In Yarraville

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Resident of Yarraville, Wife, stay-home Mum, gardener, avid runner

Business owner of Inner Jungle

I grew up in Hoppers Crossing. My dad was, until recently, a Westie for life, having grown up in Williamstown and living in Hoppers Crossing for the past 45 years. He and mum moved to QLD last year to be nearer to my oldest sister and the sunshine – I’m the youngest of three girls, and have lived in the west all my life. I have seen massive change across the west, and remember my sisters having horses, and they used to ride along Forsyth Road and Old Geelong Road, it blows my mind how different that area is now, it used to be just paddocks. When I was growing up I used to just jump on my bike and just take off with kids around the area. It’s the same sort of community feel we get in Yarraville now. You know the neighbours, everyone helps everyone out and my husband Brent and I like that.

I loved netball growing up. I used to go and watch my mum and my sisters play netball. So as soon as I could play, I did! I played in the netball rep squad for Werribee for many years in my teens and was selected to play regionally for the alma region for a few years in a row. My weekends were spent playing in netball tournaments. As I got older I got a little lazier and didn’t want to train. A trait that seems to be hereditary, as I now spend the weekdays nagging my son about going to footy and basketball training. Karma Train, ha ha!

I worked at the local nightclub Blazers in Hoppers Crossing on Friday and Saturday nights as the ‘Door Bitch’ (as my friends use to call me). I would collect the cover charge and run the cloakroom as a part-time job. It was very entertaining at times, especially at the end of the night when everyone was leaving!

After Year 12, I didn’t want to work in an office and knew I wanted to be out in nature and decided to be a park ranger. I had studied natural resource management and realized I had to talk to groups and be like a tour guide.

Public speaking is not something I like doing, but part of the course included a horticulture component, including revegetation. I enjoyed that side of it and thought about heading that way instead of being a park ranger.

I was dating Brent by then, and he moved to Footscray, and eventually, we moved in together there. By this time, I had joined the Green Corp and was working on a project to revegetate the flora along the St Kilda beachfront. We even spend days in the breakwater with the penguins, building nest sites. One of my highlights over this time was spending six weeks in the USA with Green Corp, where I planted trees in Lake Tahoe, and Humboldt. As part of this, I also got to spend time building breeding grounds for salmon, moving the massive logs into place – quite an effort. When I returned to Melbourne, I commenced a horticultural apprenticeship.

Brent and I did a lot of travelling in our 20s. We were in Italy when the Pope died, which was quite an experience. We also spent 3 weeks travelling through China and travelled to Russia. We travelled from China to Russia on the Trans-Siberian Railway, we naively thought we would have time to look at the sights at each stop along the way, but in fact, the train only stopped at the stations for a few minutes and then we were off again.

The Chinese trains were clean and ran with military precision, we stopped for a few days in Mongolia, and after this transfer to a Russian-run train which was a complete opposite to the Chinese trains. It was full of Mongolians with their produce, and they occupied the entire hallway of the train. They sold their blankets and wares in the trains, and when the train stopped at a platform, they would get off to sell to the locals, and as soon as the train was leaving, they’d throw everything back in the train. It was like nothing I had ever seen before.

I finished my apprenticeship and secured a role with a company that did a lot of work for the garden designer Rick Eckersley, who created the most amazing gardens, and I was fortunate to work in many of the beautiful private gardens across Melbourne.

By this time, Brent and I had bought our first home in Maidstone as our first property foothold in the west, where we attempted our first (of many) renovations. From a work perspective, I was approached by another company that worked for well-renowned garden designer Paul Bangay, and I began working across gardens he had designed, including his own residence called Stonefields near Daylesford – if you ever get an opportunity to visit it as part of the Open Gardens program, I would strongly recommend it

Brent and I were spending so much time in and about Yarraville, we decided we wanted to move closer, and in 2005 sold our place in Maidstone and bought another “fixer-upper” in Yarraville.

Bringing nature indoors

There’s a funny story to the purchase of our first home in Yarraville. The house we sold was 12 Burns Street, Maidstone, and when looking for our next place, Matt Young from Jas Stephens (who sold our place for us) approached Brent with a potential property.

‘I’ve got a house for you at 12 Burns Street.’

‘Yeah right,’ Brent said.

Turns out the house was at 12 Burns Street Yarraville – and we bought it

When we sold 12 Burns Street Maidstone and moved to 12 Burns Street Yarraville, it confused the conveyancers, the banks and even Jas Stephens. On the morning of the move, we couldn’t get our keys to 12 Burns Street Yarraville as Jas Stephens had mixed up the keys.

Brent and I married in 2006 and started the renovation on this home.

