In May 2020 I blogged about houseplants and how they came to the rescue of some of us during the early days of what has continued to be a time when plants, indoors and out, are so important to many people I know.
I am still in denial about the number of houseplants that I have. And although some have succumbed due to my care failure, the majority seem to be thriving, and the window ledges in the wonderfully light and barely warm conservatory room attached to my kitchen are packed with houseplants. So I must still be doing something right.
Houseplants do become addictive and during this winter in Lockdown 3 I feel sure that there are going to be more and more who will turn to the window ledge for their garden sanity. And just to give that thought stronger emphasis Houseplant Week UK 2021 started on Sunday. Horticulturist and broadcaster David Domoney has linked the hashtag #HouseplantweekUK to his website to publicise the launch in early February of his new book My Houseplant Changed My Life.
So I thought I would note here are a few of the movers and shakers that I think will brighten my own houseplant week.
Reading and listening
The Pimpernel Press’s revised and updated edition of Catherine Horwood’s 2007 hardback Potted History, the Story of Plants in the Home (published by Frances Lincoln) was published in autumn 2020.
Slimmed down in size, shape and weight, but with no loss of integrity, its concluding chapter brings us bang up-to-date with information and ideas about the continuing rise and rise of houseplants. Catherine has included in-depth notes for the concluding chapter and has extended the bibliography into the twenty-first century. And, reflecting the way houseplants have been embraced on social media, there is a good list of related web and social media sites and accounts to follow.
The new edition costs £9.99 and is a handy pocket size. I enjoyed re-reading it in this new format but am glad that I have a copy of the hardback edition for its colour plates.
I always turn to Jane Perrone’s podcast On the Ledge when I want to hear expert advice and interesting interviews. Her book Legends of the Leaf, the stories behind 25 iconic houseplants and how to make them thrive, is being crowdfunded with the support of Unbound and has pledges representing 60 per cent of its funding. I pledged a while back and I really hope that the 40 per cent will soon be added to the account. You can become a supporter – there are currently 395 of us – by signing up on Jane’s Crowd Funding page on Unbound. Visit Jane’s website for details of her blog, the book and much else.
My own recent indoor plant purchases or online plant wish-listing has been done on the site of Nell & Green, the recently established house plant emporium in my home town, Sudbury in Suffolk. Nell & Green Botanics aka Ellie and Lee Stock Bishop, had a baptism of fire, opening a few weeks before the March 2020 lockdown, to which they responded with great aplomb, becoming Instagram experts and setting up a great local home delivery service. They, like us, are once again locked down. I asked them what their situation was currently.
“Obviously Lockdown 3 has meant our doors are closed again and we are also having to deal with the effects of Brexit and the problems with importing from Europe, where we get a lot of our plant stock from. But that’s not to say that it is all doom and gloom! We are continuing our free delivery for CO9 & CO10 postcodes and have introduced a click & collect service on Thursday and Saturday each week. We have been busy and we are eternally grateful to our loyal customers for their support.”
During Lockdown 1 Ellie told me that their plants were in demand to ornament the many home offices that were created thanks to the rise in Working From Home. Now they are finding that plants are being used to soften and improve the home-school areas in the house.
She explained that many of their new purchasers were parents and carers interested in the positive impact plants can have on learning and wellbeing. This article, The benefits of having plants in the classroom, written by Simon Creasey in October 2020 and published on the Times Educational Supplement (TES) website, supports this trend.
In addition to plants, Ellie says that their selection of grow-light bulbs has also been very popular; the short days and lack of sunlight of the winter months affects us and our indoor plants, so targeted lighting can provide help to ensure they thriving.
Coincidentally the daughter of a local friend of mine is also one of Nell & Green’s new customers. She is also new on Instagram as @bonsai_raff and she explained her recent entry into social media and the world of plants, in particular, into bonsai.
“I started around May 2020, during the first lockdown. I got into this hobby because I had, for the first time ever, done some proper gardening with my dad, planting vegetables and attacking six-foot high weeds, you name it! From this I discovered houseplants (my grandmother is an avid houseplant enthusiast and specialist orchid keeper). I started buying my own houseplants from Nell & Green Botanics.
“And it was there I discovered bonsai trees – so thanks to my little sister, who provided me with a book on bonsai, and Nell & Green, where I purchased a jade tree (Crassula argentea), I started on this journey!”
She joined Instagram in December and hopes to show that bonsai is not as difficult as it is made out to be. @bonsai_raff now posts regularly and is determined to be there to answer questions that others beginning a similar route into bonsai might take. “I want to show people that anyone can get into bonsai.”
@bsonsai_raff also wants to reach a wider audience… and her clear and no-nonsense advice, thoughts about and approach to bonsai, should ensure this happens swiftly. In one of her recent posts she shows a photo of the tools you think you might need for successful bonsai versus the three that she suggests are actually the only ones you will use!
One of her tips is to zone in on the shrub and small tree section in a garden centre where you might find suitable plants to bonsai, such as her first one, a Japanese holly (Ilex crenata).
She is also open to discussing new projects or collaborations. One outcome of her new interest is an article in Tangereene magazine where she talks about the way pruning and shaping plants offered perspective and calm. I liked the way that she described the close relationship a bonsai plant could inspire, growing and ageing, side-by-side with its creator.
Another of my Insta friends, Sasha Ivanova, aka @London.plantology, recently returned to London after living in Japan for a time. Before that she had a small garden in London and now she is embarking on a new allotment. But her thoughts have also turned to indoor plants and additionally macramé.
“I decided this year I would like to push myself out of my comfort zone a little and set up a small shop on etsy selling houseplants and macramé. For me inspiration to grow plants comes from curiosity about the natural world. I am excited about planting a seed or taking a cutting and seeing what will happen! The more exotic the plant, the better!”
During lockdown, Sasha began to make a couple of plant hangers for her trailing pothos plants and discovered a hidden passion for macramé!
“It is an amazing feeling to create something out of nothing (well, just a few ropes and knots) and it is also good for relaxing after a long day at work. I was surprised to find out that so many things can be made by using a few knots: wall hangings, plant pot coasters and plant hangers, macramé baskets and plant pot covers, bookmarks and key chains, and even bags!”
While Sasha is preparing to open her etsy shop, you can send her direct messages on Instagram @london.plantology or Twitter @LondnPlantology for custom-made macramé orders.
“To make a piece for someone’s home or gifts for friends, is something very special for me!”
So, a word to the unwise, and I place myself in that category… once you get involved with plants understand that there is no real way out… but what a good place to be, if possible, during this ongoing time of uncertainty…
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