20 Cheeky Questions: Emma Sadie Thomson
Have you ever wondered what a day in the life of a plant stylist is like? Pretty dreamy, if you ask Adelaide girl, Emma Sadie Thomson. Growing up surrounded by nature and a menagerie of animals in rural Victoria, Emma went on to work in landscape and interior design before settling into her busy life as a plant stylist based in South Australia. These days you’ll find Emma garden consulting, greening out the interior of Adelaide’s best bars and restaurants, creating sleek and beautiful one-of-a-kind planters under her label, EST, or soaking up the sunshine from a balcony in Northern Italy – not joking – this is where she was when when we caught up with her recently!
Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself, and your life with plants? I grew up in the Mallee district in rural Victoria and moved to Adelaide when I was seventeen. Growing up in the country I was always surrounded by nature and was raised to appreciate and respect the environment.
My Dad always had a huge veggie patch in the back paddock and a menagerie of animals. He has a background in horticulture and agriculture and so has been one of my greatest teachers about all things green.”
Can you also please tell us about Emma Sadie Thomson the brand? I have a background in landscape design. When I finished my degree I wasn’t keen on jumping straight into working for a large firm, so I did some travelling straight out of uni. When I came back to Adelaide I started working interior design whilst I worked out ‘what I wanted to do’. This is when EST was born, combining the design skills from my undergraduate degree and the techniques I picked up from working in interior design. EST offers custom and unique plant fit-outs for all sorts of interior spaces. We work with interior designers and architecture firms and offer a bespoke experience for clients rather than just a generic plant hire. We also offer maintenance as part of an ongoing service to take the pressure off clients who feel that they kill every plant they touch.
EST has just joined Ensemble Studios, a new collaborative studio and retail space with three other local Adelaide designers. It has been amazing to connect with other likeminded businesses, all of our products are made in SA. This is something that is very important to EST, keeping design and manufacturing as local as possible.
Spring is finally in the air! What will you be doing in the garden this month? I am so happy Spring has arrived, what a chilly winter we’ve had! I’ve been propagating some special flowers and vegetables in a greenhouse at my partner’s house, so it is time to get these out in the garden.
I’ve also been working on building my indoor plant collection, and growing from cuttings so I can be self-sufficient and propagate most of the plants I need for my clients in my self-styled garden shed nursery.”
The next thing on my garden wish list is a poly tunnel so I can speed up growing time and protect my plants from the heat of Adelaide summers and its chilly winters.
What’s your favourite scent? Why? Jasmine – to me it’s the first smell of spring. It’s a lovely thing to smell whilst walking around the neighbourhood on warm evenings, checking out other people’s gardens.
If you could make an arrangement with only three flowers, what would they be? Billy buttons, sea holly, peonies.
Can you tell us about the partnership between EST and Trees for Life? We have worked with Trees for Life for a few years now. From every sale made on our online store we donate money to Trees for Life and they plant a tree on the customer’s behalf. We have also been volunteer growers in the past, growing trees from seed that farmers use to revegetate their properties.
What’s your ideal colour palette? Pale pink, white, green, terracotta.
What are you looking forward to? I am writing this sitting on the balcony of our apartment in Neive, Italy. I’m here with my sister while my partner is doing two weeks vintage with a local wine maker – so I’d say I’m living the dream right now.
Do you have a favourite project EST has worked on? Oggi Osteria was one of our earlier projects and it was amazing to work with Graham and Dave from Studio Gram, who designed the award winning interior. The original brief was to create a garden arbour with the feel of an Italian eatery. We wanted to find a plant that resembled grape vines but we had to choose something that was not deciduous. We also planted vegetables such as chilies and tomatoes in the arbour. I loved the challenge of the job and it’s been great to watch it grow and settle into the space – it looks better every time I visit!
What’s the best thing about living in Adelaide? Adelaide is a great place to start a business because everyone is willing to give you a go. It’s a hugely supportive environment. It’s also great that I can be in the Adelaide Hills in the lush green, and then 40 minutes later cooling my heels in one of Adelaide’s many wonderful beaches.
Are there any plants in your life that tell a special story about you or someone you love? My nanna loved Billy Buttons and always had some in the house.
After she passed away, we scattered her ashes where the Billy buttons grow wild on the outskirts of Kyabram in Victoria.”
These are my absolute favourite flower – they’re perfectly formed, offer a great pop of colour and are very long-lasting.
Do you have a propagation tip you can share with us? Use apple cider vinegar as an alternative to store-bought rooting hormone. It has over 30 trace elements that are beneficial to plant growth. Mix up 1 tablespoon of ACV to 1 litre of water and dip the stem in. Then dip in cinnamon – cinnamon kills fungus and bacteria and will help to keep cuttings free of disease while rooting.
What would you be doing in an alternate life? Naturopathy.
Name a skill you wish you had? Sketching/drawing.
What’s on your playlist right now? The National – Boxer. I love the deep melancholy of their songs.
What is your favourite kind of weather? I love hot days in late summer when it hasn’t rained for a long while and you can feel a storm building and the smell of petrichor is in the air.
What cheers you up? A bath cures everything for me. Feeling blue – get in the bath. Feeling stressed – get in the bath. Feeling overwhelmed – get in the bath!
What is your favourite word? Green.
If you were a plant, what would you be? Star Magnolia Tree.