We loved this house, but with one boy, and another on the way we knew we knew we were going to need more space!

We were actually looking at our current house online when I was in the delivery ward, about to give birth to our second son! When I got home from the hospital, and our son was just a few days old, we bought the house in Tongue Street. We don’t do things in halves!

When my second son was finishing 4-year-old kinder, I was toying with the idea of returning to work. I remember saying to Brent ‘Maybe I should get a few plants, grow them and sell it on Inner West Buy Sell Swap.’ A friend of mine was organizing a market at Kindred Studios, and I got a stall to sell plants.

On the day, which was just before Christmas, the market was cancelled due to bad weather. I ended up with all these plants and began posting a few on Inner West Buy Sell Swap.

On Inner West Mums & Bubs, there was a Business Share Wednesday, and I had an overwhelming response and I sold almost all my plants. So I decided to set up a Business Facebook page where people could browse and buy my various plants. It was a good move, and that’s where Inner Jungle was born!

Why Inner Jungle? I toyed with a few names, but I really liked Inner Jungle as I wanted a name that reflected what the obsession with indoor plants can make your home become. I love my business as I get to help people at any time of the day or night, not just store hours. I get alot of people messaging me late at night, looking for a plant for a gift, I love to help them out, and find exactly what they are after, then they just swing by and pick it up when it suits – hopefully I make it really easy for my customers. I usually sell the plants with a pot that so that it is “take home ready” – all my customers have to do is find the perfect spot.

I love the support the West has provided me and do whatever I can to give back, with the local schools in particular and have donated several plants for their fundraisers.

Probably my best-selling plant is the Zanzibar Gem. It’s really hardy, and is pretty happy with any spot, dark or sunny – It’s as tough as nails, can go without water for ages and it’s really leafy and green. If you want a bit of colour, then I recommend the Ficus Ruby as its leaves have pink highlights and grows to a good size – perfect for a corner spot.

I currently have about 20 varieties of plants in my house. When people ask me what I’d recommend, I’d ask questions like ‘Do you want something trailing?’ If they do I recommend Devil’s Ivy, as it looks fantastic draping down from a high shelf.

Most of my customers are repeat customers (indoor plants can be a bit addictive) I love to understand what they are looking for, and if I don’t have the perfect match I love to go scouting for that perfect plant – it’s a part of my job that I love, and the look on people’s faces when they see the treasure I have found for them is such a great part of my day.

Inner Jungle is almost 12 months old now, and it’s fantastic, I get to spend most of my days looking and caring for plants, but also meeting so many great people across the Inner West who love to talk all things indoor plants – the best part of my job is seeing my plants go to homes where I know they will be loved!

I have a small greenhouse at home, but most of my plants are littered throughout my house, so they get constant attention – when I almost sell out my house now looks really bare and I know it’s time to go out hunting for new plants that my customers will love!

On the weekends I am either at my boys’ various sport activities, down the park, or having lunch at The Naked Egg or Alfa Bakehouse Yarraville.

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Showing 13 comments
  • I was after some plants for a client of mine in the early part of the year, and Karen’s business came up as a recommendation on Facebook. I ended up getting something else for the client, but began following Inner Jungle.

    In July this year, I was looking for a Human with a horticultural background, and someone with a uniquely different ‘green’ interest.

    I remembered Karen’s page, and reached out to her in early-August. Karen’s very shy, but admitted she’s been following my page for awhile as well. She invited me to her home in early-September, and over some coffee and sweets, she showed me around her house and told me her story.

    Say hi to Karen if you see her in the local streets!

  • Asha Townsend

    Love this Karen Retallick and hey it turns out the cancellation of the original market was meant to be 👍😊x

  • Frances Lourey

    What a great facebook page. Does Hobsons Bay have one?

  • Kirsty Louise

    Zanzibar Gem is the best! I was sold on it when I read the description: “thrives on neglect”.
    I now have three different plants in different rooms in my house!

  • Paula Marovitch

    Loved reading your story Karen x

  • Jamie Hehir

    Jo Retallick

  • Cate Bakos

    Love the 12 Burns St mix up! Classic! Beautiful story 🙂

  • Sharon Deller

    Beautiful plants. Beautiful pots. Beautiful person.

  • Sue Retallick

    Well done Karen proud of you congratulations xx Sue & Allan

  • Tyrone Hayward

    Loved reading the 2nd part. Well done on your business. Love to all. 💋

  • Jan Mills

    Congrats. Karen great accomplishment

  • Jan Mills

    Will be in touch re plants for new house

  • Tania Holmes

    Great story Karen! I think I was one of your first customers and my Zanzibar gem is thriving in my bathroom, love it!! 🌿

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