From large-leaved architecturals to spidery air plants, house plants are the accessories of the moment. Hipster florists such as Grace & Thorn and Botanique Boutique are reporting a huge upswing in terrariums — gardens under glass — as well as desert succulents, moss-ball kokedama and cowboy cacti.
“We need that connection between the world outside and our life indoors,” says Ian Drummond, creative director of Highgate-based Indoor Garden Design, the interior landscape company that imaginatively greens up private homes, shops and restaurants as well as the Mandarin Oriental, Harrods and Sir Elton John’s annual White Tie & Tiara Ball.
To Drummond, bringing house plants into the home means thinking about the space before the plant, so that a redundant fireplace might hold a small-scale garden that changes seasonally; a vintage picnic hamper, its wicker lid as a backdrop, could display ferns and philodendrons, while several trailing ivies might soften the rigid lines of a shelving system.
At this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show, together with Ikea, the largest seller of house plants in the UK, Drummond set out a three-room installation to show the decorative power of plants in a modern home.
In the living room, a row of dainty-leaved Ficus benjamina, dropped into felt cube planters, lined up on a trio of pushed-together coffee tables, makes a great room divider. “In good light these plants will grow quite quickly, so if you don’t have a garden, it’s fun to have a hedge you can trim indoors,” says Drummond, who filled Ikea’s take on the terrarium — a glass vessel with two large holes for easy planting — with a selection of baby cacti and succulents that needs no watering.
Stainless steel fruit bowls and smaller votive candle holders, clustered in a group, hold no-maintenance aloes and agaves, topped with moss, which is also used effectively to make textural wall art, neatly framed.
“The moss is preserved — you can buy it at good florists or from the flower market — so it will last,” says Drummond. “Then all we did was glue the moss on to a framed mirror.”
In one corner, a yucca, stark against the white wall, makes a strong vertical statement. “The yucca is a much-maligned plant,” he says, “but it’s clean-cut, contemporary and is ideal for a corner or a narrow hallway.”
In the bathroom, small basketweave pots hold tabletop plants of maidenhair muehlenbeckia that can be slotted into any tight corner and, unfussy plant that it is, will thrive even in low light levels.
On a small wooden ladder against a wall, that might more usually hold towels, white pots of guzmania bromeliads are hooked on to every rung, their foliage funnels tinted bright orange, scarlet and carmine. Drummond says they just love the humidity.
Placing pots of sansevieria, stripy mother-in-law’s tongue, on bedside tables is a novel choice, but Drummond points out that the plant, unlike most others, releases oxygen at night instead of during the day and thus helps to improve the quality of the air we breathe while we sleep.
Other night-time oxygenators include aloe vera, the peace lily, and phalaenopsis as well as dendrobium orchids. On a ledge behind the bedhead, grass-green bird’s foot ivies trail from basketweave holders.
Above the bed is a hanging garden of pretty, lacy-edged planters — the indoor equivalent of hanging baskets but minus drainage holes, so no worries about dripping water — containing asparagus ferns, ivies and succulents, plants that need little watering, and proof that the combination of white and green is as fresh and inviting indoors as it is outside.