UR­BAN LIV­ING

PLANTS, KITCHENS, AND MORE

The Georgia Straight - - Front Page -

E> BY LUCY LAU

nter­ing the Bloom Room Botan­i­cal Gar­den at the bustling cor­ner of Kingsway and Fraser Street is like waltz­ing into an ur­ban jun­gle. Spi­der plants—hung gen­er­ously from plant brack­ets—greet guests im­me­di­ately at the door, their slen­der blades slink­ing del­i­cately to­ward the painterly Brasil philo­den­dron, lush ivies, and vi­brant cro­tons pot­ted be­low. To the left, suc­cu­lents of all sorts sit in abun­dance on cir­cu­lar trays like desserts on a plat­ter, and in­door trop­i­cals such as birds of par­adise, ken­tia palms, and Congo philo­den­drons—their large, glossy leaves catch­ing the sun­light that pours in from the store’s siz­able win­dow—inch gen­tly to­ward the ceil­ing.

With its well-loved Per­sian rug, clean white walls, and pair of min­i­mal­ist wood chairs that of­fer guests a place to kick back and re­lax, the green­filled space could eas­ily pass as your very hip friend’s Main Street loft. In fact, the look is not far off from that of Bloom Room owner Sarah Spencer Tan­nahill’s abode. “Our house is pretty jun­gle-y. It’s get­ting a lit­tle out of con­trol,” the fine-art grad, who’s pro­vided flora for Savio Volpe, Bells and Whis­tles, and other nearby busi­nesses, tells the Straight dur­ing an in­ter­view at the East Van shop. “I ac­tu­ally got rid of my kitchen ta­ble to put more shelves in so we could put in more plants.”

That Tan­nahill op­er­ates one of the city’s most hap­penin’ plant-and-flower spots should tell you plenty about her com­mit­ment to play­ing plant mama at home. But it’s not just green thumbs, the hor­ti­cul­ture-ob­sessed, and self­de­scribed “plant nerds” pack­ing their cribs with fo­liage th­ese days. Around the globe, peo­ple—es­pe­cially young folks—seem to have em­braced house­plants with wide-open arms, wa­ter­ing cans and brass mis­ters at the ready as they care­fully tend to the daz­zling pin­stripe ca­lathea, chest­nut vines, and prickly cacti that, in re­cent years, have be­come as in­te­gral to a beau­ti­ful and liv­able space as a well-de­signed sofa. The trend has gained so much trac­tion that the Wash­ing­ton Post, in an ar­ti­cle pub­lished last fall, claimed that “millennials”—for lack of a bet­ter word— were at­tempt­ing to fill the “voids in their hearts” by load­ing as much green­ery into their homes as pos­si­ble.

“I think house­plants are trend­ing now more than they have in decades,” notes Tan­nahill, who’s known for car­ry­ing and prop­a­gat­ing hard-tofind “plants that don’t look like plants” such as lithops, a South African suc­cu­lent that’s evolved in a way to mimic the ap­pear­ance of stone, at the Bloom Room. Although it’s dif­fi­cult to re­fute the in­flu­ence of In­sta­gram, where, as the Post men­tions, hash­tags like #mon­ster­a­mon­day and #ur­ban­jun­gle have all be­come em­bed­ded in our so­cial-me­dia lex­i­con, Tan­nahill cred­its a de­sire to, con­versely, put down our phones as one rea­son house­plants have ex­pe­ri­enced an in­tense surge in pop­u­lar­ity. “I think that plants are the op­po­site of tech­nol­ogy,” she says. “And, you know, our mod­ern world is kind of ar­ranged in such a way that elim­i­nates na­ture and nur­ture. And I think peo­ple are need­ing that.”

OVER AT FIGARO’S Gar­den, a Vic­to­ria Drive shop that’s been op­er­at­ing for more than two decades, coowner Hart­ley Rosen can hardly keep trop­i­cal plants like tow­er­ing fid­dle­leaf figs and Mon­stera de­li­ciosas— bet­ter known as Swiss-cheese plants, thanks to the holes that form in their mas­sive leaves—in stock. Other best­sellers at the long-stand­ing in­sti­tu­tion in­clude struc­tural snake plants and air plants, both of which are low­main­te­nance in that they are tol­er­ant of min­i­mal light and water lev­els. Like Tan­nahill, Rosen sees the fever sur­round­ing in­door green­ery as re­lated to our in­nate need to nur­ture a liv­ing be­ing. “I think, deep down, it’s be­cause we re­ally en­joy tak­ing care of things,” he ex­plains. “And it’s so ex­cit­ing when you bring a plant home and that lit­tle new leaf shoots out from the base of the plant or you get a trop­i­cal to flower.”

While gar­den shops like th­ese and oth­ers in Metro Van­cou­ver, such as the West Side’s South­lands Nurs­ery, Art Knapp, and Main Street’s Flower Fac­tory, have un­doubt­edly seen a spike in botan­i­cal sales in the past few years (“If you came in here at 2 or 3 o’clock on a Satur­day af­ter­noon, you would see, like, up­wards of 20 peo­ple in here look­ing for plants,” says Rosen), per­haps the surest sign that the house­plant craze has reached its pin­na­cle is that dec­o­ra­tive blooms can now be found front and cen­tre at busi­nesses— restau­rants, cafés, and unas­sum­ing dol­lar stores—that were for­merly de­tached from the gar­den­ing scene. Such is the case with the Fed­eral Store, a quaint lun­cheonette and gro­cer in Mount Pleas­ant that opened in 2016.

