They are now the ‘In’ plants.
House plants have come into their own… and are rapidly taking centre stage in homes up and down the country… and during Lockdown these ‘in’ plants are getting so much attention and providing much-needed greenery and calming effects.
I remember when Kentia palms, kangaroo vine and spider plants were the default go-to house plants and also probably the most readily available examples.
There were one or two books and partworks that covered house plants but that was about it. Dr David Hessayon’s The House Plant Expert was (and still is) the house plant enthusiast’s bible. I even worked on one or two house plant partworks, notably Success with Houseplants, which was a series of cards collected and stored in green plastic box files.
In recent years house plants have become mainstream and suddenly they are everywhere and are legion. And I hear that Catherine Horwood, author of Potted History, is hard at work preparing an updated edition with a revised title: Potted History – How Houseplants Took Over Our Homes, due for publication by Pimpernel Press in autumn.
The list and scope of recent books on the subject of houseplants has grown and grown… and new media about them has also appeared. I have listened to the expert and engaging podcast and Instagram videos of Jane Perrone On the Ledge and feel glad that there is someone like Jane engaging with all the new enthusiasts that ‘working from home in the Lockdown’ have produced.
But I never felt that I was an indoor house plant gardener… in any case I used to hear myself say, I would probably kill them all off. So, still in denial, I looked around the house and the truth began to dawn on me. The plants have taken over. How and when I have no idea… they seem to be thriving despite the erratic care package that I offer them. And they do give me pleasure….
Just one window ledge…. oh dear… its a fair cop… I do have house plants!
So when I discovered that there is a new house plant kid on the block and that it is in my town, Sudbury in Suffolk… you can imagine what I might do, were it not for the Lockdown situation. But I am not to be let off so lightly since this new company, Nell & Green Botanics, has risen to the challenges of the new normal with great aplomb.
Husband and wife team Ellie and Lee Stock Bishop could not have chosen a worse moment to open their shop in Sudbury, Suffolk, shortly before Lockdown in late March 2020.
I have been self-isolating since 23 March, turning my attention full on to my own small urban garden and basically not going out. If I had been out and about there is no doubt I would have zeroed in on this shop full of greenery.
Ellie and Lee live in Clare, a village about ten miles west of Sudbury. The shop and their new business had been a long time in the planning stages. Previously Ellie was the manager of a veterinary hospital in London. In October 2019 she left that job to “pursue the plant shop dream”. Her love for plants is a little more recent than that of husband Lee, who has been passionate about plants, indoors and out, since childhood.
“We lived on a canal boat for seven years and the only garden we had was indoors. The boat had fantastic light but extremes of temperatures – freezing winters and baking hot summers! And so choosing plants to cope with this became an art form!”
As you might expect during their canal boat life Ellie and Lee experienced some plant fatalities along the way, but they also learned a huge amount.
“Moving onto land has meant a more stable climate for our plants but we still only have very limited outdoor space. Our indoor garden means so much to our wellbeing, particularly at time like this! Every windowsill is a propagation station and Lee is constantly growing varieties of our favourite plants.”
Ellie and Lee have one main focus now: to get through this very difficult time and be in a position to open the doors of Nell & Green once again when we all get through to the other side of this unprecedented situation.
“The appetite for plants in Sudbury is definitely there and I hope that we have a successful future ahead of us. We are always in contact with growers of rare and more unusual plants, as well as the popular favourites and hope that we will be adding to our range very soon.”
And like many businesses in the horticultural industry Nell & Green has risen to the daily challenge that Covid-19 presents. They closed the town centre shop and converted their website to a full-scale mail order operation and now deliver to all CO9 and CO10 postcodes, offering free delivery on orders over £10. They have plans to roll out to a UK-wide delivery soon.
They are now working from home, which has become the office, propagation station and delivery centre and is packed with plants. “We are now finding our feet as a plant delivery company.”
My rogues gallery of house plants
Images © Nell & Green except where shown and Potted History book cover