Welcome to Houseplants, the story of three women and their plants told through photography and songs.
Indoor plants occupy a place in our homes at the intersection of pet and ornament. We cosset them, converse with them and grieve when they die. A well-cared-for houseplant will easily outlive most pets; and unlike an ornament, will respond to your care. They have less volition than a new-born baby. They look to their owner for light, space, water, food, support and warmth; and unlike a baby, they are silent. The three women at the heart of this project embody our relationships with these species we care for. Within their words, their behaviour, we see why we grow houseplants, and what we get out of it. We have an instinctive drive to nurture living things. This ‘energy of kindness’ shown by Robyn Harris, a nurse in Chatham, is both a compulsion and a comfort. People who nurture are often giving care to a plant that they can’t give to a person. Whether it is a grown-up child, a lost parent or themselves; the plant’s struggles, stoicism or even vibrancy act as an outlet. Plants carry associations with a loved-one, maybe a Christmas Cactus from your great-grandmother, or a Peace Lily from a friend who moved abroad. For Yvonne Fuchs in Whitstable, plants remind her of her lost husband, and his reverence for nature, the cycle of growth and death; but they also weave a path from a difficult past to a living future. They’ve acted as solace and a companion during her time of need, and they’re living, breathing, and growing with her now. Plant lovers are often fascinated with growth and form. Growers of houseplants have a much more intimate relationship with their plants than a gardener does. We can see that Emily Reynolds, a florist in Newington, is a very sensory gardener, touching, stroking her plants. Up close to a plant you can appreciate how the leaves turn towards the sun, how it gently droops when it is thirsty, how long it takes from first bud to full bloom. You can touch the leaves and know that a cool leaf is a sign of a healthy plant; you can revel in the silky smoothness or the velvety softness of a leaf. You can examine the intricate venation of a leaf as the sun shines through it. You learn the many different ways in which leaves can unfurl, like living origami in reverse. Emily has seen this beauty and transformed it into a vocation. Sometimes our desire to experience this beauty can be sabotaged by our environment. You may have had no experience of growing plants or repeated bad ones. The trick is to start slowly and look at your home before you look for plants. Clear a bit of space on a windowsill, then visit a friend who has a lot of plants. Explain that you want to try something easy, and tell them whether your windowsill is hot and sunny or shaded and cool. They will want to give you at least 20 cuttings. Refuse 19 of them and ask for just one plant that has been potted-up. As for watering, you are lucky enough to have a sophisticated water-sensor on the end of both index fingers, use this to discover when the compost is dry to at least the topmost knuckle of your finger. Then you can water the plant. After watering, empty the saucer so that it doesn’t sit in water. Then see how it goes. Mercy Morris, M. Hort., MSc., FLS
Houseplants: a photo opera
Houseplants: Emily's Path
Houseplants: Dancing Vines
Click below to watch all three films (15 minutes), or pick an episode beneath.
All of the films are captioned.
Alt text image descriptions of all of the photographs used in the films are included in the photo galleries below.