Of­fer­ing a se­lec­tion of house-baked goods, cof­fee, and cool Van­cou­ver­made prod­ucts, the neigh­bour­hood spot in­tro­duced house­plants to its hy­per­local in­ven­tory last year af­ter a pop-up shop that in­cluded a small va­ri­ety of in­door fo­liage saw a lineup of cus­tomers out the door. “We were ab­so­lutely blown away by the re­sponse,” co-owner Co­lette Grif­fiths re­calls at the es­tab­lish­ment. Shortly af­ter, the full-time restau­rant man­ager, who con­sid­ers her­self pas­sion­ate about plants, be­gan mak­ing reg­u­lar trips to the Burn­aby Lake Green­houses, bring­ing back ev­ery­thing from tur­tle vines and fuzzy pur­ple inch plants to an­thuri­ums and sprawl­ing areca palms to sell. Ar­ranged tidily along win­dowsills and placed art­fully in nooks and on shelves along­side boxes of gourmet ba­con salt, le­mon-and-laven­der mar­malade, and other food­stuffs, the plants serve as dé­cor pieces at the Fed­eral Store un­til they in­evitably find their for­ever homes.

“It keeps it fresh, keeps the space chang­ing,” says Grif­fiths, who vis­its the green­houses for re­stocks at least once a month. “We al­ways like to have one or two larger plants in the cen­tre sec­tion, and then when those go, we get some­thing in a com­pletely dif­fer­ent shape and they kind of re­de­fine the space in an in­ter­est­ing way.” That idea of keep­ing things fresh—in a lit­eral and metaphor­i­cal sense, thanks to the air-pu­ri­fy­ing prop­er­ties of Mother Na­ture’s tots—is ex­actly what makes house­plants so ap­peal­ing. “You put a plant in a room, it changes the room,” states Tan­nahill. “It changes your psyche. It has phys­i­cal ef­fects on peo­ple, su­per­pos­i­tive phys­i­cal ef­fects.”

HOME SHOW MUST-SEES

With over 425 ex­hibitors and 2

ap­pear­ances by HGTV Canada de­signer su­per­stars such as Danielle Bryk (right), the B.C. Home + Gar­den Show is Van­cou­ver’s one-stop show for ev­ery­thing home-im­prove­men­tand Diy–re­lated. Be­low, find a roundup of top fea­tures at this year’s 47th an­nual event, which hap­pens at B.C. Place from next Wed­nes­day to Sun­day (Fe­bru­ary 21 to 25).

MAIN-STAGE STARS Take in home-ren­o­va­tion and land­scap­ing tips straight from the pros at the Main Stage, where celebrity builders and de­sign­ers such as Back­yard Builds’ Brian Mc­court and Sarah Keen­ley­side, Home to Win’s Car­son Arthur, and

Kenny Gem­mill will all be on hand to dish their best ad­vice for mak­ing the best of your home. Lo­cal names such as Sarah Gal­lop and Kathy Yuen are slated to make ap­pear­ances too.

FEA­TURE GAR­DENS It’s the ex­hibit that gives the B.C. Home + Gar­den Show its name: over 3,000 square feet of imag­i­na­tive, im­mac­u­lately groomed gar­den spa­ces that will rev up mo­ti­va­tion and get your cre­ative juices flow­ing when it comes to over­haul­ing your own out­door space. De­sign com­pa­nies in­clude Great Cana­dian Land­scap­ing and No Limit Land­scap­ing, which will be us­ing ev­ery­thing from syn­thetic turf to suc­cu­lents and blooms to craft the gar­dens of your wildest (or well­pruned) dreams.

COOK­ING STAGE It’s not all green­ery, tools, and paint chips at the BC Home + Gar­den Show. Brush up on your culi­nary game with a slew of seminars and live demon­stra­tions at the Cook­ing Stage, where you can learn to per­fect plant-based foods, tra­di­tional Ital­ian baked goods, and more. Pre­sen­ters in­clude chef Kur­tis Perry of Fable Kitchen and chef Ian Makris of the Greek by Ana­toli, who will be pre­par­ing a porcini-cream tagli­atelle and rus­tic Greek lamb chops, re­spec­tively.

THE GREAT CRATE CHAL­LENGE Rudi­men­tary wooden crates are reimag­ined as stor­age units, foot­stools, and chic bed­side ta­bles at this up­cy­cling ex­hibit that tasks five lo­cal style blog­gers with trans­form­ing the boxes us­ing spray paint and a lit­tle el­bow grease. Vis­i­tors will be able to see the cre­ations up close, vote for their favourite en­try, and en­ter a con­test for their chance to take one home.

DIN­ING AL­FRESCO Oh, the weather out­side is fright­ful, but that doesn’t mean you can’t look ahead to warmer, sun­nier days when hav­ing a drink out­side won’t mean sport­ing a rain­coat, water-re­sis­tant shoes, and an um­brella. En­ter lo­cal de­signer Jamie Ban­field’s Din­ing Al­fresco dis­play, which will show­case four out­door-din­ing spa­ces that range from the con­tem­po­rary to the mas­cu­line to the boho. Your only job? De­cid­ing which look you’d like to em­u­late for the sum­mer at home.

Love It or List It

In­door botan­i­cals are trend­ing more than ever, says Bloom Room owner Sarah Spencer Tan­nahill. Lucy Lau photo.

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