Profile: Bayden Hine, Musician & Plant Man

Bayden Hine is passionate about two things: Plants and music. He goes under the moniker Packwood for both endeavours. Originally from Bathurst in central NSW, he now calls Melbourne home. Bayden makes music and terrariums and seems rather happy about it.

Please tell us a little about yourself, and your life with plants?
My name is Bayden Packwood Hine. I use my middle name ‘Packwood’ for all things plant and music related – my two main passions. I’m originally from Bathurst, a small country town three hours northwest of Sydney in central west NSW.

I write and perform folk music as Packwood. This year I’m releasing Vertumnus – an album released as four separate seasons on the first day of their respective natural quarter. Each season presents its own character, and each song within it a unique voice – accompanied at times by a chamber orchestra and choir, and at times solitary and exposed. I’m just about to release the second season, Hibernal.

I also run a small business with my partner called Plant by Packwood. We build landscape-themed terrariums – often with South American natives that love humidity like Fittonia, Syngonium, and Peperomia – but we also do indoor plants, exotic things like Tillandsia (including our own airplant green wall design) and an array of bromeliads and orchids.

We operate out of the Rose St Artists Market in Fitzroy, running our stall and workshops on the weekend, and working out of our studio in Brunswick during the week. We’ve only been operating for 10 months, but it’s become a full-time thing really quickly. I’ve been so lucky to stumble upon something so wonderful and beautiful, and to have found so much support for it.

It’s so amazing to run and own my own business, to run it with my partner AND to be able to extend my love of plants into my day-to-day work. It’s the best.

What inspired you to create ‘Vertumnus’?
A few years ago I read a bunch of really hard-hitting, painfully honest books about the state of the environment – the impossibility of industrialised civilisation, etc – all things that I knew already deep down inside, but had never known in so much detail. I had  just left a corporate job, and was able to afford some time out for travelling and deep thinking. In that time, I wrote around two hours of new music – all of which I wanted to release, but I had no idea how.

I eventually felt a theme emerging from the songs: four main ‘moods’, so I grouped them into the four seasons and altered them a little to suit. Out of that came Vertumnus: my response to all that I had learnt and experienced in those few years. I look back on it now and realise that it was my way of both retreating from and confronting the world. Song writing and music have always been my chief joys in life as far back as I can remember, so this response should have come as no surprise. Nothing feels more natural.

Can you tell us about the album name?
Vertumnus – in Roman Mythology – is the god of change, the seasons and all things plant related (particularly fruiting trees and abundant gardens). He was a shape-shifter – assuming whatever form suited him best – often for nefarious, erotic ends. So that’s the root of the name, but my album has less do with gods preying on young women and far more to do with my own attempt at sculpting emblems of the challenges and relief of each natural quarter.

How would you describe your music?
I try and create stories that are both as intimate and as expansive as our place in the universe, through a sort of naturalistic, bucolic filter. It sounds a bit ominous and silly – but it’s true. It can be quite sprawling at times, with sweeping orchestral and choral arrangements, cinematic and clear. It is narrative centric, hushed and personal, and also fairly ambitious in its scope. To an extent that was my intention – in that I felt it best served my vision for Vertumnus – to try and encompass so many different themes. I’m also a huge fan of the myriad textures you can get from a string section, woodwinds or horns; those really deep moods and tonal colours.

Can you please explain the connection between your love of plants and your music?
I hesitate to go to deep into this topic for fear of becoming a parody of myself as a folk musician turned terrarium maker (way too late for that, I think) – but I think I’m safe here on The Planthunter.

Plants and music are two very deep passions of mine. They end up intertwining in obvious ways;  I’ll often be practicing in the garden (singing to plants is a good thing, right?), as well as more artistically; much of my music is inspired by the natural world, and a lot of the lyrical imagery I use comes from ideas that have stuck with me from books I’ve read about the planet.

Thanks to my family, I have always had a deep appreciation and knowledge of life on earth – and thanks to my father particularly, a very rich understanding of how life has evolved on earth across geological time, including how plant life has spread and adapted across the eons. My music and my passion for plants come from a very similar place – from this deep thinking, of which I do a lot. Perhaps a little too much!

How does the word ‘decay’ tie into your Vertumnus album?
Themes of death and rebirth, of the cyclical nature of life,  run throughout the entirety of the album. Autumnal and Hibernal in particular deal with these themes heavily. Autumnal contemplates the concept of changeability, and what it means to fall. It references things like worms, pools of decaying leaves beginning their transformation from living matter to nutrients. Some of what I’ve written of about are just vivid descriptions of natural processes, which I think are beautiful and complex in their own right, and don’t always need to be wrapped up in metaphors.

Right now I’m in the midst of releasing Hibernal, which is a meditation on death and rebirth: an introverted exploration of the self, mortality and our relationship with nature.

I didn’t mean to impose binary tensions on themes in my album, like “life over here, death over there”, but grouping songs thematically into ‘seasons’ seems to have done this for me. Other than that, I don’t want to give away too much about the meaning of the songs. For one thing I’ll never be satisfied with my own explanations outside of the context of the songs themselves – I feel like I’m missing important details when I discuss them without performing them – like talking behind a friends back. Listen to them! I think they have things to say of their own.

Image by Teagan Glenane

If you were a plant, what would you be?
I would be the Wollemi Pine, of course! It was previously known only in the fossil record, ranging from the Jurassic to the Pliocene – and presumed extinct – only to be rediscovered alive and well by a bush walker in the Blue Mountains in 1994.

