Pembroke Plants Part III: Bringing Nature Indoors

Pembroke Street’s resident plant professional, Anki Deo, brings us the third instalment of Pembroke Plants which considers how adding a little green to your home can help to stem your nostalgia for brighter days.

The final throes of winter really seem to trudge past in the hungover afterglow of the holiday period, provoking a yearning for the sunnier and greener days of summer. Plants are essential to survival at this gloomy time of year - the life of verdure acts as a welcome reminder that spring is on its way and soon enough the days will begin to lengthen out again. There is clear evidence that plants have positive effects on mental health, and the Pembroke gardens, with all their luscious wealth of detail, never cease to be a great pick-me-up. When green is scarce on the exterior, introducing some indoor foliage is a sure-fire route to reinvigoration. However, not everyone is blessed with the natural talent or discipline to sustain every form of plant life. Fear not, afflicted readers, for there are plenty of accessible ways to fill your environment with greenery.

1. House Plants

Acquiring a house plant is the obvious choice to inject some verdancy into the environment, the Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum) stands out as a top pick. It adds a serene elegance to any room, and also conveniently removes many common household chemicals from the air. It doesn’t require watering too often and can survive in low lighting – perfect for those with windows that don’t quite catch as much sun as one would like. Venus fly traps (Dionaea muscipula) are a bit trickier to tend to, but are a brilliant talking point and flushed with red for extra colour. My personal favourite is Monstera Deliciosa, AKA the Swiss Cheese or Hurricane Plant. The leaves are a wonderful shape, and each specimen has its own personality – Matisse had a jungle of Monstera in his atelier in Nice, and its influence can be seen in his later work. Like the Peace Lily, it is a low maintenance plant, requiring only indirect sunlight and watering a few times a week. The easiest places to acquire houseplants (aside from garden centres, obviously) are IKEA and the Waitrose Garden website.

2. Printed Pots

Fun printed pots for your plants are not essential but make plants feel like a piece of art for your room! This Way To The Circus makes wonderful abstract, art deco and Memphis-style pots to house your new beauties.

3. Cacti & Succulents

Cacti and succulents are similar to house plants in that they provide the presence of actual life, though their contribution to the room is primarily ornamental. Aloe Vera is the most multi-tasking plant, as its soothing gel can be harvested. However, it does grow best in direct sunlight, and preferably outdoors, so student rooms are not its ideal home. The real strength of arid and alpine plants for our purposes is that they are low maintenance, needing watering so rarely that they can withstand a bit of irresponsible parenting. The key to a great cacti display is choosing a good variety of shapes and textures. Etsy has a great array to choose from, including coloured options of flowering cacti. There is also a stall in Cambridge market for those who are concerned about carrying fragile plants in transit.

4. Herbs

Planting herbs for cooking is a practical way to kick start your life in the new year, as it encourages the honing of both your culinary and horticultural skills. Chives are forgiving to plant and amp up omelettes, and mint is perfect for cocktail making (it also dominates when planted outside, so keeping it indoors is good for biodiversity!). Basil and coriander are harder to keep alive, so start with easy ones – thrifty gardeners can easily plant rosemary in the winter from a cutting from an existing bush which is free and cheerful (just ask first!). Fresh herb pots are available from Sainsbury’s, but are better quality from a garden centre or specialist plant shop.

5. The Next Best Thing

Finally, for those with a touch of death when it comes to horticulture, paintings of greenery are not to be underestimated. The mood-changing effect that they can have is remarkable. Monet’s waterlilies and Renoir’s sumptuous roses are soothing, if a little tried and tested. The jungle vegetation in Rousseau and Kahlo paintings gives a sense of escape and is packed with dense detail you can easily get lost in. Hockney’s Californian paintings add so much brightness that you can almost feel sunshine pouring into your room – perfect for a February pick me up – but the scenes of the Yorkshire dales may also provide a touch of nostalgia for those from the countryside. Matisse’s cut-outs of acanthuses and other leafy, frondy forms fill a room with colour and simple joy.