Wondering About Plants

Is there fashion in house plants?  I mean ‘fashion’ in the sense that something might no longer be ‘right on trend’.  I only ask, because if there is, I think I many have fallen victim to it.

At the moment I am having to pack up two rooms in my flat to facilitate repairs and redecoration while I’m away for a few days.  Because the only three rooms not affected by the work are my bedroom, the kitchen and the bathroom, they are the only spaces in which to temporarily store  the books, DVDs, paintings and general knickknackery that fill my living room and spare room cum study.

I still need to be able to live in the flat until I go away, so cannot simply stack everything in the bath, and finding places for everything has been taxing my ingenuity.  In all this studying of things and planning  where I can put them, I realise I have only one house plant.

What’s unusual about that?  Nothing, perhaps, other than when I recall emptying my house prior to renting it out while I worked in Moscow, I had quite a struggle to find homes for all the greenery.

I had only a little house, but even I had begun to feel a bit engulfed by foliage.  There was a variegated weeping fig that required frequent dusting by the door, a cheese plant I had nursed back from near limp yellow death, and a lustrous birds-nest plant nicknamed ‘Audrey’  after the specimen in ‘Little Shop of Horrors’, for its vigorous growth and dominance in the living room.  And that’s not to mention all those spider plants, each generation grown from the progeny of the one before.

I’m not sure how I went from that leafiness to having only one plant, and I’m not even sure what it’s called, and have no recollection of where it came from.  The evidence of my once verdant home does however remain in the cupboards I’ve just been rearranging: empty pots and multi-coloured jardinieres aplenty.

It set me thinking.  When was the last time I saw a cheese plant or a yucca?  What are yucca plants anyway?  I shared a house with the owner of one when I first came to London.  I didn’t miss it when it went.  In that era whenever my friends and I moved from university rooms to shared flats and beyond, the nodding head of a cheese plant was always there in the back a parent’s car loaded with trunks and book bags.

Supermarkets used to have large glossy displays of things in pots; small botanic gardens of shined leaves ready to brighten any home.  Maybe they’re still there somewhere, but nowhere near as abundant as they were.  Was it a passing phase?

On a recent Channel 4 programme about the effect of buildings on the people who have to inhabit them, the presenter talked to some people at the accounting firm Deloitte, new tenants in a particularly bland and soul destroying new ‘award winning’ building in the City.  After moving in they had found that productivity had declined.  After some study they concluded what must have been blindingly obvious from day one, that people don’t like bland beige spaces.

As part of their attempts to improve productivity, Deloitte has introduced plants, even going as far as  allowing the employees to choose what sort of plant they wanted in their section of the office.  I like the idea of granting a sliver of self determination through house plants.

Let’s hope they survive the beige.

Leave a comment


  1. margaret nickels

     /  September 6, 2011

    Undoubtedly there is some kind of zeitgeisty thing where plants are concerned; where are all the tradescantias and spider plants which I remember so well from my childhood ?! Aloe Veras are quite in vogue because you can crack open a leaf and apply a soothing balm .

    • Think of all those macrame sling things to hang spiderplants from the ceiling _ they must be languishing at the backs of cupboards all over the land.


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