The Daily Telegraph
How house plants are growing on us
‘Social media is bursting with green plant images’
Spring may have officially sprung this week, but the hippest homes have been verdant oases for months now. The humble house plant has made a defiant comeback, and plants of all shapes and sizes are blooming indoors, from cacti and ferns to cheese-plants and fiddle-leaf fig trees. The latter is a favourite with style-setters and trending on Instagram; when it comes to houseplant oneupmanship, it seems that size matters. Why just have a teeny terrarium if your home is big enough to accommodate a tree?
The fetishisation of houseplants has reached its ultimate expression in the deluge of coffee table books dedicated to the subject, including London-based stylist Selina Lake’s glossy tome Botanical Style (£20, RPS), which is full of innovative ideas for bringing the outdoors in.
“Social media is bursting with green plant images, plus more and more specialist shops are opening up across the UK stocked with houseplants and botanical-inspired homewares,” says Lake. “I created my new book to celebrate this trend and to share ideas on how to style your home with different botanical styles using plants and elements from nature.”
This new demand for chic indoor greenery has been tapped into by entrepreneurs who are cashing in on the demand for unusual house plants. Stefan Thomas, 46, an educational consultant by day who runs the Tranquil Plants online store (tranquilplants.com), says that sales of kokedama – the Japanese tradition of displaying miniature ferns in a ball of moss – have gone through the roof. “There was a point last year, after Jo Swift mentioned kokedama on
Gardener’s World, that my phone went crazy,” he says. “I’m still selling 100 a month, easily.”
“You can either hang kokedama to make a Japanese string garden, or put them on an authentic square plate covered with slate or bark. Plants like ferns are amazing at purifying the air, so if you put one in your bathroom, it will look beautiful and help to break down mould spores.”
Stefan has found kokedama to be so popular that he’s started holding workshops in his studio space in Leicester. “About 12 people will come along and have some champagne, and I’ll show them how to make a plant and take it home.
“A big mix of people come, from creative types who are into pottery and gardening, to elderly people and students who like the idea of a plant that’s easy to look after. Kokedama is made for people who find it all too easy to kill a house plant.”
Terrariums, a Seventies favourite, are also the peak of chic. Emma Sibley, founder of London Terrariums (londonterrariums.com), hosts make-your-own workshops to show green-fingered urbanites how to create miniature gardens under glass. “The plants thrive in the greenhouse environment you create with a field terrarium, and are self-sustaining,” she says. Tiny holes are made in the soil insideinsid a demijohn into which plantsp such as ferns, ivy and fittonia are lowered, and positioned using a cotton reel on a stick. The sealeds container creates a water cycle: they need to be monitored for twotw weeks to ensure the condensationc levels area correct – “it should buildb up overnight and disappear in the day” – at which point the ecosystem will look after itself.
“We started hosting them two years ago when we were just selling terrariums for a few stores and now the classes are selling out,” says Sibley, whose love of terrariums came from memories of making miniature gardens with her grandparents as a child. The trend has hit the high street, too. Urban Outfitters now stock inexpensive ready-made terrariums, while Ikea sells “assemble-your-own” kits.
The renewed interest in houseplants has proven an opportunity for those who create products that marry horticulture with good design. London-based gardener John Tebbs launched The Garden Edit (thegardenedit.com) in 2013, a website that sells bespoke gardening objects for those who don’t identify with the chintzy merchandise sold at garden centres. Tebbs sells sleek, contemporary products – from platinum vases to copper watering cans.
“I think aesthetics are important for some people – and that is who our customer is,” he says. “When plants are brought inside, they become a part of the interior as a whole. So if you have a certain aesthetic in your home, it’s nice to carry that through in the plants and flowers by choosing what you put them in.”
But Tebbs insists you don’t have to be design-conscious or stylish to enjoy nurturing plants. “That’s one of the things I love about it – it can be done by anyone. Regardless of age or budget, there are ways to get involved. There are as many types of gardeners as gardens, both indoors and out.”
For Tebbs, the perfect indoor garden is a question of going back to basics: “I like a few plants with some impact. I enjoy the shape of sansevieria; they are so easy to look after and quite tough. I’m also drawn to indoor begonias. I think a good way to bring the outdoors in is with seasonal flowers that reflect what is happening in the garden. For spring, I’m enjoying magnolia and we’re just starting to get into tulip season, which is always a favourite.
“That way you never get bored – flowers last just long enough to always leave you wanting more.”