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BACK TO MY ROOTS; Cheese plants, ferns, even cacti have made a comeback with the trendiest city dwellers so it's time to fashion your own green house.

Byline: diarmuid gavin

In 1982 I started work in a city centre plant shop.

I was enchanted by the weekly arrivals of house plants, primarily grown in Holland. A huge truck would pull up and I'd unload trolleys of ferns, rubber plants, Swiss cheese plants, yuccas and orchids - all the species that are seeing a resurgence in this millennium.

A local woman grew cacti and succulents for the store. Trays of lithops (living stones) were unloaded from her car. And each Friday payday I'd purchase massive ferns and exotic-looking banana plants and wrestle them home on the bus back to my flat.

That soon ended up looking like a botanic garden. I drilled holes into the ceiling and tied ropes over the rafters. Over the bed I suspended bowls of plantations, then I started on bottle gardens and terrariums. Demijohns - bulbous narrownecked bottles capable of brewing three gallons of home brew were purchased and converted into mini greenhouses. Compost and bits of charcoal were funnelled into the space, tiny plants were squeezed through the opening and spoons and forks were commandeered from the kitchen, taped to lengths of bamboo and used to plant up the landscape.

Watering was by means of a mister, calculating just the right amount to create a moist environment which wasn't so wet that roots would drown or fungal disease could thrive.

I'd sell these in the shop and at markets, once attracting the attention of Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics. He sensibly passed on a purchase figuring it would be difficult to haul it around the band's European concert dates. Now it's all back. A few years ago I visited a shop called Green Fingers in Nolita, New York, run by Japanese plant artist Satoshi Kawamoto. It was full of the young and the beautiful cooing over pot plants. They'd been out of fashion since the 1980s but now they were back. And not just in trendy parts of America, in Amsterdam a shop called Wildernis (wilderness) was the greenest and coolest place to be. In the city's Old West area, it sells garden tools, special seeds and compost, botanical prints, fashionable plant hangers and stunning house plants.

And in London, Gynelle Lyon - a former forensic scientist - has opened the city's first cacti and succulent shop called Prick, and wrote a book of the same name. Like Wildernis, it feels somewhat like a gallery. Visiting is an experience that cannot be replicated by shopping online.

But social media is playing a part. Prick has more than 10,000 Instagram followers, Wildernis has 72,000, and some other house plant sellers have more.

The question is, why now? I think it's about a desire to nurture, to create a nest.

The world is becoming a more challenging and unkind space. Property is expensive and garden space is hard to come by.

Meanwhile plants are relatively cheap, look great, suit our health and fitness-aware sensibilities and they don't tweet nasty things.

Next week - my top 10 house plants and how not to kill them.


whey to go Left, a Swiss cheese plant, and above, terrarium house succulents

great to be green Diarmuid celebrates the big return of the house plant

back in From top, cacti and succulents are presented like in a gallery in Prick, tags adorn branches of a plant in Green Fingers, and the 1970s make a comeback in Wildernis
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Sep 30, 2018
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