If you haven’t caught the planting frenzy over the past few months you’re definitely in the minority. There have been many theories put forward to explain our collective need for ‘green immersion’ or ‘getting our hands dirty’ in response to the chaos of Covid. But the evidence is certainly irrefutable- nature heals.
Thanks to mum and son team Sandra Cowcher and Baxter Black, we can now bring the beauty of nature and all of its benefits into our homes. Habitat Indoor Nursery opened its doors in Bellingen at a time when many businesses were closing. “I needed a project to help keep my mind healthy and Baxter was looking for a change in his life too. Covid meant we all had to stay home, which meant we wanted to make our homes more homely, green our indoors, resulting in a boom in the nursery industry. We saw it as perfect timing,” says Sandra.
Sandra brought her family to Bellingen 21 years ago, lured by the beauty of the town and lifestyle, but also the opportunity for her children to attend the Chrysalis Steiner School. “I have lived in many towns and states. When I first drove into Bellingen I felt like I was coming home, I belonged. I knew this was where I could create the life I wanted.”
Habitat is a perfect fit for the pair, bringing together many years of cumulative retail experience, Baxter’s passion for plants and a shared joie de vivre. They describe Habitat as a special space run by locals. “We source and nurture a range of plants from the popular to the unique and rare, and a wide variety of pots and baskets,” says Baxter. It was time for a chat with the newest business owners on the block…..
Baxter- What made you decide Bellingen needed an indoor plant nursery?
With not much job opportunity in Bellingen, me wanting to make a change, and mum having just returned from a trip down south and seeing some of the amazing indoor plant stores down there, she put the idea to me to start one up here with her. After living in Melbourne for years and experiencing the plant craze first-hand, I didn’t need much convincing.
Sandra- What’s it like working with Baxter?
I Love It!! He is teaching me so much about plants. This is Baxter’s vision and he is leading the way and I’m so happy to help him make Habitat successful and an asset to our town.
And Baxter- What’s it like working with mum?
Working with my mother is a lot of fun, we have similar tastes in things and trust each others opinions. She manages the fresh cut flowers, whilst I manage the plants.
Baxter- Has it been difficult launching a new business during COVID19?
Launching a new business during Covid has actually been surprisingly smooth and easy, especially being in the world of plants! People have really fallen in love with houseplants again as they are spending a lot more time in their homes and want to create a nicer space to exist in with these uncertain times.
Baxter- What plant varieties have been your biggest sellers so far?
A lot of people are after something hardy and easy to care for so things like Zanzibar Gem, Peace Lilies, Devils Ivy and Cardboard Plants. When we get something rare or unusual that usually sells quickly too – as well as anything hanging, which people have been loving!
Sandra- For someone like me who manages to kill plants, what is the rule of thumb when it comes to watering?
Under watering is usually better than over watering. Read the label and get to know your plant and they will usually tell you by dropping leaves that they are thirsty. Feel the soil and you’ll know.
Baxter- you’re the expert. Do you concur?
I always say under watering is (usually) much easier to recover from then over watering! I always check the soil by poking my finger 1-2inchs in the top and if its pretty dry I’ll give it a drink. But in saying that every plant is different and has different needs. Some prefer to be mostly dry and will easily rot if they stay too moist for too long and others need to stay consistently moist. As mum said- read the label or just ask us.
Baxter- Has Covid made it difficult to source stock?
Because of the boom in the plant industry during covid it has actually created plant shortages over much of Australia, so when a nursery has some good plants we have to be quick! And most of our planters and baskets come from Victoria which has had to cut a lot of their staff back due to level 4 restrictions, which means its taking a lot longer for orders to be processed and shipped.
Sandra- Any great future plans for the business?
We are looking to offering local businesses a plant hire service in the future but at the moment with shortages happening we are just focusing on keeping the stock level up in our own store. We want to be a part of making our lives a little greener in our beautiful Shire.