As an an unabashed admirer of garden writer Tovah Martin, I am happy to see her star deservedly on the rise. Her work seems to be popping up everywhere, including Martha Stewart Living, Country Gardens, Coastal Home and Yankee magazine.
These days, we’re hearing a lot about her latest book, “The Unexpected Houseplant.” This follows her last effort, “The New Terrarium,” which I also enjoyed. A gardening friend bought me a copy of the houseplant book at the Philadelphia Flower Show and surprised me with it a couple of weeks ago. I couldn’t have been more delighted.
Martin has great taste. She really knows her plants and takes a creative and sophisticated approach to potting and placing them. She emphasizes the importance of plant containers and even the saucers that go under them. (I will admit that sometimes in desperation I will resort to a plastic lid if I don’t have something more decorative. Please don’t tell her.)
The book is divided into the four seasons, and begins with Autumn. I love Autumn and its relaxed, cozy feeling. Autumn is actually the perfect season with which to start the book, because it’s also the beginning of the months that you and your plants will spend living most closely together.
“…there’s a quiet comfort that comes in Autumn,” she writes. “That’s why I’m starting this book in fall, because it really is the beginning of the indoor gardening season. Autumn is all about gathering. It’s the time when all my green buddies are herded indoors. All are safe. All are warm. But even more to the point, all are close.”
Martin provides ample practical advice on the indoor culture of an extensive variety of plants, from carnivorous sarracenia purpurea to oxalis to conifers. Yes, she brings some conifers indoors and they seem to like it there.
It takes me about an hour each week to water all my orchids and other plants, and I don’t have even a fraction of Martin’s collection, which she says numbers in the “hundreds.” I can’t imagine how much time all the watering must take, and how she manages when she is on speaking and book tours.
Kindra Clineff, the talented photographer who shot the images for Martin’s terrarium book is once again featured in “Houseplant.” The staging of each photograph is just gorgeous, and makes for some relaxing gazing before bed.
I have found that many gardeners have a tendency to look down on houseplant culture as being somehow beneath them. I have lived with indoor plants since I acquired my first supermarket “rescue” when I was about 10, and they always added so much to my quality of life.
Martin admits that she is actively seeking houseplant converts, and her message is persuasive.
“I’m hoping you’ll buy into this. I’m doing my best to demonstrate how plants can change your life. It’s radical. It’s the difference between holding nature at arm’s length and embracing it into the heart of your home,” she writes.
“The Unexpected Houseplant” is published by Timber Press.