July 20, 2017

Book Review of At Home With Plants by Ian Drummond & Kara O’Reilly

Houseplants are very on-trend at the moment! And I’ve added several to our home since being inspired by conversations with one of the co-authors of ‘At Home with Plants‘, Ian Drummond. So, I’m delighted today to feature an exclusive interview with Ian about his new book…

The houseplant trend is gaining huge momentum. What do you think has been the trigger for its revival?

There are a number of factors, but essentially we’re all so environmentally aware now, and being connected with nature is important to us. Additionally, many of us now live in urban environments often without access to green spaces of any kind, so having houseplants is a way of bringing nature into the home. The homes and interiors industry have embraced plants…in-store botanicals are a big story right now.

Which plants would you recommend for someone who’s new to houseplants?

I would recommend anyone to invest in spending some time understanding the right plant for the right room. Most plants will do well if they are cared for and put in the right position – not every plant is a lover of direct sunlight. A common error is to overwater. I would start with cacti and succulents. The following are also great plants for the ‘beginner’…Cyclamen persicum, Jasminum polyanthum, Capiscum annum, Echeveria secunda var. glauca and Sempervivum.

What are the health benefits of houseplants?

Plants work on our physical health by producing oxygen while filtering pollution and absorbing dust to clean the air we breathe. Studies have shown they also boost our mood and creativity, being close to nature is good for us.

If someone has a dark, north-facing room, which plants would work best there?

Hardy foliage plants such as Aspidistra elatior (cast iron plant), Sansevieria trifasciata (mother-in-law’s tongue) and Dracaena grow particularly well in lower light levels.

Terrariums are going down a storm. How should people care for them?

Terrariums require very little care and that is part of their beauty. Good light levels are essential, but be careful of too much strong direct light as the glass will intensify the heat. And mist the plants occasionally.

What are your top tips on looking after houseplants in pots? 

A a rule, all plants need light, water, food and warmth…a bit like people! Feed plants regularly in the growing season from mid-spring to early autumn. Check your pots often for pests and disease. Reduce watering in the winter months. It’s best not to let your houseplant sit in water. It’s easy to save a plant that’s been underwatered, but if plants are overwatered they struggle to recover. Keep plants out of draughts. And avoid moving plants around too much. Believe it or not, it causes stress to the plant.

How long should houseplants last?

It completely depends on the plant that you choose. They don’t really have a pre-determined life span. Some plants however are known for their longevity. The money plant, for example, is often given as a wedding present in some parts of the world (it’s thought to bring wealth) and can last for 50 years or more. The better care that you give your plants, the longer they’ll live. I have plants at home that are over 20 years old. The oldest indoor plant in the world, Encephalartos altensteinii, is over 240 years old!

What do you think is going to be the ‘Next Big Thing’ in houseplants?

It’s happening already but plants are going to be used as part of the design elements within a home. They create atmosphere and beauty. I always encourage people to create plant ‘scapes’ within their homes. Plant groupings make a brilliant design feature, particularly when interesting containers and pots are used. Think about the juxtaposition of the plant and it’s container. Think about texture and material. I also think plant art is going to become more popular. I’ve seen this in hotels and restaurants, so it’s only a matter of time before it comes to the home…using large scale plants to create a centre piece in the home, eco art.

At Home with Plants by Ian Drummond and Kara O’Reilly is published by Mitchell Beazley.

(Images : ©photography Nick Pope)

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