Inside House Plants

The Unexpected HouseplantIt’s never to early to start thinking about those holiday gifts you’ll be buying even if, like your friendly Planet Natural Blogger, you’re a last minute shopper. (Remember… we said we’re only thinking about holiday gifts… the buying still comes last minute.) Because we ascribe to the idea that knowledge is power, especially when it comes to gardening, we often choose books to give to our nearest and dearest. Here’s a new book that we think is especially suited for, well, just about anyone. Tovah Martin’s The Unexpected Houseplant is a fascinating and refreshing way to look at the growing things we raise indoors. It’s perfect for those who already decorate their homes with green things as well as those who don’t but might like to.

Martin is a Connecticut-based, organic gardener who write extensively on the craft of growing things. Her previous book is The New Terrarium: Creating Beautiful Display for Plants and Nature. She’s also a busy blogger — check out plantwise.com — and she’s published in magazines ranging from Horticulture to Country Gardens. More than just a gardener, Martin is a crusader for growing and the gardening life-style. Her books aren’t simple how-to’s but seek to convert readers to gardening with their not-so-subtle emphasis on aesthetics and gardening as lifestyle. “I’m doing my best to demonstrate how plants can change your psyche when you welcome them into your life,” she writes in the introduction to The Unexpected Houseplant. And that includes welcoming them inside your home as well as outdoors.

The theme of Martin’s book has to do with the way she raises houseplants. She doesn’t limit herself to the houseplants that everybody knows — there’s no section on growing spider plants (and she tells you why) — and she brings some plants in from outdoors that most of us probably hadn’t considered before. Houseplants are a part — a major part — of her interior design. Her house is crowded with them. And not only does she bring unusual plants indoors but she pots and presents them in unique ways.

Plants come first in Martin’s book. All the how-to stuff on light and potting soil comes at the end of the book. The sections are divided by seasons (yes, indoor plants are affected by the differences in sunlight, temperature and humidity that the seasons bring to our homes). Without counting, I’d say she addresses more than the 220 indoor plants claimed in the subtitle. Some fall into categories based on fragrance or their attachment to holidays. Our favorite is the section on South African bulbs. She even lists different plants that are difficult if not impossible to grow indoors. And she tells you why. In the case of hibiscus, it’s indoor heating that dries out the leaves.

Information isn’t everything in Martin’s book. She’s a decent, even entertaining writer. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry (or at least get close) reading her hibiscus experience. And this entertaining style, along with all the photos that show her unique and clever way with potting and placement, make The Unexpected Houseplant the perfect gift. The Unexpected Houseplant: 220 Extraordinary Choices for Every Spot In You Home by Tovah Martin, photographs by Kindra Clineff; Timber Press Books, paperback.

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