At home with Anna Macoboy
Our in-store plant expert and workshop facilitator Anna Macoboy has worked in the plant world for almost a decade. She's an educator, a florist, a weaver and a mother to two darling girls, and she has a background in small business! We visited Anna at her Fremantle home to photograph her beautiful space and ask her questions about life, plants, creative passions and philosophies. We're always excited to hear about Anna's travels, creative pursuits, and current plant obsessions, and we think you'll love getting to know Anna too!
Hi Anna! Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Hi! I’m an indoor plant specialist and I work at Stackwood taking care of the plants and working in the concept store. I also teach quite a few workshops at Stackwood, in plant care, elkhorns and random weaving, which is one of my passions. On top of that I have my own business called Wilding, where I produce floral designs for events, and sell some of my weaving creations.
Many years ago I used to own a gift shop here in Perth called Mr Sparrow. It sold gifts and also plants and gardening goods, so I guess that was sort of the start of my plant career. It was also where I started teaching workshops, which initially were in terrariums and kokedama. Then I moved to New York where my husband James and I lived for 5 years and where my eldest daughter Alice was born. In New York I honed my floristry and horticulture skills and learned a huge amount working with some amazing people. For the last 4 years James and I have been living in Fremantle with our two daughters, Alice, who’s 6, and Martha, who’s 2.
How did you first come to love plants?
A love of plants runs in my family on both sides. My great uncle on my dad’s side was Stirling Macoboy, who wrote a lot of well-known gardening books, and my mum’s side is full of avid gardeners. Growing up we always had a big garden where both my parents would spend every weekend, and mum kept the house full of hanging baskets and terrariums in true 70s style (although technically it was the 80s!). As a child I loved growing veggies and I had a prized maidenhair fern in my bedroom I used to nurture, but it wasn’t until I moved into my own space that I would say my love of plants really took off.
You’ve taught classes and shared plant knowledge all around the world – what are some of your highlights?
I had some quite surreal moments while living in New York. Being able to work at Sprout Home, which was a business I had admired for many years from afar, and to teach workshops there was a bit of a dream come true. I was also able to contribute as a stylist to their book, and to have our apartment featured in it, which was a buzz. One of the most memorable experiences was teaching a kokedama workshop at The Japan Society of New York. Since kokedama originate in Japan the organisers wanted a very traditional, authentic experience, and they had all the materials carefully measured and laid out - rather than the usual somewhat chaotic mess, it was a thing of beauty!
We’re not surprised to see a number of plants in your home! Do you have any favourites?
My favourites are the ones that seem to be thriving because it just makes me happy to look at them! I love the huge Cissus Rhombifolia (Grape Ivy) in the kitchen window, and I also love my Begonia Maculata (Angel Wing Begonia), which is now thriving after I managed to bring it back from the brink of death. I really love my Tiger fern because the variegated leaves are just so amazing when you look at them up close, and it seems to really love life in my bathroom. I’m a big fan of the less common ficus species as well, and I have a huge Ficus Umbellata right outside my back door, which I enjoy gazing at lovingly from my kitchen table!
Why do you like adding greenery to a home or creative space?
I think plants make a space come alive. For me the whole point of plants is that they’re living, breathing, growing things, which is why I find fake plants so perplexing! I love the act of caring for them, of trying to work out what they need, and of (sometimes!) watching that work pay off. I think plants turn a house into a home and whenever I take my plants out to water them the space looks so cold and sterile, I can’t wait to get them back in!
What’s the thing you find most challenging about indoor plants?
I think the hardest thing for me is putting the needs of the plant first, over the aesthetics of the space. Often I find the spots where I want to put plants are not actually where the plants would be happiest. We don’t have a particularly well-lit house so there are a lot of spots that just don’t get enough light for plants to thrive. I’ve finally come to terms with this and accepted that there are some spots where I just can’t have a plant. I also rotate plants around so that they get to spend a bit of time in the window and then a bit of time where I really want them to be!
Do your kids show an interest in plants? Do they like the greenery at home or are they not so fussed?
Haha! Well, yes they show an interest, but not always in a positive way! Alice, who is 6, is wildly jealous of my plants and is always telling me I have to get rid of some! Martha is a bit more enthusiastic. She loves to pick little flowers whenever we go for a walk and even arranges them in little bottles by her bedside. They both love spending time in the garden, though, and Alice has her own little veggie and flower patch where she grows bits and pieces. And they both love filling treasure jars with seed pods, feathers, stones and leaves that they’ve found.
Devil's Ivy is incredibly easy to propagate! Copy Anna by taking a cutting from an existing plant and placing in a bottle or vase with water.
How do plants and other natural elements feature in your work / craft?
Nature is the very essence of everything I create. Everything I make has some connection to nature, whether it is crafted from natural materials or inspired by the natural world, or both. My random weavings always include foraged elements, usually things that are growing wild in my garden or neighbourhood - my favourite one to use is cat’s claw vine. I also make sculptural artworks that incorporate living and preserved flowers, plants and moss, as well as found branches and other bits and pieces. And I love working with pressed flowers. I recently made an artwork from wildflowers collected in the bush around Dwellingup for a fundraiser to save the Dwellingup forests.
What’s something you’re working on at the moment that you’re excited about?
I’m looking forward to experimenting with more nature-based artworks this year and hopefully being involved in some more exhibitions. I’m also excited about taking on more workshops at Stackwood, as I’ve just recently started facilitating the Elkhorn and Plant Parenting workshops as well as my random weaving nested baskets workshop, so you won’t be able to miss me in there!
What do you think we can learn from plants?
The Japanese concept of wabi-sabi is something that influences all of my work, which is about appreciating the imperfections found in nature and the transience of natural beauty, so I definitely think that this is something that we can learn from plants. Learning to accept the odd less-than-perfect leaf, and to find beauty in a plant as it grows and changes, or even as its flowers or leaves wilt and decay is something we should all strive to do, I think.
What’s your #1 tip for anyone thinking about getting into indoor plants?
I think my #1 tip would be to be realistic about what plants suit you best. Take a good look at your space and determine what sort of light you get and then find out what plants would do best in that light (we’re always happy to answer questions and make recommendations at Stackwood!). And also be realistic about what care you’re willing or able to give to a plant. Don’t choose a really fussy, high maintenance plant if you lead a busy life and don’t want to be spending a lot of time worrying about plant care. Nothing is more fulfilling and uplifting than a really healthy, happy plant, so give yourself the best chance of achieving that!
Photos of Anna at home by the wonderful Rae Fallon.