House of Plants (+ giveaway)
I am always partial to a great coffee table book, a beautifully crafted volume that features interesting content and gorgeous photography, and lingers in your living room or bedroom as a shortcut to inspiration when you’ve had a long day at work. It’s relaxing to pick them up to peruse with a cup of tea and they’re a great conversation piece if you have people visiting a l’improviste, or want to lend something special to a friend or colleague. I estimate that I buy one of these books once every couple of months, an art title if I’ve gone to a gallery, or a design, recipe or travel book I’ve come across in a bookstore along weekend wanders in town.
With the democratisation of self-publishing and the growth of small imprints, some which even feature the work of accomplished bloggers (yes!), my book collection has grown exponentially these last few years and of course, this has made me a little more picky. After a while, you come to a point where there is no longer any space on your shelves and the merits of a new title need to be weighed against those of old favourites, because a switch may be in the cards.
A house that I’ve seen publish consistently good content is Quarto Publishing, its editors have flair and they always seem to come out with a title by someone you wanted to get to know more right there and then. They have their finger on the pulse of trends and publish beautiful objects that one just wants to get their hands on. This week for instance they are releasing “House of Plants – Living with Succulents, Air Plants and Cacti,” a book by Caro Langton and Rose Ray which I picked up to review and thoroughly enjoyed. Let me tell you more below and if you like what you see, simply leave a comment on this post to win a copy of the book! (Ends November 25th)
House of Plants, Overview
First of all, let me point out that you don’t need to be a green-fingered goddess to read (and enjoy) this book. In fact, its premise is the opposite exactly. Caro and Rose, the authors, didn’t grow up with a particular knowledge of plants and gardening, but fell in love with it when they moved into Caro’s grandmother’s house in Hampstead and had to learn on the go to nurture the wonderful world of green the house and conservatory came with. Second, this book deals specifically with indoor plants, and as such it makes not only for a useful read but also a thoughtful gift that will appeal to most people, whether you’re compromising on space in a tiny-teeny city apartment, or have the luxury of many nooks and crannies to accommodate the company of indoor plants in your home.
What I found wonderful about this book is that right from the introduction, it immerses you in a wonderfully evocative world, with a rich vocabulary appealing to all your senses, from smell to sight and touch. There is an element of listening to words that have been shared in confidence in the writing, and Caro and Rose are generous with personal anecdotes. It’s truly a delight to read, let me share a few examples: “Hidden away inside a cocoon of English Ivy, our conservatory began to transform into a mosaic of foraged objects, a glimmering sea of antique glass vessels and battered trays filled with crystals,” or again “the distinct smells of each season were memorable too: lingering scents of pine sap, decaying leaves, hay, buttercups and freshly cut nettle, which remained with her long after she had left home.” Do you see what I mean? Delightful.
House of Plants, Contents
The contents of this book are separated into three categories: cacti and succulents, air plants, and tropical plants, which all respectively start with an overall description of the plants and how to recognise them, the optimum conditions they need to grow well, in terms of light, temperature, and humidity, and finally specific notes about watering, pruning and care, including the common ailments they fall prey to, and repotting.
I found it really easy to understand Caro and Rose’s tips and felt that I could apply their advice right away, recognising which indoor plants I already have in my home, and how to best care for them moving forward. I also discovered a wide range of beautiful plants that would lend themselves well to the particularities of our flat thanks to the helpful plant index that this books offers. It maps which plants would be best suited to specific environments such as your window sill, a vacant corner, a bright spot, your work desk, or even to be tended to by little hands.
Whether you feel at ease with indoor plants already or are a novice, this book is thorough but very approachable and I think you will love it as much as I did. DIY enthusiasts will be pleased to find great tutorials included, such as how to create a tropical glasshouse terrarium, your own no-mess concrete pot, or a macrame hanging planter. If this green call to arms makes you grow a little obsessed with indoor plants and you want to go the extra mile, you will find the glossary of gardening terms at the beginning come in handy, and might try to follow the homemade recipes for compost and nettle fertiliser too.
Finally, a little anecdote of my own!
When I started reading this book, I had no idea that I actually met Caro and Rose in real life and it was so nice to realise that in a way I’m a small part of their journey. You see, in the introduction Caro writes about how as their knowledge of indoor plants grew, Rose and her started to get very creative with them. They used their backgrounds in design to create “an assortment of curious objects” to take along to sell on Broadway Market in East London, “hoping that other people would share our enthusiasm. With encouragement from our customers we started running workshops, styling shop interiors and weddings, and creating products to help people to make their own indoor gardens.”
This is when I put the book down and something clicked in my head. I, in fact, know very well who Caro and Rose are. I’ve met Ro Co over two years ago, when my mom and sister came to visit and we were wandering the schoolyard part of Broadway market on the hunt for Bao’s buns. On that day, my eye was irresistibly caught by the reflection of the light on some lovely terrariums and kooky-shaped plant containers on a little stall across the aisle. I chatted with the owners, complimented them on their great collection, and took home a big square terrarium box made of metal and glass with a mirror at the bottom. To this day, it’s the home of my surviving succulent (surely a sign!). This happened just after Rob and I moved into our Kennington flat, and it’s one of the first pieces I bought to decorate our first home together.
Do you have an indoor plant? Tell me where where it lives in your home in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of this book!
EDIT: Congratulations Jaqui, you are the winner of this giveaway!
Credits: House of Plants by Caro Langton & Rose Ray is published by Frances Lincoln at Quarto Homes (£20). Photography by Erika Raxworthy, Illustrations by Alicia Galer (whose great work I snapped on this post).