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Interview—Charlie Lawler of Loose Leaf
Written by Max Olijnyk — 16th July 2015

Charlie1

Charlie Lawler is a lovely guy who runs a nursery in the backstreets of Collingwood with his partner Wona Bae. The nursery is called Loose Leaf, and to say it’s taken Melbourne by storm is something of an overstatement. That’s not to say it’s not crazily successful … Okay, maybe it’s taken Melbourne by storm. But I’m sure there’s a better way to describe it.

Max: You and Wona are here full-time now. Are you guys putting down roots in Collingwood?
Charlie: Haha, I’d say that’s accurate. The business is … growing, so we’ve both had to come on full-time.

I guess the business has really blossomed over the past year.
Well and truly, it’s, um …

I’m interested to know if, after all this success, you’ve considered branching out and opening another store?
Hahaaaha … yep, we’ve considered branching out.

Can you comment on that?
Well, you’ve taken all the good plant-based puns.

I’d like some serious answers, if you don’t mind.
Well, if we do something else, we want to do it differently. We don’t just want to do the same thing. We plan to do something new in 2015. Maybe a bookshop slash writing studio.

Hey! What’s your favourite watering hole around these parts?
I’d have to say the Gem or 99 Problems. They’re the two closest watering holes to Loose Leaf.

Charlie3

How are the classes going? I hear Wona has students eating out of the palm of her hand.
Hahahaa! Can my answers just be me laughing? Start every sentence with ‘Charlie chuckled’. But yes, the classes are really popular. There are classes for beginners, like bouquet, table-arrangement and wreath-making classes. Then there’s a masterclass for other florists to come along and learn techniques in … something. Flowers.

What’s Wona’s particular expertise?
She’s a master of German-style floristry. Like, that’s her qualification.

Oh right, like I’m a master of the universe.
Exactly. She’s also a master in Korean-style floristry.

What are you a master of?
I’m a master of communication and design. I’m also a permaculture designer.

Not a master of that, though.
No.

I think you guys approach the idea of a nursery a bit differently to others. I feel like it’s part of a bigger movement of people taking plants more seriously. I guess what I’m asking is, do you think people are twigging that plants are a cool thing to invest in?
I think so. People are putting significant value on bringing nature indoors. Also, it’s part of a wider shift. There seems to be a growing trend of people getting out of town and going bush or foraging, which is really cool to see.

You advise people on what kind of plants they should get, right?
Yeah, we don’t want anybody to go away and have a bad plant experience. Quite often we get people coming in and saying, ‘I’ve got two black thumbs’, or … Is that politically correct? What colour should it … Is it brown thumbs?

Well I have two black thumbs and two left feet, but at least I have all my limbs. Not like Oscar Pistorius.
I was hoping you’d bring him up.

Did I tell you that one Rosie’s dad came up with?
Roses are red,
Violets are glorious,
Don’t sneak up on Oscar Pistorius.
Hahahaaa!

He doesn’t like it! Don’t sneak up on him, because he’ll shoot you.
That’s brilliant.

I thought that was the funniest thing I’d ever heard when he said it.
Well it’s brilliant. Apart from, you know …

Yeah.
But that’s part of good comedy.

Charlie2

Anyway, you guys have wormed your way into some of the coolest shops and bars around town as consultants, right?
Each install we do, we do a consultation first. We pick the best plants to fit the environment. I don’t like the idea of plants being taken out of here as temporary items, or put somewhere that doesn’t suit them. Quite often I’ll be asked which plant would suit an environment with no natural light whatsoever, and the answer is always: nothing, really.

Is there any budding talent you’d like to recommend?
There’s heaps of budding talent around. This suburb’s full of it.

It sure is.
Ha! Like Stephen Baker(2)—his work is going next-level. Elizabeth Barnett(3)—she’s a painter who does a lot of plant-based stuff.

Thanks Charlie. I’ll leaf you alone now.
Ha!

An edited version of this interview was originally printed in The Good Copy Gazette Issue One, which is available from our shop for the princely sum of nothing.

(1) Here’s a link to the Loose Leaf site

(2) Stephen Baker is an artist, and a damn good one at that

(3) Elizabeth Barnett is another damn fine artist with a web presence