SAY CHEESE...

Cheese plants, ferns, even cacti have made a come­back with the trendi­est city dwellers

Ruislip & Eastcote & Northwood Gazette - - Property &living -

House plants are back in a big way, so make room for Swiss cheese, ferns and cacti

Back in 1982 I started work­ing in a city cen­tre plant shop.

I was en­chanted by the weekly ar­rivals of house­plants, then as now, pri­mar­ily grown in Hol­land.

A huge truck would pull up out­side and I’d un­load trol­leys of ferns, rub­ber plants, Swiss cheese plants, yuc­cas and or­chids – all the species that are see­ing a resur­gence in this new mil­len­nium.

A lo­cal wo­man grew cacti and suc­cu­lents for the store. Trays of lithops (liv­ing stones) were un­loaded from her car. And each Fri­day pay­day I’d pur­chase mas­sive ferns and ex­oti­clook­ing ba­nana plants and wres­tle them home on the bus back to my flat.

That soon ended up look­ing like a botanic gar­den... I drilled holes into the ceil­ing and tied ropes over the rafters. Over the bed I sus­pended bowls of plan­ta­tions, and then I started on bot­tle gar­dens and ter­rar­i­ums.

Demi­johns – bul­bous nar­row­necked bot­tles ca­pa­ble of brew­ing three gal­lons of home brew – were pur­chased and con­verted into mini green­houses. Com­post and bits of char­coal were fun­nelled into the space, tiny plants were squeezed through the open­ing and spoons and forks were com­man­deered from the kitchen, taped to lengths of bam­boo and used to plant up the land­scape.

Wa­ter­ing was by means of a mis­ter, al­ways cal­cu­lat­ing just the right amount to cre­ate a moist en­vi­ron­ment, but one which wasn’t so wet that roots would be drowned or fun­gal dis­ease could thrive.

I’d sell these in the shop and at mar­kets, once at­tract­ing the at­ten­tion of Dave Ste­wart of the Eury­th­mics. He sen­si­bly passed on a pur­chase fig­ur­ing it would be dif­fi­cult to haul it around the band’s Euro­pean con­cert dates!

And now it’s all back! A few years ago I vis­ited a shop called Green Fin­gers in Nolita, New York, run by Ja­panese plant artist and creative di­rec­tor Satoshi Kawamoto. It was full of the young and the beau­ti­ful coo­ing over pot plants! I couldn’t be­lieve it. They’d been out of fash­ion since the 1980s but now they were ob­vi­ously back.

And it wasn’t just in trendy parts of Amer­ica, in Am­s­ter­dam a shop called Wilder­nis (wilder­ness) was the green­est and coolest place to be. In the city’s Old West area, it sells gar­den tools, spe­cial seeds and com­post along with botan­i­cal prints, fash­ion­able plant hang­ers and stun­ning house plants.

And in Lon­don, Gynelle Lyon – a for­mer foren­sic sci­en­tist – has opened the city’s first cacti and suc­cu­lent shop called Prick, and wrote a won­der­ful book of the same name. You can find it on East Lon­don’s Kings­land Road and like Wilder­nis, feels some­what like a gallery. Vis­it­ing is an ex­pe­ri­ence that can­not be repli­cated by shop­ping on­line.

But so­cial me­dia is play­ing a part. Prick has more than 10,000 fol­low­ers on In­sta­gram, Wilder­nis has 72,000, and some other house-plant sell­ers and devo­tees have even more than that. The ques­tion is, why now? Maybe the re­cent vogue started with fash­ion and in­te­ri­ors, with palm and

ba­nana prints fea­tur­ing on clothes, cur­tains and so­fas.

But I think it’s prob­a­bly more about a de­sire to nur­ture, to cre­ate a nest, to be re­spon­si­ble for some­thing. The world seems to be be­com­ing a more chal­leng­ing and un­kind space, so much in­for­ma­tion is held about us, sold and stolen. So many cer­tain­ties are slip­ping away.

Prop­erty is ex­pen­sive, even rent­ing can be pro­hib­i­tive, and gar­den space in cities and ur­ban ar­eas is hard to come by.

Mean­while plants are rel­a­tively cheap. They look great, they suit our health and fit­ness-aware sen­si­bil­i­ties and they don’t tweet nasty things.

Diar­muid cel­e­brates the big re­turn of the house plant

Ferns – back in fash­ion

Terrarium house suc­cu­lents

A Swiss cheese plant Cacti and suc­cu­lents are pre­sented like in a gallery in Prick The 1970s make a come­back in Wilder­nis

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