Chic, sim­ple, spooky – new ways with plants

The Daily Telegraph - Gardening - - Front Page -

Two trend­set­ting in­te­rior plant de­sign­ers talk to Alice Vin­cent about their new guide to liv­ing with house­plants – and dab­ble in dec­o­ra­tions for Hal­loween

Af­ter years out in the min­i­mal­ist wilder­ness, house­plants are firmly in the midst of a mo­ment. Pot­ted fo­liage is flour­ish­ing in the win­dow dis­plays and around the shelves of our high streets, Pin­ter­est and In­sta­gram, the as­pi­ra­tional pho­tog­ra­phy-based so­cial me­dia plat­forms, are brim­ming with art­fully dis­played in­te­rior green­ery, and lush, leaf-based botanical prints adorn fab­ric from high-end in­te­rior de­sign­ers.

The the­ory is, in de­sign at least, that trends go through a resur­gence ev­ery 50 years or so. And so it would prove with house­plants, which, in the Six­ties and Sev­en­ties were all the rage, es­pe­cially if sus­pended from a macrame hanger (which mil­len­ni­als now make in metropoli­tan work­shops) or trained to creep around a room di­vider.

Plant de­sign­ers Caro Lang­ton, 29, and Rose Ray, 30, are liv­ing proof that what goes around, comes around – be­fore trans­form­ing it again for a new gen­er­a­tion.

Their de­but book, House of Plants, is ded­i­cated to Lang­ton’s late grand­mother Ann, who, with her hus­band and a co­op­er­a­tive of peo­ple, bought a grand High­gate coach house in 1964. The place was a doer-up­per, and Lang­ton’s grand­par­ents lived in the part re­served for the horses, putting a beau­ti­ful con­ser­va­tory on the back, which now acts as Lang­ton and Ray’s of­fice.

It’s here that I meet them. Devil’s ivy and spi­der plants hang from the ceil­ing, the desk is flanked by a fish­bone cac­tus and an ex­plo­rative rhip­salis, and a mis­chie­vously large mon­key’s tail cac­tus sits on top. Ikea shelves are home to neatly or­dered boxes of air plants and a col­lec­tion of glass con­tain­ers of all shapes and sizes.

Lang­ton and Ray met on a fash­ion de­sign course at Not­ting­ham Trent Univer­sity, and al­ways joked about form­ing a busi­ness called RoCo. Sev­eral years later it hap­pened af­ter

both found them­selves crav­ing a job that re­quired their cre­ative skills. A stay in San Fran­cisco il­lu­mi­nated Ray to the po­ten­tial of mod­ern in­te­rior gar­den­ing, and she came back in­spired to build her own ter­rar­i­ums out of found ob­jects to sell in Broad­way Mar­ket in Hack­ney, east Lon­don.

“I lived in Sh­effield at that point and went to a lot of car boot sales. I started col­lect­ing ves­sels, such as cine lenses, and started plant­ing in­side them,” she says. “We got the mar­ket stall and started sell­ing them and peo­ple were just like: ‘What. Are. These?’ ” RoCo soon moved up the ranks among the stall­hold­ers (“I do re­mem­ber that first week we set up and the guy who runs it was like, ‘Oh, you’re at the wrong mar­ket, this isn’t Columbia Road’,” says Lang­ton) and wit­nessed the un­tapped en­thu­si­asm for con­tem­po­rary house­plants blos­som be­fore their eyes.

“Peo­ple were freak­ing out about the mini-cacti,” says Lang­ton, re­mem­ber­ing one of their early suc­cesses. RoCo ex­per­i­mented with Ray’s del­i­cate ter­rar­i­ums – which proved pop­u­lar but night­mar­ish to trans­port across the cap­i­tal, as they would up­turn be­fore they reached the mar­ket – con­crete pots, wall hang­ers, macrame hang­ers and him­meli, tra­di­tional Nordic dec­o­ra­tions that act as the per­fect re­cep­ta­cle for air plants. There are how-to guides to cre­ate all of them in their book (see box, right).

“We started ba­si­cally de­sign­ing things to hold the plants, and then got into plants,” says Lang­ton. It’s not, per­haps, the most con­ven­tional way to be­come plant ex­perts but both ex­tol the virtues of be­ing self-taught when it comes to gar­den­ing.

“Be­cause we’re self-taught, [de­sign­ing] is a nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion. You’re ask­ing your­self, what’s the next step? It’s a jour­ney. And our cus­tomers are go­ing through a sim­i­lar jour­ney,” says Ray. In short, they are dis­cov­er­ing the won­der of house­plants for the first time, just like the ur­ban mil­len­ni­als who buy their prod­ucts. Be­cause they haven’t seen it all be­fore, RoCo are able to not only be re­cep­tive to trends,

‘You’re ask­ing your­self, what’s the next step? It’s a jour­ney’

Liv­ing colour: main photo, a mon­key’s tail cac­tus adds ghostly charm to a Hal­loween set­ting; Caro Lang­ton and Rose Ray chan­nel the gothic side of green­ery

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