nathan Smith. Photo  – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

The Plant Society is located inside the same converted warehouse as cafe Mina-no-ie. Photo  – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Elle Murrell
18th of September 2017

Since we last spoke with Jason Chongue (and took a tour of his amazing Victorian worker’s cottage in Abbortsford), he’s been on a ‘wild journey’, crafting a new plant-centric career and celebrating the relationships between people and greenery through The Plant Society initiative, which he co-founded with his partner Nathan Smith. ‘We’ve focused on creating more conversations and education around indoor gardening through our shop, events and collaborating with architects, interiors designers and other industries,’ Jason explains.

Working as an international flight attendant, Nathan didn’t have plants (or pets!) in his former home, yet after he and Jason moved in together, Jason witnessed his growing fondness of plants. in 2016, the pair joined forces to launch The Plant Society, with a vision to nurture and preserve rare and interesting plant species for future generations, as well as share knowledge and skills.

‘We began by being plant nomads, curating collections of plants for sale at our Plant Socials: an environment where we could provide honest plant advice,’ recalls Jason, who spent the most of last year transporting the initiative and pop-up plant shop to cafes, libraries, and country markets. ‘We grew so fast we needed somewhere special to make home.’

After weeks deliberating over where they could ‘permanently insert an explosion of greenery’, Collingwood concept café Mina-no-ie popped into mind. Jason emailed the owner, and The Plant Society joined the space within a week!

Inside the conservatory-esque converted warehouse are displays of plants and accessories (including pieces designed in-house and by other local makers) available for purchase, while visitors are also encouraged to stop by with questions and learn to care for their plants. From this idyllic HQ, The Plant Society has amped up their collaborations with designers, retailers, hospitality, media and councils, in addition to their ‘plant butlering’ maintenance service.

In terms of the space design, Jason and Nathan wanted to create an extension of their home, an environment that exuded personality but was comfortable and relatable. There’s no traditional counter, it’s more of a dining table where people can chat. ‘The boundaries between Mina-no-ie and The Plant Society are blurred, and we always celebrate the space together,’ beams Jason.

Despite having had the busiest year on record, Jason has also somehow found the time to add author to his repertoire, with his first book ‘Plant Society’ set to be released on November 1st through Hardie Grant Books! The hardcover is a ‘101 guide’ to creating (and maintaining!!) an indoor oasis for your urban space.

The book features interviews with a diverse array of insightful ‘plant people’ from across the world, and profiles on 25 ideal indoor plants, from easy to more high-maintenance exotics. Even if you’ve killed every houseplant in the past, Jason assures us, he’s got you covered!

The Plant Society
33 Peel Street
Collingwood, Vic

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