The Dirt: Jardine Hansen

With a name like hers, floral stylist and passionate gardener Jardine Hansen was destined to work with plants. Her parents must have known her heart was green before she even arrived in the world.

Jardine and I met via Instagram just over two years ago. I was preparing to launch Planthunter and Jardine heard about it and sent me an email offering her assistance. We met up and the rest is history. It took all of 27 seconds to realize that like Anne of Green Gables and her friend Diana, Jardine and I are kindred spirits. We share a deep love of plants and nature, food and dogs. And, she’s the only person I know who has ever cried with joy over a clematis flower. This uncontained expression of plant adoration places her in very high stead in my eyes.

Nearly two years ago Jardine and her partner moved from Sydney to a cottage overlooking the bush in Wentworth Falls, in the Blue Mountains of NSW. The change in surroundings was a revelation to her. ‘I was a bit resistant in the beginning but after the first week of living up here I was sold. The plants won me over’, she says.

I can breath up here’, she explains as we scramble down the side of an escarpment in Blackheath.

‘There’s such abundant beauty, and so much space. Being removed from the bustle of the city makes me more acutely aware of the things I love, and allows me the freedom to pursue them.’

We’re heading off on a bushwalk, the Grand Canyon loop at Blackheath. Jardine and I are chattering excitedly about the plants, the views, the birds, the bugs and trees. Daniel is trying to photograph Jardine. She’s not an easy woman to pin down for any length of time when there are plants to be smelt, touched, talked to and identified. Poor Daniel.

‘Being surrounded by plants makes me incredibly happy’, she says, perched on the edge of a huge sandstone boulder. ‘I just get this feeling. It feels really right. I feel really little and really big at the same time – like I belong but also that I’m such a tiny part of a much bigger thing.’

Jardine’s love affair with nature began in her childhood. ‘I vividly recall collecting Christmas beetles and trying to build them fun parks out of bark chips, complete with water slides and to-scale forests of alfalfa sprouts. They never really seemed to enjoy the fun park’, she says.

Undeterred by the unenthusiastic Christmas beetles, Jardine spent time with her late grandmother, learning plant names and absorbing her wisdom. ‘My grandmother was the most calm, kind, and generous person I’ve ever met’, she says. ‘She loved her garden and was always feeding birds and marvelling at plants. She once told me that the most wonderful thing about plants was their potential, that a handful of seeds in your hand could one day be a whole ecosystem.’

I have a feeling something of her grandmother must have rubbed off on Jardine. Her reverence for Mother Nature and her ways is palpable. It’s illustrated equally in the way she interacts so joyfully and respectfully with the environment around her, and in her creative output.

Her floral work is wild, free, romantic and incredibly beautiful. It’s contrived, as all floristry is, but there’s a real depth within her work, far beyond any superficial notions of beauty. ‘I’m inspired by the shapes in nature’, she says. ‘I see things whilst bushwalking – a tree leaning in a certain way, a twisted branch, or a flower reaching up towards the sun. I try to incorporate the energy I feel and the shapes I see in nature into my floral work’.

When not in Sydney working on a wedding or event, she’s most often found wandering through the bush near her home, riding her mountain bike called Pel (short for Pelargonium), or pottering in her garden. Living in the mountains has opened her eyes to the richness of the Australian bush. ‘It’s so beautiful, but you have to look carefully to see it. Its not a rich, lush beauty, but a subtle, interesting and incredibly tough beauty. I love it’, she says.

After reaching the bottom of the escarpment, down where moss covers all solid surfaces, the tallest of Eucalyptus trees reach up towards the light, and a small creek meanders amongst ferns, we head back up to the top. Back to the car, and back to the city. On our way up we stop at a clearing looking out over the vastness of the Grose Valley. There’s bushland as far as we can see. We sit. We breathe. We’re still.

And then we discover a tiny native orchid growing in a crack in the rock, just near Jardine’s head. Excitement levels rise. ‘Oh god look at this!! What is it? It’s an orchid. Really, an orchid? Yeah, I think so. AN ORCHID? WHAT?! How amazing is that? So amazing. And it’s just growing there in a crack in a rock. No soil. Nothing. Look at the colour of the new leaves! Look at the flowers! So beautiful. It’s just so bloody beautiful. Plants are so amazing. I know, aren’t they? They’re the best. Yeah. They’re the best.

And so it goes.

The native orchid!