As a child, I never understood my mum’s fascination with hanging baskets. Being summoned away from Byker Grove to water endless pots of sprouting leaves was my least favourite chore, in part because a massive frog lived in the cobweb-covered watering can but also because I just couldn’t see the point of it. It’s a garden. There are plants. So what?
Fast-forward to adulthood, where even the idea of having a concrete balcony to call my own seems like an impossible dream, and I get it. Gardens are great.
Sorry Mum. Like with many things, you were right.
My mother’s pride and joy.
One day I hope to have my very own garden, but until then I’ve tried to do what I can with indoor plants. Flowers in the home are gorgeous – obviously – but there’s something exceptionally satisfying about tending for a plant. They’re real living things which need care and attention. Some are sensitive enough to induce panic, others can withstand even the most useless attempts of fortnightly nurturing.
I was exceptionally smug about keeping a peace lily going til its second birthday, until my mum informed me that hers was at least 10 years old and she barely touches it.
Flowers may try to steal the show, but a plant – or a TREE – is a commitment.
My favourite plant has to be the palm tree which is currently trying to break through our ceiling. He’s my second palm, having been left here by previous owners and abandoned for being too much trouble. (I may be dramatising here slightly because I like to think I swept in and saved him from an untimely end in a skip, but he was pretty much left for dead). I gave myself a couple of months to try and turn his fate around and nearly three years later he’s still here, albeit looking quite sparse at the moment as I had to give him a haircut…
I’ve got little plants dotted all over: mini cacti, peace lilies, teeny airplants…anything that will help bring a bit of green indoors. I had a gigantic rubber plant in the past (that thing nearly took over our last flat, we had to decorate it with tinsel and baubles every Christmas) and smaller palms too, all very rewarding in their own ways. I haven’t grown anything substantial from a seed yet, but I’m tempted to try with some indoor window boxes.
I’m not alone in noticing the calming properties of tending to soil and leaves, a survey by PG Tips Green Tea has found that caring for plants has become a top self-care pastime. With a fifth of the UK feeling stressed on a daily basis and 39% feeling stressed weekly, the study revealed that greenery-focused wellbeing is a real growing trend with nearly half of us (46%) using plants as an escape from all things online.
That’s a LOT of green-fingers, but I was surprised to read that tending to plants has overtaken the more “obvious” wellbeing pastimes, with 25.4% opting to unleash their inner gardener ahead of baking (25%), yoga (13%) and knitting (8%) when they want to relax. (To be fair, GBBO has shown that baking is often far from relaxing. Plants can be tricky but they don’t collapse if you accidentally look at them for too long. Soggy soil is far less traumatic than a soggy bottom).
The art of topiary was singled out by the survey as the next retro trend set for revival, with 40% of respondents saying they’d like to learn more about it. Having been sent a PG Tips “desktop monkey topiary” to try and look after myself, I can totally see the appeal. Much easier than knitting or namaste-ing, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed having this cheeky chap around and can’t wait to see how he grows…
I’m sure just having more green around makes me feel calmer, but pruning with the teeny sheers is a lovely task. (With the added benefit of being able to feel like a giant).
It’s not always easy to look after plants though. I know I’ve really panicked about whether my palm was getting too much sun/not enough sun/too many minerals/not enough minerals on numerous occasions. My fears were allayed by trips to the greenhouses at Kew where I realised that even their world-class palms often have brown fronds, it’s just part of the life cycle of the plant and doesn’t mean that OMG YOU’RE DOING IT ALL WRONG.
Over two thirds of the survey respondents said they struggle to know how best to tend to their plants though, so I’m certainly not alone. I find Google is usually my friend when I’m having a leaf symptom crisis, but perhaps we’ll soon see a gardening version of Bake Off on our screens. We’ve had Sewing Bee, is it too crazy to imagine some sort of topiary trophy challenge?!
I suppose the bottom line with plants is that you can’t rush them. In a world where everything can feel very RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW, it’s a real treat to go back to nature (literally) and be patient. Plants take time to cultivate and nurture and nothing will make that process any faster. Similarly, any “mistakes” you do make can often be rectified. Plants which I’ve been certain have died whilst I’ve been on holiday have often miraculously recovered overnight after a good watering and some sunshine. It’s joyous.
TV Horticulturist Frances Tophill has partnered with PG tips Green Tea for the survey and she points out that lots of Generation Y types have turned to topiary to help chill out: “Topiary has been a growing trend over the past few years, following in the footsteps of bakery and knitting as the latest craft craze. It’s no longer reserved for the older generation or those with large ornamental gardens, anyone can try and I encourage everyone to give it a go. There is a huge movement among twenty and thirty something’s who are turning to plants to help them de-stress and re-energise. It’s a brilliant and relaxing hobby.”
I snapped this elephant topiary during Chelsea Flower Show earlier this year, could something like this be my next project?! I’ll see how Monkey goes first…
Soon I’ll be sharing a video on the 10 things that help me feel calm and plants will definitely be one of them, so look out for that. (Update! The video is live here!)
In the meantime, I seem to be daydreaming about buying another rubber plant. Do we have room for one? No. Do I want one anyway? Of course. It seems a small compromise to make as I can’t get a dog.
Watch this space!