20 Cheeky Questions: Paul Hyland
Plants have been an enduring source of fascination for Paul Hyland since he was a young child. After kicking off his planty career at 13 years old with a job in a nursery, followed by 25 years of growing roses for cut flowers, Paul is now very much in his element as the man behind Glasshaus; a nursery, garden design and floristry business in Melbourne’s Richmond.
Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself, and your life with plants?
Nature became part of my life early on. My grandfather was a keen gardener, so I started growing plants at a young age. My first job was at a nursery when I was 13. I was very lucky to have an extraordinarily talented nurseryman as my boss, who was a father-figure to me as well.
I then went on to farm cut-flower roses intensively for 25 years. Even though there was something quite arduous about the work, I found it cathartic, too: standing, grading roses for eight hours a day. You develop a body of really specific knowledge when you’re engaged with just one plant in such a detailed way.
Now I own Glasshaus Nursery, where we specialise in plants, floristry, garden design, events and installations. I’ve wanted to have a nursery since my first job and originally aimed to have one by the age of 30. I was 42 when it finally happened – only a decade or so late!
For me plants are nostalgic and trigger memories; they’re connected to times in my life and people, too.
Plants are also a great leveller. There is so much to learn about the plant world and you’re always going to meet someone who will teach you something you don’t know, whether they’re a professional or a home gardener. Even given many lifetimes there will still be more learning to do.
I suppose there’s something very human about engaging with plants – we’ve been doing it for as long as we’ve been in existence. Our lives are intertwined with plants and when they’re not there you really notice it.
What is the first thing you think of when you hear the word WATER?
What is your number one indoor plant watering tip?
Stick your finger into the growing medium, right down to the second knuckle, before watering. It’s the only real way to assess whether the plant needs a drink or not.
If you were a plant, what would you be?
Mountain ash. They’re around for a very long time.
What cheers you up?
Frost in the morning and a day at the beach with my two kids.
What is the habit you are proudest of breaking or want to break?
Biting my fingernails. I broke that habit when I was 17 or 18.
What is your favourite word?
Immersive or subversive – I can’t decide between them.
Have you ever been in love with two people at the same time?
Yes – Luka and Mara, my twins.
Name a skill you wish you had.
Tying a truckie’s knot with rope.
What is the most played song on your playlist?
Sugar Man by Rodriguez.
If you had to make a garden with three plants, what would they be?
Scleranthus biflorus groundcover, Eucalyptus citriodora (lemon-scented gum) and Viola hederacea, a violet. All Australian natives.
What makes somebody sexy?
What do you miss most about being a kid?
The lack of responsibility.
What’s the first thing you notice when you meet a person?
If they hold your gaze.
What qualities in people do you admire the most?
A sense of humour and an open mind.
What would you be doing in an alternate life or career?
I think I’d be a lawyer, to be subversive.
What’s your perfect three-meal?
Prawns as a starter, whiting with hand-cut potato chips and green salad for the main, and for dessert, fresh strawberries and cherries.
What is special about where you live?
I appreciate the diversity that Melbourne offers. Melbournians like nature, football and pubs.
If you could control your dreams, what would you dream about?
What’s your favourite kind of weather?
A really brisk, chilly morning with light cloud cover giving way to blue skies, sunshine and a light breeze. Just as well I live in Melbourne.
How many people are you completely yourself with?
I think it depends which Paul you meet.