Dirty Nails Survey: Scott Cain

Graphic designer Scott Cain is a bona fide plant geek. His huge balcony garden at his home in Perth, Western Australia, is packed to the brim with all sorts of tropical and succulent beauties – many of which are grown from cuttings traded with his mum. We stumbled across Scott on Instagram recently (@tropicaloco) and instantly recognised a kindred spirit. Scott tells us more about his extraordinary jungle balcony, his cat Jack and getting potting mix stuck in his keyboard in our Dirty Nails survey!

Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself, and your life with plants? I’m a freelance graphic designer who lives with my cat, Jack, in a two bedroom 1960’s apartment with a huge balcony. I work from home so being surrounded by plants and being able to escape to my jungle balcony gives me the perfect balance between being creative on a computer screen all day and being creative on my balcony garden – whether its picking off a few dead leaves, repotting or rearranging (which I seem to do constantly), it’s all a form of creativity for me. I also love finding interesting pots and matching them with the perfect house plant. I grow mostly tropical ‘foliage plants’ and succulents – any hot-weather botanical beauty that takes my fancy.

What’s on the horizon for you in the garden? I’m hanging out for some more sunshine and longer days! I know the rain is a good thing but I miss spending warm evenings pottering around and hot nights hand-watering my pots.

What story would your hands tell us about you? My hands are a bit soft from being on the computer all day but I usually have a bit of soil lurking under my nails from a bit of digging around during a coffee break. My lovely white Mac keyboard usually has a bit of black potting mix between the keys too!

What are you growing right now? I just received my first plant online, a Pilea peperomoides which has only in the past few months been allowed to come into Western Australia (legally through quarantine of course) so I’m quite excited to finally have one of those. It arrived surprisingly unscathed too!

What did you learn from you mother about gardening? My mum is an amazing gardener and grew up surrounded by houseplants in the family home. We still regularly trade cuttings and talk about plants. I’ve even got her onto instagram with her own, mostly plants-focussed account!

The first plant on my balcony is a peperomia in an original 1970’s macramé plant hanger which came from a cutting of a plant that has always been in the family garden.”

Tell us something about gardening we can’t find in a reference book. Most succulents and other ‘full-sun’ plants do so much better in part-shade than in the full, West Australian sun. Just because the label says something it’s worth monitoring your plants regularly – they’re the best indicator of their needs.

Have you killed any plants recently? If so, what and why? Yes! Last time my mum and I went to Little Leaf Co she bought me an amazing Begonia with big nearly-black leaves. I treated it just the same as my other begonias but for some reason, it just wasn’t happy!

What draws you to gardening? It’s in the blood I think. It’s the thrill of a new leaf unfurling on a recently potted philodendron cutting. But I also have to admit, getting a bit of attention on Instagram has really contributed to my motivation for making my balcony look spectacular – now it’s not just me and my visitors who enjoy my balcony garden but my followers too!

If you were a plant, what would you be? Why? I think I would be a cactus orchid: Seemingly quiet and unassuming until I get the chance to show off what I can really do.

Check out Scott’s amazing Instagram!

Scott's (not very dirty) nails!