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Thumbs up: Turning over a new leaf as your workplace goes 50 shades of green


Flower power is taking over our offices and bringing with it a soothing breath of fresh air, writes Rebecca Levingston

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The air is cleaner, my view is greener and it’s got nothing to do with net zero emissions by 2050.

A colleague has moved into my work space and he’s arrived with plants. Looking like a sharply-dressed nursery worker, he lugged about twenty photosynthetic friends of various sizes into our shared work pod. 50 shades of green.

All different, all lush, like a corporate forest featuring long slender leaves, delicate vines, green pearls and petals splashed with white.

Variegated and very welcome. COP26 it ain’t, but it’s certainly a living breathing demonstration of what happens when someone values the environment.

Devil’s Ivy, Snake Plant, Fiddle Leaf, Peace Lily, Swiss Cheese Plant. Is he making those names up? I don’t even care, all I know is the open-air office has never looked or smelled so good.

A long-necked watering can sits on my colleague’s book shelf. You can hear him quietly misting leaves with his spray bottle at lunch time and snipping stems when foliage surgery is required.

Occasionally shrubs that look sick or bedraggled disappear for stints in his flora hospital at home. My work mate even has a moisture detection stick that he’ll randomly plunge into the dirt of the little Peperomia that sits on my desk. Shockingly helpful.

It’s a skill and a hobby and a pet all in one. And my friend is not alone in his deeply rooted obsession.

The pandemic has spurred on a plantdemic.

Indoor plants are booming. Nursery love is blooming.

Last year, Australians broke a record by buying more plants than ever. We spent $2.6billion on more than 2 billion plants.

Wonder how many are still alive? Not everyone has green thumbs. It’s an industry now with a serious stake in the economy.

The horticulture sector employs more than 23,000 people across 1600 businesses. A former journalist I spoke to recently packed up her keyboard for a career in forest bathing. She’s happier than ever.

Baby Boomers are bewildered by what this new generation of plant lovers will spend on a Monstera Deliciosa. Whatever happened to seeds or seedlings they ask. What about patience?

Nope, this is cashed-up flower power is prepared to pay for instant beauty. Fifty bucks for a Fiddle Leaf Fig is a bargain.

This year, a plant with nine leaves reportedly sold for $27,000 in New Zealand. It was a rare white variegated Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma. I can think of some other colourful words I’d use to describe that particular purchase.

This weekend, the Prime Minister flies to COP26, the United Nations Climate Conference to highlight Australia’s contribution to the global environment. This crucial temperature check will determine how the world will act in response to climate change.

You don’t have to understand complex carbon calculations or the phase out of fossil fuels to see the world turning to renewables. The science is clear, Australia’s response not so much. This is one instance where the Prime Minister could indeed hold a hose.


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