‘I like things that evolve slowly. It’s nice to gather ideas over time and see how things grow’, Andrea Fitzpatrick tells me as we shelter in Vielle Branche, a big old warehouse, restaurant and photography studio, drinking coffee and waiting for the pelting rain to let up. She’s referring to her Brisbane plant shop, Botanick Brisbane, just next door. It’s a gorgeous, rambling spot – the kind of place that is the product of time, care and attention. If I were to have a retail space, it’d look a lot like Andrea’s – full of odd, beautiful bits and pieces and plenty of weird plants.
Andrea started the business around four years ago. Her children had finished high school and she decided to return to one of her first loves, plants. She began studying horticulture and then landscape design. Through a series of serendipitous encounters, Andrea got to know Jennifer and JC from Vieille Branche and soon enough, Andrea had moved into the vacant block next door to their gorgeous old warehouse – transforming an industrial wasteland into a lush and curious planty paradise. ‘I distinctly remember saying, ‘I don’t want a nursery. It’s not going to be a nursery.’ And it’s not a nursery, it’s a plant shop’, she tells me. The difference is, according to Andrea, nurseries have “lots and lots of the same thing. They’re neatly organised. This isn’t. I have a lot of old stuff, and the shop combines my love of plants and my love old things.”‘
The space is packed full of found objects, old concrete gardenalia, handmade pots, a big old bus (where Andrea’s friend Sue has a picture framing business), and plenty of plants. They’re not run-of-the-mill mainstream nursery type plants, but interesting things from small growers – ‘I like to support people who are passionate’, Andrea’s own backyard and her brother Brad’s garden (he’s mad keen on succulents and cactus – the side passageway of his property is a mini nursery dedicated to supplying plants for Angela’s shop).
‘I like having different things that you can’t just get at a mainstream nursery. To compete with giant plant nurseries, you need to do something different, something interesting.’ For Andrea, this means creating a space that feels less like a plant supermarket, and more like a personal, changeable, evolving space. Botanick Brisbane is more a garden than a nursery. Plants are given space to be their wayward selves, objects are collected, placed, moved and sold. ‘If you have a rigid idea of how things are, there’s not as much freedom to incorporate interesting or quirky things you might find. These things could evoke memories – like an old teapot of your grandmother’s – or set you off in a new direction.’ As the garden evolves, it’s not just the plants that grow, the stories do too.
The rain doesn’t stop, so we grab some umbrellas and head back into Andrea’s plant wonderland. There are yuccas growing wonkily out of old terracotta urns, pachypodiums in peeling vintage concrete planters, an old singer sowing machine nestled amongst the vibrant green foliage of a monstera plant and brightly coloured succulents growing everywhere! It’s wild, textural and inviting. I express interest in a strange plant I’d never seen before (Kalanchoe ‘Kewensis’, I think). Before I can stop her, Andrea has pulled it out of its pot and thrust it at me. It comes home from Brisbane to Sydney. It’s about to flower and each time I look at it I think about Andrea and her gorgeous little plant shop. Plant stories are the best stories, and Andrea’s shop is full of them.
10 Fox Street
Open Tuesday to Saturday, 9am-2pm