Little Green Scene
Meet the curator of Perth’s most photographed plant features, injecting fresh air into the city’s most classic and popular new bars.
Tonia Ryan has an intuitive eye for what she calls, plantscaping. “I’m just a woman possessed when there are plants involved,” she says, laughing.
Unusually, Tonia grew up on Rottnest Island. Her dad was licensee of the the Rottnest Hotel. A 20km boat trip away in Perth, her grandparents properties had big gardens and she discovered her green-thumb from them, selecting plants each visit to grow on her balcony at her home.
These days her business, Little Green Scene, operates three urban greenhouses near Fremantle that grow a range of rare and interesting plants.
Tonia was thrust into the world of commercial plant installations as one of the masterminds behind the game-changing greenery at outdoor bar / oasis, Henry Summer. The venue famously launched with a flurry of rumours about its volume of plants back in 2017. Was it closer to 100, 1,000, or 10,000? The whispers remain to this day.
It was urban plant art unlike anything seen in Perth prior, and catapulted plantscape features to become a new necessity of the city’s favourite venues.
“Anything was possible,” says Tonia, of the brief she received for Henry Summer. The planning took over a year to source, grow and curate the installation. It culminated in her and the team working around the clock for a week planting, ensuring no leaves were out of place, and everything was in good health.
“When I’m in the middle of an install, it’s blinkers on; I have to nail it,” Tonia says.
A recent project was revitalising Fremantle classic, The Norfolk Hotel. There was a simple brief, “to look lush.” Tonia responded to this with layered gardens, overhead plants and a plant wall. Around 300 plants achieved this.
“The aim is to make the selections easy so the owners don’t have to worry about the plants,” Tonia says.
“Only so many varieties will survive in a dark space and it’s important to me to make every look different. But it can come down to plant availability,” she adds.
As a life-long devotee to her garden, Tonia loves to see the rise of plants in popularity more broadly.