Blame it on the winter weather, blame it on Instagram, blame it on Jane Perrone and her brilliant On the Ledge podcast… Actually I think I have only myself to blame – it was only a matter of time before my plant obsession came indoors…
Yes, I have succumbed to the charms of houseplants.
I have resisted in the past as they honestly didn’t interest me that much; I have had a handful for a while which I have either been given or were picked up when I took pity on them in the bargain basement section of the local DIY store. I have ignored them a lot, watering sporadically, allowing the dust to collect, and they’ve mostly survived, despite the neglect. I’ve taken little interest in them in garden centres, plant fairs, books and magazines.
But something has changed in the past few weeks and I’m looking at houseplants with a fresh, and somewhat lustful, eye.
I mean, who couldn’t love a plant with the name Monstera deliciosa.
We had one of these, growing up in a bungalow in Northern Ireland in the 80s. It’s also known as the Swiss Cheese Plant. The leaves are whole when they begin to grow and then later develop the ‘swiss cheese’ holes. I want one now for my own house – a really big one. I would put it in the dining room and polish its leaves lovingly. See, my attitude to houseplants is definitely shifting…
Binge-listening to On The Ledge certainly hasn’t helped – Jane and her guests discuss various houseplant related issues and the podcast is full of top tips and helpful advice for getting the most out of indoor gardening. I recently listened to Jane and James Wong enthuse about ‘Dr H’ and his House Plant Expert book – one of the many books in Dr Hessayon’s ‘Expert’ range. The next day I was in town for a meeting and decided to kill some time in one of the local charity shops (I always make a beeline for the gardening books – there are always gardening books in charity shops). What did I find? The new (well, 1980s!), updated bumper edition of Dr Hessayon’s House Plant Expert, plus another excellent guide with lots of useful photos, written by Matt Biggs of GQT fame. Both of these cost me just £5!
I’ve also invested in Alys Fowler’s ‘Plant Love’ , which I think I would be tempted to buy even if I wasn’t newly-obsessed with houseplants as it’s a really beautiful book.
I’m already loving learning about a whole new genre of plants, and as well as picking up a couple of waifs at B&Q (a sorry looking Guzmania and a yet-to-be-identified but healthy looking possible ficus) I’m also growing my own. Yes, yet another way I can indulge my love of sowing and growing. There’s a sowalong happening over at On The Ledge so I’m joining in by growing Pelargonium ‘Attar of Roses’ and Sempervivum tectorum, otherwise known as houseleeks.
The pelargonium seeds are AMAZING. They have twisty tails which wind and unwind according to the moisture of the soil, helping them to bury themselves into it and then germinate. AMAZING.
And the joy of houseplants is that even when the weather is not great for gardening outside, you can still care for and take joy from your indoor plants. Today has been a great example of this; we are currently in the grip of the Beast from the East – a Siberian snow storm which has dumped about a foot of snow on us and closed schools and workplaces. Gardening is out of the question – but today I managed to get my hands dirty and do some propagation, sowing the Sempervivum seeds and splitting and re-potting a large Aloe vera.
Instagram is currently heaving with trendy photos of fashionable houseplants – it’s the New Thing in gardening. Am I being brainwashed? Possibly. Am I jumping on the bandwagon? Maybe. Do I care? No! I’m looking forward to growing my collection of beautiful houseplants – glossy green foliage, strappy variegated leaves, delicate flowers and patterns – and taking my own trendy photos to post on Instagram!