25 February 2014

Rediscovering (& reimagining) the joy of houseplants

Back when I was a student at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College, my room in residence resembled a miniature jungle. At one point, I had over 100 plants in that room, ranging from tiny lithops (living stones) to sprawling English ivy and philodendrons, to colourful African violets. 
Although I don't have quite so many indoor plants these days, I still have quite a few. There has never been a time since I was in my mid-teens that I haven't had houseplants, and I can't imagine ever NOT having them. They are like cats in that respect--they are part of who I am. 

Often when people come to visit, they admire my plants and tell me how they can't grow indoor plants because they have a black thumb. I don't accept that label, though. As with gardening outdoors, anyone can have great indoor plants. You just need to match your home conditions to the correct plants. 

Happily, two new books have been published to help would-be indoor plant gardeners overcome their fear of failure. 

I will admit to a personal bias with one of the authors of Indoor Plant D├ęcor; Kylee Baumle of Our Little Acre and I have been blogging buddies across the miles for almost as long as I've been writing Bloomingwriter. I don't remember exactly how we connected, other than it was in the halcyon days of garden blogs and we all seemed to have much more time in our lives to read and comment on other blogs. I've always loved her style of easy, cheery, thoughtful and encouraging writing, and encouraged her to take a step beyond blogging into writing for publications. So I was incredibly excited when she told me that she and Jenny Peterson were collaborating on this book. 

Kylee & Jenny approach indoor plant gardening from a decor angle; matching your indoor plants (or, in some cases, cut flowers) to your decor style. This is the sort of thing that house stagers love to do when getting a home ready to show for sale; the right plants in a home's decor just add that much warmth and personality! You might be the type who loves seeking out great finds at flea markets, or repurposing an item for use as a planter, like this wooden shipping pallet made into a wall-mounted planter...

Perhaps your tastes run more to the clean, serene lines of a Zen interior, where minimalism and just the right accent pieces and plants are the key to creating an inviting home. One large, commanding and handsome plant in the right container, or a cluster of small plants in a simple arrangement, work more effectively in this sort of decor than a clutter of many plants.

 The authors present us with eight different style categories, including 'Classic Elegance' (shown above), 'Peaceful Zen' and my personal favourite, 'Modern Eclectic'. They include how to select the right containers and plants for your home's growing conditions as well as your decor tastes, and how to look after those plants once you've brought them into your home. As an added bonus, they provide us with clever Do-it-Yourself projects, such as making Japanese Moss Balls (Kokedama) for hanging ferns or other plants, or turning an old hardcover book into a handsome planter.

Isn't that clever? Kylee and Jenny both write with a practical but encouraging, 'You can do this' style which is one of the most important facets of writing a good gardening book. You'll discover you CAN grow great plants indoors and have fun doing so. Highly recommended!

 Florida writer, illustrator and gardener Steve Asbell began writing his blog The Rainforest Garden after he planted a garden for his terminally ill mother to enjoy. His natural talent for gardening and writing has blossomed into a career, and his new book Plant by Numbers will be out in just a few short days, (March 1, 2014).

As with Indoor Plant Decor, Plant by Numbers is all about growing plants in your home. I was smitten by page 12, the section called "Nerdy Plant Terms", where he demystifies plant tags and instructions with a cheerful, sometimes deliciously snarky, writing style. "Mark this page so you can use it as a reference whenever you see a term that makes you scratch your head," he writes. "If your head is still itchy even then consider using a medicated shampoo." You may laugh, but you'll also feel much less intimidated when learning about botanical names, plant growth habits, and other factors that will help you choose the right plants for your home.

Once you have read through the first section of the book, which covers pretty much everything you need to know about caring for houseplants, Steve really gets going. The book's subtitle is "50 Houseplant Combinations to Decorate Your Space", and he provides exactly that many "recipes" for plant combinations. Each recipe tells you right at the beginning what sort of light conditions, moisture, and humidity requirements you'll need for the project, and provides a shopping list. You can plant a miniature herb garden of rosemary and thyme for a sunny window...

 Or a mixture of foliage plants for a bright spot in your living room. The author must have had a lot of fun making up names for his combinations; Names like 'Coral Reef Madness', 'Fishtails and Feathers',  and 'Jurassic Spark' help to further make the reader comfortable with trying her hand at combining plants. Indoor gardening is fun, and if you needed any convincing, Steve will win you over.

The only challenge readers may find with either of these books is sourcing some of the plants. If you have local greenhouses that carry a good selection of plants, you're in luck; otherwise, you may need to haunt department, grocery, and big box stores, and scoop up plants from these sources. The good thing is, both books offer such a wide selection of plant choices you can easily substitute if you can't find, say, a mistletoe cactus (Rhipsalis) or a ZZ Plant (Zamioculcas). For those of us who are enduring a winter of endless snowstorms, indoor gardening is the perfect way to get our gardening fix now. You'll love both of these books, so I suggest you get both of them!


  1. Thank you so much for your beautiful review of our book, Jodi! And thank you even more for your wonderful support over the years. I not only hold you in the highest esteem as a gardener and garden writer, but I feel so fortunate to count you as my friend. One day, we WILL meet in person. I just know it.

    In regard to the plant choices, no one loves unusual plants more than I do, but Jenny and I purposely didn't include too many oddball (yet fun!) houseplants in our book so that our readers wouldn't be frustrated by not being able to find them. Most of the plants in our book can be found in garden centers and/or the big box stores. It does depend on where you live, of course, but we tried to stick with the more common varieties. Steve lives in Florida, where I envy his plant choices! Tropicals nearly always work well as houseplants and there are so many to be had down there!

  2. This is the perfect time of year to embrace indoor gardening. Great books.

  3. Like you, I've had houseplants since I was a young girl. I can't imagine going without. A life without a cat(s) and houseplants does not exist!

    I'm one of those people that when I see a half dead plant at Walmart or any other place, I'll buy just to see if I can revive it! It's a challenge and I feel sorry for the little thing.

  4. I have resolved, this year, to bring more houseplants into my space. Recenty a good friend gave me an
    African violet, and I remembered how great it is to have that little portable pop of colour in the house.
    Thanks for this blog :-)

  5. I do have a lot of houseplants, but mostly I find them a poor substitute for outdoor plants. I'm not sure why. I can't be bothered to water my houseplants, but I enjoy dragging the house around the yard. I guess it's all about being outdoors.


Thank you for visiting and for taking the time to comment! It might take me a bit, but I will return the compliment whenever possible.
Spammers--need not apply. Because I delete your comments and they will never make it here. Kthxbai!

Search Bloomingwriter

Custom Search