“WAIT, why can’t I come in? What’s going on?” pleads a fresh-faced 20-something to a frazzled woman guarding a warehouse doorway in St Peters in Sydney’s inner west.
“Do you have a ticket?” she asks.
“A ticket? No … what…?”
The woman lets out a short sigh and repeats a speech she’s clearly made dozens of times on this overcast Saturday afternoon.
“We put a HUGE post on our Facebook page. We will have 15,000 people come today and 6000 registered. If I let you in, some of those 6000 would miss out.”
She turns away, unmoved by the looks of wounded disbelief from the 20-something and her companion.
“Tickets?” she barks to the next person in the 60-strong queue.
I know what you’re thinking. Everyone here must be lining up to get Taylor Swift’s autograph or at the very least collect the final banana in their Coles Little Shop Mini collection.
Incorrect. They’re here for a plant sale. But not just any plant sale.
This is an event from a group of people called The Jungle Collective and today is their Springtime Splendour sale — one of the dozens of sales they hold throughout the year in Sydney and Melbourne.
This plant sale is different to any plant sale you’ve ever been to — because it is very cool. And it has lots of plants. And also music.
Happily for you, readers, your correspondent is hip enough to the city’s rhythms to have signed up for my ticket during the week and I sail through the doors with an air of quiet smugness.
Inside, hundreds of people are looking at plants.
Those who have just entered are wide-eyed at the sheer volume of plants. “There are so many plants!” breathes a gentlemen in a mustard-coloured beanie.
You can tell what they’re thinking. If I buy armfuls and armfuls of plants then my little urban nook will be unspeakably instagrammable. I will be able to use the hashtags #jungalow and #plantparent with authority.
“I’m the biggest plant person ever,” a guy in a flower-printed leather jacket tells his companion.
“I really like this one!” squeals a pretty blonde woman holding a small fern up to the face a woman who looks exactly like her. They are sisters or flatmates.
“And I really like this one,” her companion offers, holding up a stubby ponytail palm.
I think back to the last time I was at Bunnings, which sells both ferns and ponytail palms. I do not recall this level of wonder.
Perhaps it’s because The Jungle Collective has elevated the plant purchasing process to an ‘experience’. Even beyond the clever exclusivity of the registration process, and the queues and gruff door staff, they’ve also draped everything in glittering fairy lights and wry handwritten signs.
Marvin Gaye and Buena Vista Social Club blare over the speakers, giving everything a festive feel.
A number of attendees mark themselves out as hardcore Jungle Collective veterans by wearing floral wreaths and daisy chains in their hair. If you’re going to drive out to a large warehouse to buy plants why not get in the spirit of things, their decorative accessories seem to say.
But as I move with the hordes towards the middle of the warehouse, it’s hard not to sense a certain deflation coming over the once-keen plant shoppers.
“So many plants I can’t even,” mutters a girl with blue hair, with a perceptible air of defeat.
When it comes down to it, they seem to realise as one, we’re really just buying some plants. And at around $30 a pop for a medium size stalk with some leaves on it, no one is really going to splash out enough to buy an entire house worth’s of greenery.
It’s like when you see a cleverly-merchandised rack of colourful T-shirts at Gap. Lined up together, they make up a rainbow of covetable gorgeousness. But when you have to chose one to buy, you realise you’re just getting an orange T-shirt.
The bells and whistles can’t really disguise the fact that these young people seem to have mysteriously turned into their parents. They could be doing something entirely more age-appropriate, like sleeping off a hangover or sweating and bug-eyed in a day club. Or they could be doing this at Woolworths.
Those who endured the 50-plus strong queue to pay for their ficuses and fiddle-leaf figs emerge blinking into the daylight. They trudge back to their cars with their plants, past the entry queue that’s now stretching into the hundreds.
A tall brunette in yoga gear looks blankly at the furry cactus she holds in the palm of her hand.
“I’m just not feeling it,” she says to her friend. “But at least it got me out of the house.”