Mid Century House Plants: Some people are a pants man, me I'm a plants man
From a baby I was brought up around plants. Not in the ‘child raised by wolves in the forest’ way - although this would explain quite a few things if it were true. We always had a well stocked garden namely filled with Azaleas and colourful annuals. As I have grown and developed my flavour/obsession for mid century styling, my taste has focussed itself unintentionally towards the popular plants of the era also. Before we moved to our new abode, guests regularly described our apartment as a ‘jungle’, which pleased me immensely. This winter my plan is to start off all the plants that will be folded into the blend of our MCM inspired garden which we will be stocking throughout the spring - you can follow the blog updates on that.
So without further ado I want to introduce to you my collection of mid century inspired plants, amongst them some of which you will see next year as local points to our garden.
Asparagus Fern or Protasparagus setaceus
I bought this baby three years ago at a street stand in Manchester for £2.50 and in the time since I would estimate that she has grown in size by roughly 15 times. A really easy one to look after - basically the more you water her, the more she’ll love you back. Apparently they can get small white flowers in the summer but I suspect that with our cold climate in the UK this is but a dream for me to cling on to.
Sprenger's Asparagus or Protasparagus densiflorus 'Sprengeri'
This little puppy refuses to stop growing. I bought it from the same street stand, however this one was about the size of a can of beans at the time. I bought this one two years ago. It’s now as wide as my McIntosh dining table and about 2 foot high. It’s not fair to have favourites but…..
Again, simple to grown. The more water the happier it is. They don’t seem to like windowcills or any direct light though.
Spider Plant or Chlorophytum comosum
I love these and have several dotted around the house, although this particular one came as a gift from staff at a cat shelter that my mum volunteers at 2 years ago. I love the fact that they gift you more and more babies every few weeks. I leave the small ones on normally until my mum or someone else intervenes. At the back of this pot there is some purple oxalis and some kind of other purple trailing thing that I never managed to identify.
Mother in Laws tongue or Sansevieria trifasciata
A house warming present from a friend in 2008, this plant was originally part of a larger one that she owned. I have completely abused this one from the beginning, sometimes forgetting to water it for weeks. It just keeps going. Ideally I’d like to create some kind of waist height room divider with a wall of this planted along the top. It’s on the ‘to do’ list.
Purple velvet plant Gynura aurantiaca
My new toy. I bought this from a very talented and inspiring local gardener about a month ago. It’s amazing to look at. The dark purple leafs are smothered in a bright red hairy carpet. It’s utterly divine and regular mesmerises me as I walk past it. I’d say it’s doubled in size since purchase so I hope this will continue! Easy to look after again as all it seems to want is lots of sun and loads of water.
The absolute stalwart of the MCM look, the succulent comes in all shapes and forms. These particular little babarinos came from a villa that we visited in the South of Spain last summer. I literally ripped arms off five of the plants that were in the garden and shoved them in my case as we left. They were all kinds of crazy orange and red hues at the time but I’m guessing the blazing sun of Manchester doesn’t quite cut it for them!
Orchids & Tropicanna Black
I have terrible, terrible, awful luck with orchids. The sensible man would just stop buying them. Not me. I’m not a quitter. I did once manage to keep three of them flowering for three years continuously, however it would appear that what was actually happening at the time was the orchid gods had gotten together and decided to shell out all my orchid luck in one fell swoop. My worst orchid story involved buying one that cost over £30, for it to die within weeks. I will not give up. I will not be beaten.
I love the shades of the Tropicanna Black. I bought it about two months ago and since then it has developed a second stem which I am excited about. It will also go out into the garden in the spring and hopefully go on to develop an array of beautiful flowers throughout the summer. I’m half tempted to buy a second one to keep indoors as I love the shade of it against my living room walls.
I actually bought this baby from Ikea last Christmas, and then ignored it for 9 months. A couple of months ago I moved it to a bright window and it turned the most amazing shades of purple and red. Following this, BANG, all these lovely flowers. My mum informs me that they flower one month earlier every year. Bizarre.
Maiden Hair fern Adiantum capillus-veneris
I love these. I have killed 7 so far. This one came from a garden centre in Newcastle a few months back. So far it is not dead. I hold no great hope for it, but I have a dream that one day I will manage to at least keep one alive for a year. I’d like to give you some advice on how to succeed with these, but alls I can really say is I have discovered that they don’t like direct light, but also don’t like shade. They are not very interested by indirect sunlight either. They don’t like over watering, but don’t like going dry. They hate the cool. They don’t like too much heat. They’re basically the diva of plants.
Angel Wing Begonia
I remember my mother having one of these a child and it grew to over 5 foot with the aid of a few canes eventually. That one disappeared about ten years ago now and ever since I have kept my eye out for one of my own. By chance I was walking through an arcade in Chorlton one day and they had two of these for sale. The woman seemed a wee bit confused at my over animation as I made my purchase, but this begonia has been long awaited! I hope to grow it to a similar height over the next few years. I love the patterns that its pot casts on the hall when the morning sun shine through the window.
Love, love, love these. Although I’m not quite sure where my one thinks it’s going. It seems to be crawling towards a door. We bought this one four years ago, again at Ikea and it hasn’t stopped flowering once since that day. It’s a great plant because you can totally ignore it for weeks on end if you have to and it will just keep on going on with life. I bought a pink one for my mum for mothers day a few years back which is still going strong also actually.
This plant is 17 years old that I know of. I purchased it from a street vendor in Glasgow in my first year of university in 1999 and since then it has moved with me to 8 different addresses in Glasgow, back home to Fife in Scotland many times, down to Manchester and to 8 different addresses down here also. It seems very at home making it’s way round the peripheries of our shower cubicle, in fact at times I have to have a strong word with it as it’s developed a habit of trying to grow round the shower head. Slightly too ‘Day of the Triphids’ for my liking.
Mexican Hat Plant
I purchased this from the back of someones car in a field by the Lake District of England (don’t ask), and it’s the most bizarre little plant. Every time a new leaf appears, it will get covered in tens of tiny heart shaped nodules round the edge which will then fall off in time and sprout new plants. Consequently I have now got in the range of 100 to 150 other Mexican Hat Plants also growing around my upstairs bathroom!
The mother of all giant plants. I am SO excited about this. The man that supplied my ynura aurantiaca, also got his hands on this puppy for me. She will form one of the centre pieces to our MCM garden next year, with leafs that will easily measure two feet in width, she’s already twice the size she was when I received her a month ago. One thing to note about this plant is that if you are buying one to have indoors, it literally slurps water when you feed it. You can actually hear it gulping. Disconcerting when at home alone!
Ficus Microcarpa Ginseng
I have had this plant since 2013, when I was gifted it by colleagues at a job I was leaving. I’d say it’s maybe four times the size it was then. I regularly get quite pissed off at this plant, which entertains my partner no end, as it literally doesn’t matter how much water you give it - it’s NEVER ENOUGH. Literally this thirsty little bugger can make it’s way through 200ml of water in a day without even breaking a sweat. The good thing about it I suppose is that it can also go for weeks of abuse before developing yellow leaves so I guess I’ve no real beef with it. I have aspirations that one day I will grown it to waist height.
And so there we have it people, a snap shot of some of my plants, un-intentionally but perhaps subconsciously purchased, of the MCM style. I can’t wait to get the outside planted up and continue our discussion on that space. This weekend I take delivery of my first banana tree which i'm über excited about. In the meantime I’d love to hear about your plants, and maybe see some cheeky pictures of them also!