Lush, living greenery is undoubtedly beneficial in the home. Surrounding ourselves with it connects the city dwellers to the natural world reminds us that we have a symbiotic relationship. Gemma Yeoman, botanical stylist and owner of Flora n Fauna, says a room filled with plants can be calming and inspirational as well as incredibly personal and expressive. And when we know something is beneficial to our wellbeing and make a space look amazing, why wouldn’t we want to be surrounded by it?
We asked Gemma for a quick run down on how to style and care for your own little indoor oasis at home.
Tell us a little bit about what you do...
I am a botanical stylist, which means I work with plants, using them as part of interior design to add another layer within a room, create a piece of art or just pure goodness for the eyes and soul - creating healthy spaces for healthy humans. I specialise in indoor plants so most of my work involves installing plants in offices, restaurants, homes and small businesses, trying to create interesting and individual plant designs for each client. I use botanicals to add life to a space and teach others how to look after them. I believe we need to connect with nature in the workplace and Flora n Fauna helps do this by having healthy indoor plant solutions.
What drew you to working with plants?
I love plants! Growing up, I was surrounded with the 70’s movement of houseplants and my mum is an amazing gardener so I guess as a youngster this was instilled in me. When I became a mum for the first time I wanted to spend that special time at home with my daughter, Ivy, and I knew I wanted to do something creative and hands on. I’ve always loved interiors, design, art, fashion, food and styling but I wanted to have a context that was more specific. Indoor plants have become very ‘on trend’ but are also known to be beneficial and healthy for us. So I did a load of research and learning about the benefits of plants for indoor environments and for humans made me tick, it felt very holistic and that for me is important. What’s better than connecting people with nature... right?
What are some of the basics to being a good plant owner?
Watering - A common mistake people make with their plants is overwatering. Too much water and too often. It really is a game of trial and error and what works within the conditions of your environment, but most of our watering guidelines for indoor plants thrive involve a little amount of water, more often. If you do a large water soak and then don't water again for a week or so, testing the soil 2-3 cm down with your finger to see if its still wet/damp or not. It’s also important to remember room temperature water is best when feeding your plants. It’s like an ice cream headache for those roots if it’s too cold.
Placement - Too dark or too light? Artificial or natural light? Direct or indirect sun? Plants are living individuals and just like people, different plants have their different requirements. Is it in a draft (plants don’t like drafts)? Does your particular plant like humidity or a dry temperature? If your plant is placed in direct light and can tolerate these situations it’s going to need watering more frequently than the same species placed in less sunshine. It’s all about observing your plant and looking for the changes that happen. For example, if your plant's leaves start to curl, it’s often a sign that it’s thirsty and needs a drink. Or it could be placed in too much sunshine and needs to be repositioned. If you have brown tips on your plants this can be a sign of under-watering. If you have yellow leaves and they are dropping off this can mean you are overwatering. Get to know your plant! It will love you for it!
Repotting - It's important to know when the best time is to do this (generally from early spring into the summer months). Always select a pot thats about 10-15 cm bigger than your plant in diameter - this allows for about another year's growth without the plant looking too small for its new home.
Fertilizing - Only do this in the growing months of spring and summer, and just once a month. Make sure you have a high nitrogen fertilizer and always follow the measurement instructions.
We’ve certainly seen some plant varieties grow in popularity in recent years… What are your predictions for what plants will be the next big thing in 2018?
I’m really enjoying big trees and subtropical plants indoors as we see the need for living plants to surround us, when positioned right we can have larger scale trees indoors. Schefflera species are awesome for this, Strelitzia Nicolai (Large Bird of Paradise) are super cool right now as still is the Ficus Lyrata (Fiddle Leaf Fig). I think growers will try to keep up with the demand of growing larger specimen trees for indoors. There’s a lot of love, time and energy that goes into growing a tree especially at 2 metres plus. Clients often ask how big can we get it when it’s first installed. Oversized cactus will also see a continued come back, especially indoors. It’s now just a case of getting your hands on these larger specimens. The species San Pedro is popular and available in New Zealand, it just takes a little searching through places like Trade Me to find them.
What are some of the key things to keep in mind when styling indoor plants?
It really depends on the overall look you are going for. Minimalist, industrial, beach house, contemporary... or if you’d just love a big lush jungle surrounding your sofa. A plant shelfie always looks great and can add a full plant look or a minimal look with just the one plant on a shelf. Larger plants sitting in baskets can soften a room and add a beautiful natural, organic aesthetic. Your bathroom look can change dramatically by the type of plants in it - Maiden Hair or Boston Ferns work well to soften these spaces as the leaves are delicate, whereas a Rhipsalis or Monstera would be more of a fresh, structural green addition. Remembering again too it’s all about the plant and the vessel it’s in. A plant can be softened or hardened by your choice of vessel. Mix it up, try new things and see what works. Use plants as a piece of wall art, hanging air plants on the wall or from the ceiling. Philodendron Scandens or Scindapsus are amazing as a creative plant piece that trails along a wall, a frame, up and down wires. These plants are hardy and will do well in average to good light. Get creative, your room is your canvas!
In what situations would you recommend faux plants over live ones?
I do love the benefits of a living plant, however there are some environments that are not conducive for live plants, such as dark corners with little or no light, hard to reach places etc. So here I would recommend trying some of the very real looking ‘faux’ plants and foliage that are available today. I do also love the sustainable aspect of buying faux cut foliage and flowers for vases at home.
For more ideas on how to bring some greenery to your home, head over to our 'GREEN FINGERS' collection of vases, vessels, pots, planters, baskets and faux foliage.