At home with Sarah Bell
We've been spending a lot of time at home lately, so we thought we would invite you into the White Gum Valley abode of our Director, Sarah Bell.
 
Sarah's home is a place of retreat for her and her family, and their energetic Kelpie Juni. Home is a reflection of the values that inspired Sarah to start Stackwood: living with authenticity, buying well, and being closer to nature.  
 
With gardening an early childhood memory for Sarah it's easy to see the correlation between her passion for growing and her everyday life. 


 
Where does your passion for all things green come from? 
 
I was raised by gardeners, so beautiful gardens and growing food has always been a part of my life. I played many an hour in my Nan's garden, making fairy ladders and swings nestled amongst lush baby tears.

I was fed on homegrown fruits and vegetables my entire childhood, when I moved to the city when I was 13 I didn't eat nectarines (my favourite stone fruit)  from the shops for years because they just didn't taste as they should. 
 




What do plants bring to a space for you? 

Plants make you feel good. They soften the sharp edges of your home, bring life, fill gaps, clean the air and brighten spaces.    
 
My house looks naked without it's plants. I couldn't imagine my home any other way. 

 
 
What are your favourite houseplants to grow?
 
I like low maintenance varieties mostly - life as a small business owner isn't easy so I don't like to complicate my routine too much! Hoya, chain of hearts, philodendrons and epipremnums are all great easy-care plants that I have in my home. They give so much for very little attention.
 
I do have mega heart eyes for my watermelon peperomia who is a little more of a tricky customer, it has perfect glossy painterly leaves and they look like watermelons! It's so pretty I've made an exception.



Are your family big fans, are houseplants something they have gotten on board with? 
 
My teenage daughter has definitely caught the indoor plant bug. She is squeezing as many plants into her room as possible which is pretty cute.
 
Overall I'd say they get it, and they certainly benefit from the clean air and wellbeing benefits of being surrounded by greenery. 

 
What are your top tips for styling with plants? 

When I am styling my plants I think about texture, heights and maintenance. You can create so much interest by varying up different foliage textures and leaf colours, pairing a Chain of Hearts with its long strings and purple leaves with a strappy Rhipsalis for example, and adding a tropical green Epipremnum creates lots of interest.
 
Varying the heights in a room is also one of my go-to's, like my lounge with its tall Bird of Paradise, contrasted by tabletop Peace Lily and Pilea, plus climbing Mini-Monstera. I am also a big fan of finding a stool, or a sideboard to elevate your plants. The cane shelf in my hall I found on the side of the road and it's become a key piece for displaying my green friends.
 
Lastly self-watering pots, again I am all about the easy-care. Make life as easy for yourself as possible and include a few self-watering pots in your scheme (my faves are the bright & colorful Mr Kitly). They can be especially handy when your plants are up high, meaning you'll have to get up and down less. 
 
 

You've owned stores stocking homewares for over 7 years, how do you pick what you bring into your home? 
 
I am a big fan of buying once and buying well, and supporting local artists. I rarely ever "swap out" or "restyle" my home. Everything I have I love, is great quality and I keep for a really long time.
 
This even extends to my indoor garden, when your plants grow you have to repot from time to time, and you can reuse that pot for another plant that is coming up. You don't have to be buying all the time. Reuse what you have!
 

What are you growing in your outdoor space? 

We have planted our garden with lots of native plants but I LOVE growing food!

We have vege beds and fruit trees planted along the perimeter of our yard. It brings me so much satisfaction to eat food I have grown and I love having enough to share. Cooking with your own produce is one of the biggest joys in life. 
 
 
 
What do you like to grow in your edible garden?
 
We grow a lot of cut-and-use plants like herbs. I never have to think about going to the supermarket for a bunch. I love sage, parsley, thyme, basil, oregano (all staples!) I grow a lot of low-care fruits and vegetables like olives, cucumbers, zucchini and cherry tomatoes, plus greens like silverbeet and kale.


I have also just given a climbing cucumber a go planted into washing machine drums and let to climb, they have gone so well this year and they produce the cutest egg-shaped fruit.  

 

 


What's your favourite thing to cook using homegrown produce? 

We cook a lot of wholesome wholefoods in our household, think hearty soups and curries, with a heap of vegetables and a lot of those come from our garden. When I cook I don't stick to a usual combination of herbs ie. basil must go with oregano and parsley, I just cut and add as much green as I can and try to infuse my meals with as much goodness as possible. 

We are pickling olives at the moment which is great. I love preserving a jar of something from the garden to add into my cooking year-round. 
 



What do you think we can learn from gardening?
 
I think it's a great metaphor for building resilience. It's about not giving up when something fails, and we will fail.
 
It speaks a lot to having a small business, being able to adapt and change your practices when something isn't working and going with the flow of the seasons. This couldn't be more true right now with the world events where we have seen many business pivot quickly into where the demand lies.
 
It can also give us something to care and nurture for and there is just something very intrinsically human about that. 
 
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You'll find Sarah at the helm of our local community space and plant nursery, Stackwood. We have changed a little with the onset of COVID-19 with more work from home however we pivoted (hard!) and have both a delivery + click & collect servic available. Check it out here.

Want to see more? You can follow Sarah's day-to-day at her instagram page.
 
Photos by Rae Fallon. Words by Jasmyn Woodford
 
May 19, 2020