Fashion a house of plants
Cheese plants, ferns, even cacti have made a comeback with the trendiest city dwellers
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
Diarmuid celebrates the big return of the house plant
Ferns – back in fashion
Terrarium house succulents