Scent Survey: Joost Bakker

Joost Bakker is a hard man to describe. He’s a champion of zero waste living, a florist, designer, very enthusiastic plant man, entrepreneur and much more. Born up in Holland, he moved to Australia with his family as a young boy and has been based in Monbulk, just outside Melbourne, ever since.

What did your childhood smell like?
We were surrounded by water in Holland, so it smelt like reeds growing along the canals. Riding my bike to school in the morning then riding home for lunch then back to school again past dairy farms and the ever-changing crops that, depending on the season, would come into flower. You have no idea how strong a field of fully open tulips smell on a warm day. Or a field of daffodils…

Just on Monday I walked my girls to school through a moist valley full of old Populus trees (quaking aspen, I think) starting to turn yellow and drop their leaves. The smell of the leaf litter immediately returned me to Holland and the Sunday morning walks looking for owls in a nearby forest with my parents.

Growing up I spent a lot of time in my uncle’s bulb shed where tractor loads of bulbs would driven in from surrounding fields. They would be washed then dried and through the long winters the bulbs would be cleaned, pulled apart and graded ready for planting.

I absolutely loved being around the many people that worked there. It was an exciting place for a young kid. One strange thing about this time is the smell of fungicides that were used for dipping bulbs. If I smell it today (and I rarely do) it brings back fond memories. Strange because the stuff is so bloody toxic! Even recently I was on an organic farm and could smell a particular fungicide. To the farmers horror I worked out it was spray drift. She couldn’t believe I could smell it!

What scent has the power to stop you in your tracks and immediately transport you to a memory/moment/feeling?
Most people don’t realise that every tulip has a different smell; some smell like bubble gum, some like different types of honey and some can be quite nasty. A field of Appeldoorn Tulips will stay with me forever. The smell of autumn leaves also completely transports me. Maybe because it only happens once a year?

What does your kitchen smell like?
Our home smells like straw, we no longer smell it but when people come for the first time they always say it. We live in a straw bale home and we love it!

At the moment our kitchen is filled with the smell of poached fruit and bowls of strawberries. Our fruit trees and veggie patch are overloaded at the moment!

What does happy smell like?
The smell of the soil when digging potatoes… THE BEST!

What does your favourite place in the world smell like?
Driving into Sherbrooke Forrest after travelling or even just coming home after a day in the city is my absolute favourite smell. The eucalyptus, tree ferns and leaf litter combine to create an incredible scent!

What is your least favourite smell?
Rotting wallaby or wombat alongside the road… A combination of sadness for a wild animal at the hands of modern civilisation, and a terrible smell! For a school project my daughter Ruby invented a roadside reflector called ‘Happy Animal Road Detector! It sent a high pitch sound when an animal approached the road. Brilliant!

What does love smell like?
A ‘Mister Lincoln’ rose in full bloom on a warm, sunny afternoon…