Impatient for summer? Try ‘urban forest bathing’ in your own home
As we grow impatient for summer, a planter of trailing ivy, perky pileas in vivid shades of green or spring bulbs in pots can cheer us up during these last weeks of cold weather.
While the house plant trend continues to thrive, plant shops offer the latest “it” plants and a healthy dose of green therapy.
“Having plants is like urban forest bathing you can do in your home,” said Graham Bull, the co-owner of Jomo Studio, an online plant store based in Toronto. “When the sun hits the foliage and lights up the plant, it’s just an amazing sight that soothes you. There’s also a sense of pride when you see each new leaf unfurling. There’s an intrinsic reward brought through the magic of plants.”
Some people see plants as a decorative object, while others crave the connection to nature and want to be surrounded by plants. This instinct even has its own buzzword, biophilia, a desire or tendency to commune with nature.
“We truly believe in the idea of biophilia, the love of plants and their effect on our daily lives. They help us slow down, become a more nurturing and caring person, help us reconnect with nature and feel balanced again, during times of uncertainty,” said Michael Zhang, the co-owner of Plant Society, a plant shop on Queen Street East in Toronto.
Lush tropical plants and pots of spring-flowering bulbs are plentiful in plant stores at this time of year, but plantophiles want more than just something green in a plastic pot.
The Watering Can is a European-inspired destination centre in Vineland, Ontario where day-trippers stroll through displays of lush tropical plants in a sprawling greenhouse, grab lunch at the café and attend workshops to learn how to create botanical creations of their own.
Some people come to calm themselves and escape reality, said Manager Sue Dodd. “We’re built inside a greenhouse, so it’s naturally warm and bright, with lots of light which I think is important for mental health. Add the greenery, and it’s like you’re transported to a tropical oasis.”
You don’t need to break the bank to create a pretty display. Although flowers are a luxury item, it’s easy to grab a small bundle of tulips, said florist and floral teacher Becky DeOliveira, owner of Blush and Bloom. “When you have access to something seasonal like tulips — take advantage of it — they’re an economical flower to enjoy.”
Any container can be used, said Lynn Juhl, a decorator who shares her love of plants and vintage vessels for displaying them via Instagram. “I’ve used tureens, teapots, sugar bowls, dough bowls, vintage mason jars and even an old trophy. After you’ve transplanted bulbs into the new containers, add decorative elements such as moss, twigs and small stones, which adds a nice detail. Use your imagination, and almost anything can work,” suggested Juhl, who enjoys sourcing vessels and containers for displaying plants from thrift shops.
Stamen and Pistil Botanicals hosts terrarium and kokedama workshops as creative ways to display house plants. Kokedama are plants encased in a ball of soil that are covered in moss and wrapped with decorative twine. The balls which originated in Japan, can be hung or displayed on a tray.
Before you ditch the plastic pot, let your house plant acclimatize to its new environment. A plant is going from a greenhouse environment to your home. Allow the plant to relax before you make a change, said Bull, whose online shop includes an impressive plant care guide along with plants, accessories and workshops.
To help your plants remain healthy in winter, put your plants in front of a window. Then, water according to the needs of the plant. The number one killer of houseplants is often overwatering.
“I sometimes joke that the people that you think have the greenest thumbs are the people that in fact have the largest windows,” said Darryl Cheng, an engineer who has studied the relationship between houseplants and light. Cheng is the author of “The New Plant Parent” and creator of House Plant Journal.
Plants require one of three types of watering strategies that are usually found on the tag that comes with the plant, said Cheng. “First, when the soil is completely dry, such as cacti and succulents. The next type is when it’s partially dry. The last type is to keep the soil evenly moist — such as maidenhair ferns where you keep the soil almost wet all of the time.”
Check for dryness by putting your finger in the soil a couple of inches to see if it’s dry. Watering a plant should be based on looking at the soil to determine if a plant needs water, not a schedule.
“In the winter, the sun may actually shine into your window more directly and longer than it does in the summertime because of the different position of the sun and the fact that deciduous trees don’t have leaves on them,” said Cheng. “But remember, none of these watering strategies will work if you put a plant in a dark corner. It doesn’t matter how well you water it if it’s starving for photosynthesis.”
You might think you don’t need to fertilize your plants in winter, but if the plant is actively growing, you should fertilize those plants, said Cheng. “I don’t fertilize based on a rule about the season. I fertilize based on if the plant is actively growing. Outdoor garden plants that are brought inside in winter may go dormant and don’t require fertilization, but house plants that you keep inside all the time, these could be pushing out new growth because they don’t know it’s winter outside. So, you should be fertilizing those plants.”