I sometimes imagine the rhythm of the garden like a big party – and with October here, and summer’s bounty now faded and fruited, it feels somewhat like the bulk of guests have left, the music has died down, and we have ended up in the kitchen, doing a quick clear up and enjoying the last of the evening’s energy… Put another way, it’s time to find some garden glories for the house and the inside – and to enjoy a little chill out time with some easy and chic houseplants.
The houseplant industry was dying a protracted death in the early 2000’s… Much like grandma’s tortured African Violet on the chilly bathroom windowsill, the market was ruined by poor quality and the often sad displays of houseplants in cold and windy supermarket entrances – nowhere near the correct environments for tender, tropical species of plants. Also interior trends through the late nineties and early noughties dictated a zero-plant approach, with plant life but a distant Habitat Catalogue memory.
Since 2010 or so, plant life for the indoors in Europe has become a huge ‘growing’ trend – and you won’t be far from it in today’s commercial or retail environment, personalities such as Michael Perry – The Plant Geek and endlessly inspiring Instagram accounts with max-chic factor (see Dollskulls) are spearheading this new trend, with a few hipster tweaks and a sprinkling of edgy pots plants are now definitely ‘A Thing’. (Source: @isthisathing Twitter)
With cut flower sales in Ireland increasing by 20% year on year for the last 2 years, (Source Garden Market Purchasing Repot, BordBia 2010) and still growing it seems the home market is valuing the addition of natural beauty to our environments – indoors and out, and the sales of houseplants, as I’ve seen in the UK markets, will not be far behind to buck their declining trend – especially if retailers can get on the bus and really revolutionise their houseplant selections. Where Cut flowers represent a no-strings attached entry into greening your environment, with a vase and a couple of changes of water you get a weekly burst of bloom. A ‘one week stand’ if you will… Buying a houseplant is a little more like entering into a full-blown relationship… It takes nurturing, feeding and a little care, plus the patience to wait for it to flower eventually… and, perhaps – not at all!
With this in mind, here’s a selection of the indoor plants that I categorise under the heading ‘Keepers’…
Sanseveria – Mother In Law’s Tongue is the woefully sharp common name, but I love its olive green tones and structural form. It’s about as low-maintenance as you can get, just mist with a water atomizer spray every ten days or so. Can tolerate really low levels of light so ideal for darker spaces. Architectural looks are best suited to simple pots in terracotta or black and white.
Asparagus Ferns – Wide variety of foliage types, soft and romantic or upright and bright lush green. Also handy for the odd bouquet of flowers as a touch of greenery. Water well once a week during winter when you will have the heating on, and mist occasionally. Can tolerate high temps if kept consistently moist in the pot.
Boston Ferns – A specimen Boston fern will give any room a lush and relaxing feel, and can be grown to huge sizes with regular watering, by steeping the plant in a few inches of water overnight once a week and some shade during the day.
Tradescantia – A lax and trailing plant with variegated leaves, lemon-lime and tricoloured species do best in warm, light areas with a bit of humidity.
Calocephalus – Strictly a bedding plant, this silvery and wiry stemmed plant will survive in a cool spot indoors with plenty of light. A great seasonal indoor plant, especially for cool areas that might not be used often – bathrooms, lobbies or cool conservatories. I use it mostly as a winter accent plant in window boxes, used with Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’, the black strap like leaves make a great contrast with the silver foliage – add a white blooming bud heather too for a little softness.
Succulents – The wormhole of the indoor plant world, this class of plants come in so many forms and colours that it is impossible to choose one, so most people just accept that this is a collector’s genre, and give over their windowsills, balconies, flat surfaces to these endlessly fascinating plants. Needing minimal care and softer than Cacti on looks and form, water from the base once a week, most require good light levels to keep their colours.
Air plants – The truly freaky and staunch minimalists among you will appreciate these curious plants, with almost alien like shapes and forms, these plants are suited to cooler rooms, and the more light they get, the more frequently they will need ‘watering’ – you do this by immersing them in warm water for a few minutes when they start to lose their lustre – let them dry off, and then display them in a glass vase or on a ceramic dish, or any glass container.