A year or so ago, I inherited a cardboard box filled with plants. It was an offshoot from an enormous collection that belonged to a young botanist from Stockwell. He was about to be turfed out of the derelict building he lived in and hundreds of plants were being spread across London. I offered to rehome a few.
My only outdoor space is a window box, so most of the plants had to face life indoors. Some were happy; others withered. I enjoyed having them, though, so I replaced the dead and began a collection. My one-bed flat now contains more than 20 plants.
The window box is bursting with herbs — parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. I’ve also added some mint. More knowledgeable friends tell me that it has aggressive roots and will soon turn into a despotic ruler. I do not doubt them. I refuse to hand over any more money to the supermarkets for scrawny packets of tasteless leaves, however, so I am waiting to see what happens. My bathroom has succulents — they like the humidity; the kitchen has a cactus. I don’t own a trowel, but a tablespoon does the job. A teapot makes a perfectly good watering can.
There are lots of excellent places to buy plants but it’s worth avoiding the rip-off merchants who have cropped up charging extortionate prices for fashionable species. I won’t name them, but suffice to say you should avoid anywhere that refers to itself as a ‘concept store’. Seek out garden centres or market stalls, or better still, grow your plants from cuttings or seeds. You can also find some stonking varieties online. I’m currently awaiting delivery of a ‘bird of paradise’ plant. It likes heat, so hopefully its arrival will coincide with the start of summer. It’s unfortunate when a plant doesn’t enjoy life indoors — but you can’t be too precious about these things. Learn and move on.
I do try to keep them alive, though, with a stockpile of various tonics. Specialist ‘indoor gardening’ shops are a good place to buy fertiliser, although such places tend to be aimed at people growing plants in order to smoke them. For amateur indoor gardeners like me, who just want plants to cheer up a room, the internet can be a saviour. There are sites that offer advice on how to cure a bout of powdery mildew (a mild solution of cider vinegar and water) or why black spots are appearing on your fiddle leaf tree (too much direct light).
I’m not the only green-fingered millennial. Instagram and Pinterest are groaning with pictures of hip couples posing alongside Boston ferns, snake plants and parlour palms. A new book called Greenterior features ‘creatives from Antwerp to New York’ who have a ‘passion for plants’, while the website Urban Jungle Bloggers allows people from around the world to share ideas. It is dangerously close to becoming a cliché. People will probably look back at us like they do the Victorians and think it all a bit peculiar. I don’t care. My plants keep me company. I haven’t yet started talking to them, but I do appreciate the extra oxygen.