A new apart­ment opened the door to a new pas­sion for Ron Goh, who’s cre­ated a leafy haven from scratch.

Homestyle New Zealand - - CONTENTS - WORDS Lisa Mor­ton PHOTOGR APHY Michelle Weir

An amaz­ing ur­ban oa­sis.

WHEN GRAPHIC DE­SIGNER RON GOH moved into the in­ner-city Auck­land apart­ment he shares with his part­ner Matt O’Brien last year, the first thing he bought to fill the large space was plants – the fur­ni­ture came later. The novice gar­dener soon be­came an avid col­lec­tor, trans­form­ing their home into a thriv­ing green­ery-filled sanc­tu­ary.

Plants hang at var­i­ous heights, twist around stair rail­ings and are ar­ranged on ev­ery sur­face for max­i­mum ef­fect: in pots, on stands, on shelves and on ta­bles. “I love my plants and spend a fair amount of time with them,” says Ron. “It’s sur­pris­ing how of­ten I find my­self think­ing about them.”

So what made your thumbs be­come so green?

It started when I was look­ing for in­spi­ra­tion on how to dec­o­rate our new apart­ment; I sud­denly had a bright, roomy in­door space I could play with and got re­ally ex­cited about it. I dis­cov­ered that plants give our apart­ment a homey and invit­ing feel­ing and I don’t even no­tice how many I’ve ac­cu­mu­lated – but it’s the first thing peo­ple com­ment on when they walk in the door.

What’s the best way to get started?

If you’re not sure what to put in a space, try a plant – you’ll be sur­prised at how good it looks. It’s just about play­ing with your spe­cific spa­ces and try­ing op­tions out. •

Even a small house­plant in a bare cor­ner has the abil­ity to perk up an en­tire room.

Your apart­ment’s full of light – is that the key to suc­cess?

Dif­fer­ent plants do bet­ter with dif­fer­ent sun ex­po­sure, so it’s im­por­tant to get to know the bright and dark spots in your home. What sort of light do your spa­ces get? Is it fil­tered or di­rect, and for how many hours a day? Most in­door plants like fil­tered sun­light, not di­rect. Strong light can burn the leaves, es­pe­cially new growth.

If your place doesn’t get much light, you could choose plants that can tol­er­ate low light con­di­tions, such as snake plants, ken­tia palms or rub­ber plants. A climb­ing plant like pothos will also do great. If your home is quite bright, giant bird of par­adise plants, cacti and suc­cu­lents are good choices.

What else have you learned about keep­ing an in­door gar­den alive?

Hu­mid­ity is an­other vari­able that can help or harm your plants; it’s im­por­tant to mist when the air is dry. Take note of what type of en­vi­ron­ment your plants en­joy. If a plant needs a more hu­mid en­vi­ron­ment, try fill­ing its pot’s saucer with peb­bles, top­ping it up with water then plac­ing the pot on top. Don’t let the water sit for too long – you’ll need to rinse and change it of­ten.

Don’t over­wa­ter, though. I only water my plants once a week. Dif­fer­ent plants like dif­fer­ent amounts of water, so read up. Some plants en­joy fre­quent wa­ter­ing but hate wet feet, so make sure water can drain out of your pots.

Dust your plants’ leaves, too, or it’ll block the sun­light and slow growth. Once ev­ery two months should be •

enough, or when­ever you no­tice they don’t look glossy.

Which plants work well where?

I’ve found a giant bird of par­adise or a San Pedro cac­tus in­stantly adds a trop­i­cal vibe. Th­ese tall plants need a lot of space, so a liv­ing area is the ideal spot for th­ese.

A snake plant in a case-study planter will add a mid-cen­tury touch. They’re good for hall­ways or be­side a chair or couch as they’re not too tall or wide and can eas­ily be moved around.

For bed­rooms, I’d rec­om­mend mon­steras and fid­dle-leaf figs; they’re easy to main­tain, look great and are por­ta­ble. Bath­rooms don’t usu­ally get much sun­light and they can be quite hot and hu­mid, but I’ve found my snake plant and devil’s ivy live hap­pily in ours. Staghorn ferns would do well too.

I love a hang­ing bas­ket in the laun­dry. I have a trail­ing cac­tus plant that I picked up quite cheaply and only need to water twice a week. Its pretty sim­ple to take care of and adds a lot to an other­wise un­in­ter­est­ing room.

What’s the best way to ar­range plants for max­i­mum im­pact?

In na­ture, it’s ran­dom, but or­gan­ised at the same time. To repli­cate this, go against your in­stincts and what you think will look or­gan­ised. You’ll be sur­prised how good dif­fer­ent com­bi­na­tions will look.

Re­peat­ing the same kind of form can look too busy, so I like to ar­range plants of dif­fer­ent heights and with dif­fer­entshaped leaves to­gether. Aim for ran­dom gaps and un­even spac­ing and lev­els, as this lends a more nat­u­ral look, and leave some ‘breath­ing space’ too. If you have •

“I found one plant at a lovely grandma’s garage sale out west. She ended up bundling a heap into news­pa­per for me for free.”

“Af­ter butcher­ing it, we man­aged to move it up­stairs and re­pot it. I thought it’d die af­ter the abuse, but it sur­vived.”

a stair­well or a high al­cove or plat­form, hang your plants from there for in­ter­est.

Where do you get your green­ery from?

I’ve picked up plants from Trade Me and at week­end mar­kets; oc­ca­sion­ally stall­hold­ers will sell house­plants that aren’t do­ing too well for a bar­gain and they can be eas­ily re­ha­bil­i­tated. Oth­ers came from lo­cal nurs­eries.

I found one plant at a lovely grandma’s garage sale out west. Walk­ing into the garage, I spied an ele­phant ear grow­ing ram­pantly through her raised gar­den, so I asked if I could pay for a cut­ting and she ended up bundling a heap into some news­pa­per for me for free.

I also stum­bled across some cacti grow­ing wild in the un­der­growth on a hike around Mis­sion Bay one day. I picked a cou­ple and they’re do­ing great.

What’s been your big­gest plant tri­umph?

The giant bird of par­adise has been my best buy and great­est suc­cess. It was the first plant I pur­chased off Trade Me and a beau­ti­ful ac­ci­dent. When I went to pick it up, I re­alised how big it was – it couldn’t even fit in the car. Luck­ily, the seller of­fered to drop it off, but it was way too heavy to carry up to our apart­ment. Two men couldn’t even lift it, so I de­cided to trim the roots and re­move some leaves. I thought I could di­vide it to make more plants, but it didn’t re­ally work – there was only one cen­tral plant and the new growth didn’t have its own roots. But af­ter butcher­ing it, we man­aged to move it up­stairs and re­pot it. I thought it’d die af­ter the abuse, but it sur­vived. Now it looks beau­ti­ful in our liv­ing area. I feel so proud of it.

TOP Ron Goh holds a kokedama (moss ball) he made, while devil’s ivy winds its way up the balustrade be­side him. ABOVE Big plants such as the giant bird of par­adise seen here work well in the high­ceilinged home. “On Trade Me you’ll find peo­ple want­ing to get rid of mas­sive or un­kempt plants,” says Ron. “You’ll have to go and pick them up, but for a ma­ture plant, it’s worth it.”

TOP A nook be­low the stairs has be­come home to (from left) a Philo­den­dron sel­l­oum, a desert rose suc­cu­lent, an orchid and a hang­ing heartleaf philo­den­dron. ABOVE This art­work is by Tai­wanese il­lus­tra­tor Hsiao Ron Cheng. The vase was a lucky find from Auck­land’s Taka­puna Mar­kets.

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