PLANTS, KITCHENS, AND MORE
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.
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