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Back To Nature: Rare Plants Nursery

Interview

Timur Can Ersoy

Photography

Egemen Pırlant


While city life may be a tedious routine for some of us, it’s an essential lifestyle for others. Whatever your perspective may be, you will mostly agree that city life can sometimes be overwhelmingly busy and monotonous. Those looking to escape dream of going to a coastal town or anywhere in the heart of nature. Fatih Koçak, who founded the Nursery of Rare Plants, has adopted this dream as a lifestyle rather than an escape. Koçak told us about his journey back to nature which started on his urban terrace in 2004.

Horticulture and plants have gained a special place in our lives, especially after the pandemic. What do you think is the main reason for this?

From what I’ve observed over the years, we live according to a script that has been taught to us since we were kids. Based on this script, we go to certain schools. We are expected to perfectly memorise what we’ve been taught and the better we are at it, the more successful we are deemed. Then, we’re directed towards a “good job” based on this training and start living our lives while working mostly online. Meanwhile, professional achievements are accompanied with successful relationships, families, children, etc. These go on, forming an endless list. These tasks have never been our dream; on the contrary, we’ve found ourselves working more, tiring more, getting sick, arguing, and becoming unhappy to fulfil them. None of these tasks and obligations are a part of our nature. When we were forced to, by the pandemic, to stay home without the stimulation of our “unnatural” and artificial activities, we remembered how much we’re longing for the natural. And we wanted to organize a living space based on this feeling. Adding more greens to our living spaces and decorating it with plants have been one of the ways to manifest this. Those living in apartment buildings became interested in interior decor while those living in a garden started working on open spaces that were due for repair for too long. Summer houses were redecorated for winter. This naturalisation of our living spaces, hopefully, initiated a similar process regarding ourselves and our relationships during the pandemic.

It also pertains to your story. What inspired you to found the Nursery of Rare Plants?

It was around 2004. After studying at some prominent schools in Turkey and abroad, I started working around the plaza district in Levent. I had moved to a penthouse with a wide terrace. First, I decorated the apartment properly. Then came the terrace. I had never been interested in plants before. I had never cultivated one and didn’t know how to take care of them. But, for the decoration of my terrace, I thought it would be a good idea to get a plant. I got the first one and liked it a lot so I got another one. Then another one and so it went - the terrace had turned into a garden. I began to recognise the plants and learn more about them. I studied their characteristics and needs. I grew more curious so I started reading more. After a while, my friends started asking my opinion about plants upon seeing my garden. I helped them out, and they asked me to do small arrangements for their neighbours. Over time, gardening took up more and more my time. Today, it’s a nursery spanning nine acres of land with more than a thousand plant species, offering a service in production, sales, and landscape gardening.

How did you handle that moment of decision? How do you feel about this nursery now?

When I took up gardening as a hobby, I didn’t know that garden arranging or landscaping existed as a profession. I never saw it from a business point of view, never focused on that aspect. I only loved the diversity and beauty o plants and enjoyed playing around with them, changing their places, and creating different compositions. I used to be good at drawing when I was a kid; I just channeled that talent into plants. After a while, as I become more curious and learned more about the topic, I also learned that it was a profession. After that, naturally, I wanted to pursue it professionally. What came later was about discovering my fears and negative feelings about this wish and transforming them. The more I transformed those thoughts, the more I could do to take small steps in life towards achieving this wish. With my conditions changing, I started making decisions about gardening. I came to realize that my previous profession and responsibilities were being replaced by gardening and plants. My previous job took less of my time while gardening claimed a bigger part of my life. I don’t really remember realising when my hobby of gardening became my job; it was a slow and smooth transition. I never rook radical or reluctant steps. Around me, I see people who take rash steps find their new jobs a challenge, that they get tired and give up to go back to the old ways. And, since their former order has been disrupted, it’s not easy to reclaim that. Since I proceeded step by step by transforming my fears and thoughts and creating new conditions in my life, I didn’t experience any unnecessary challenges or fatigue during the process. What mattered to me was transforming my fears and thoughts. Since that was my path, my inner foundation became quite solid. Today, whether it’s about gardening or any other action, I can take confident steps based on my wishes because I don’t have fears or ideas holding me back in life. This has been my biggest achievement in this.


Can everyone visit the Nursery of Rare Plants?

Of course. We welcome anyone who is interested in plants and gardening to our nursery, seven days a week. It’s located at an easy-to-find place in Istanbul. Since its opening in 2018, it has garnered the attention of many visitors, including plant enthusiasts from all around Turkey and even from abroad. In that regard, it’s become a significant place in Turkey for the world of plants.

Your services are not limited to garden landscaping and consultancy. You’re also involved in art projects. Can you tell us a bit about them?

Yes. Last year, one of our visitors, who had been to the nursery and enjoyed our landscaping works and plants, offered us the design and implementation of the landscaping of an installation project, managed within the framework of IKSV’s 5th Istanbul Design Biennial. I was responsible for the natural-looking landscape composition of the “Yüzen Bahçe” (Swimming Garden) project, designed by Italian architects and inspired by the Prince Islands of Istanbul. Built on a swimming barge, the work was taken around the Islands and across the Golden Horn to be displayed for three weeks and hosted various events aboard. It was well-received and praised. I really enjoyed working on that project. This year, also as part of the Design Biennial, we were contacted by a private museum that is world-renowned for its temporary exhibitions. This time, a new version of a land-art structure, previously displayed in New York, will be built in Istanbul and displayed for six months. The entire structure will be decorated with our unique plant collection from the nursery. I’m very excited about it.

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