There are limitless other plants that are far more exotic and, some might think, more interesting than the Wollemi Pine, but my family have always had a love for all things prehistoric, so it’s rediscovery was an exciting thing for me as a young child, and is my earliest memory of my passion for all things flora. The Wollemi is a new genus of the Araucariaceae – a very ancient family of coniferous trees – whose genetic roots stretch all the way back 201 million years to the beginning of the Jurassic. Considering only a small fraction of all life that has ever existed on earth is in the fossil record, it’s an incredibly wondrous thing to be able to trace the lineage of anything back that far. I suppose that’s why I love it so much – It has a sort of timelessness that I find incredibly romantic. We are all so very old and wonderful.

Oh, but if I had to choose another – it would be Tillandsia xerographica. I’m so obsessed with Tillandsia at the moment, and my collection is starting to make the house look like the side of a tree in Guatemala. They’re great.

How do you illustrate seasonality within your music?
An incredibly gifted artist by the name of Richey Beckett quite literally illustrated the motifs that we chose together as a way of conveying a symbolic digest of the album’s main themes. I wanted to put front and center the beauty of natural cycles over anything man-made as a sort of gateway to the concept of seasonality within the album.

As well as this, each of the four seasons within Vertumnus have their own distinct form and instrumentation. Autumnal is immediate and raw, focusing on the human voice; Hibernal is as expansive as it is intimate: swelling orchestral and choral arrangements hinting at the parallels of our own transience and that of our plant; Vernal is a pastoral chamber-folk love letter, and an ode to new growth and fresh beginnings; Estival, the summer season, is a celebration of life – bright and exuberant; a joyous shifting mess, teeming with energy.

Where is your favourite place to escape to?
It changes constantly. A friend has a holiday home in the hills behind Apollo Bay that I am lucky enough to be able to go to when it is free, that’s definitely one. Another of my favourite places to visit is Begonia House in my hometown of Bathurst. It’s only ever open in Autumn though, so there have been years where I haven’t had the chance to visit – but luck struck recently and I was able to spend a good slice of time in there shooting a little live take of a song from Hibernal. You can watch that here.

If I could escape to anywhere in the world at the drop of a hat it would be the Tarkine in Tasmania. There is nowhere better.

Who or what inspires you?
Innumerable people and things! I have always found the work of astrophysicists like Neil Degrasse Tyson and Carl Sagan particularly inspiring – the way they are able to communicate complex theories in relatable, simple ways is incredible. Anyone that can explain deep time in relation to life on earth is a winner in my books. Wild places inspire me greatly, also – as I mentioned above briefly the Tarkine in Tasmania is quite easily the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. The connection to wildness is something that we are all sorely lacking as a species. I think the human spirit suffers greatly without it.

Oh! I shouldn’t forget Jeanne Baret! She was a Frenchwoman from the late 1700’s who disguised herself as a man to circumnavigate the globe and collect plants from the tropics with her then lover, the famous botanist Philibert Commerson (who considered Jeanne an expert botanist – and rightly so). At the time women were forbidden from such travels, and especially from taking part in science, so her three-year long disguise was quite remarkable and brave. A true inspiration.

What cheers you up?
Our dog Bon Bon never fails to put a smile on my face. She’s the loveliest, most ridiculous thing. I love leaving the phone inside and playing in the garden whilst she daddles around the yard with me. Dogs are the best. I also really, really enjoy getting out of the city and shacking up someplace picturesque. Anywhere in the middle of nowhere will do, although I really do love the Otways – such a beautiful part of the world.

A good long walk through some quiet place devoid of people but filled with trees is also a favourite pastime. It fills me with a gladness I find difficult to describe. I am also a sucker for pizza. Pizza gets me every time.

What is your favourite plant to eat?
There are too many! I have to say…anything home grown is just… the best. Even if it’s just snow peas grown in a bucket – the satisfaction of eating something that you grew is fantastic. Everything freshly picked tastes ten-fold better than anything supermarket bought. I wish community gardening / large plots of land were scattered more widely about cities for people to use as they would see fit. One day, maybe!

If I had to pick a single plant as a favourite, though I’d have to say home grown heirloom tomatoes. So much flavour! Particularly the Brandywine.

What does your typical day involve?
My day-to-day is always quite different. My partner is an actor, so unless one of us is off away on work we’re both home together – which is just the loveliest thing in the world. We’re also recently engaged, which is very exciting!

My day always begins with a coffee, then I’ll check any orders that might need attending to for Plant by Packwood, go for a run out to one of our wholesalers, the flower market or a nursery – whatever it is that needs doing. Then I’ll settle in to create terrariums, practice, cook, or work on admin for either of the Packwoods. It’s funny, my father is retired and whilst on the phone to him the other day, I realised that our days are spent very similarly (he runs his own fossil and mineral business). I think I might be semi-retired at 28! Not really, though – but I am in a very happy place. Maybe just a little bit retired.

What are you looking forward to?
I’m looking forward to going to Bathurst in a few weeks time to turn the soil and visit my parents. Having to tend to the kitchen garden without me there at night picking slugs off cabbage and whatnot can be a bit stressful for them, so I’m letting it fallow until spring this year. I’m quite looking forward to my wedding later this year – I’m planning a little outdoor landscape of rocks and natives for the ceremony. I can’t wait.

All photographs by Teagan Glenane

'Vertumnus' cover by Richey Beckett