I recently spent a night in a motel whose décor included lots and lots of plants – in the reception area, the lobby, the hallways, and the rooms. The plants were without blemish – but they were artificial. There is definitely a trend in this direction and I suppose it’s just a matter of time until outdoor décor will include artificial plants as well.
However, the reason to surround yourself with living plants is not only to maintain a connection with the natural world but for the beneficial effects of caring for them.
Lauren Camilleri and Sophia Kaplan, the authors of “Indoor Jungle” (Smith Street Books, 2019), put it this way: “Bringing plants into our homes and workspaces can be the perfect antidote to stress and anxiety, allowing us to nurture these living things and, in turn, ourselves.”
It has slowly dawned on me that, when it comes to growing indoor plants, ironically enough, you would be better off living high up in an urban apartment tower than in a suburban house surrounded by trees. The reason, of course, is the difference in the amount of light streaming through your windows. In a tall tower, there are no obstructions to the sun other than blinds or curtains, which you can open or close, and to varying degrees, regulating the amount of light streaming through. If you want unobstructed sunlight or something less, it’s your choice to make. In a house, however, particularly in a neighborhood with mature trees and tall hedges, where the light that enters through windows is often scarce, it may be a real challenge to grow plants indoors unless they are positioned within a foot or two of windows basking in bright light.
Camilleri and Kaplan emphasize that light is the most important variable where growing indoor plants is concerned. They offer two easy ways to measure it.
“We recommend trying a light meter app which you can download straight to your smartphone and will suffice for most indoor gardeners.” I checked and found several light meter apps that you can download at no charge and several others that cost $0.99. Another way to measure light availability is “the shadow test, which requires nothing more than a piece of paper. On a sunny day place the piece of paper in the spot you would like to position your plant. Hold your hand around twelve inches above the paper to reveal a shadow. A dark, clearly defined shadow with clean edges suggests bright light. . . a fuzzier shadow where you can still make out the shape of your hand . . . would be medium light. If the shape of the hand is very poorly defined, you’re looking at a low light situation.”
In “Indoor Jungle,” plant selections and combinations are suggested for every room of the house and for protected outdoor spaces, too. Each design concept is richly illustrated with photographs. The book helps you identify your “plant style” and guides you in the selection of containers for your jungle specimens, as well as providing basic information on indoor plant care.
The most intriguing feature of “Indoor Jungles” comes at the end of the book where the challenges of indoor plant growers are candidly confessed, with photos to accompany their narratives.
Janneke Luursema cautions against taking on too many plants at once:
“I think being surrounded by houseplants is a healthy thing but only if you can manage to give them the care they need. You don’t want it to become a chore.”
Nick Simonyi has a healthy attitude towards his horticultural failures:
“I’ve killed more than my fair share of indoor plants; it’s all about learning and adapting . . . to find what makes each individual plant happy.”
The testimony of Jane Rose Lloyd, and how her preoccupation with plants has become part of her life story, is particularly illuminating.
“I would be so happy to be the poster woman for the positive relationship between plants and mental health,” she revealed. “I’ve experienced a life-long journey with mental health issues and I know I will never be completely free of them, but discovering plants truly saved my life. They helped me to understand my purpose and have given me something I will happily spend the rest of my life doing. Of all the various methods of therapy and counseling I’ve tried over five years, plants have been the most consistently beneficial form of therapy. For me, plants are magical!”
I was fascinated by two tropical cacti profiled by the authors. Although botanically related to desert-dwelling cacti, tropical cacti prefer humid surroundings and are well suited to steamy bathrooms and kitchens that enjoy bright, but indirect, light. One of these is known as mistletoe cactus (Rhipsalis baccifera) on account of its tree canopy habitat. The difference is that true mistletoe – the kind you see locally on sycamore, birch, ash, poplar, and oak trees – is a parasite, rooting into tree branches, while mistletoe cactus is an epiphyte, rooting in debris that settles in the crotches of tropical tree limbs. Mistletoe cactus consists of nothing but skinny, pendulous stems that, in the tropics, may reach thirty feet in length. Rhipsalis is the only cactus genus with species found outside the Western hemisphere, in Africa and Sri Lanka. Tree fern cactus (Selenicereus chrysocardium) is an epiphyte that will remind you of sword fern or Boston fern except the lobes of tree fern cactus leaves are considerably larger with wider gaps between them.
Tip of the Week: Purple shamrock (Oxalis triangularis/regnellii) is extolled by the authors of “Indoor Jungle.” I have long advocated use of this plant as a selection that no shade garden should be without. Outdoors, its large, triangular, deep violet foliage is nearly always visible, except for a brief annual dormancy period. Indoors, it experiences dormancy once every 2-7 years. Flowers are pale mauve. Once you plant purple shamrock, you will have it forever, since it propagates itself continuously from bulbs. It should be noted that this plant is toxic to cats and dogs.
Powered by WPeMatico