The Great Indoors, Stylist, 20 April 2016

Photography by Anya Holdstock

Photography by Anya Holdstock

All copy as provided to the publication.

Spring has officially sprung, but it’s still not quite warm enough to head out into the garden, cocktail in hand. Stylist discovers how to enjoy the great outdoors from the comfort of your central heating.

The days are getting longer, the sun is getting brighter, and yet it’s still not what you might call warm. All is not lost, because the latest interior design trend is all about bringing the outside in. Pioneered by architects like Frank Lloyd Wright in the mid 20th century, it’s not a new idea, but the current revival for all things mid-century combined increasingly convincing research supporting its benefits make it the latest antidote to our ever-more digital lives. Research shows that houseplants can reduce stress, improve concentration, and even lower blood pressure. “By altering the balance of humidity and air quality, indoor plants not only have a positive affect on our energy and efficiency levels,” says Tor Harrison, founder of botanical studio Toro (toro-studio.com), “They also dramatically lift our spirits.” It takes more than just sticking a spider plant in the corner though, so we asked the experts for some tips.

1.    Hanging gardens

If you’re short on space, hanging plants from the ceiling is a great way to bring greenery into your home without using valuable windowsill, floor or table space. It’s an approach architects Red Deer used for the interior of new London bar and brasserie Bourne & Hollingsworth. "This rainy city needs something a bit softer, greener and more handcrafted – a snippet of nature in our increasingly urban and hyper-connected environments," says architect Ciarán O'Brien. “We took inspiration from abandoned Edwardian greenhouses overflowing with foliage to create an air of romance and ruin.” Tillandsia, or ‘air plants,’ grow without soil or water – hang them in glass baubles or even just from coloured thread. Choose from 700 varieties – from £3.99 at craftyplants.co.uk. Alternatively, Bosske’s Sky Planters (from £14.99, firebox.com) are upside-down plant pots with built-in reservoir systems that enable you to hang plants from the ceiling in confidence.

2.    Terrarium trend

The botanical trend taking the interiors world by storm involves putting tiny plants in striking receptacles. Start by selecting your vessel. Any glass container will do, but if you want to be bang on trend, choose an angular metal-edged form. Give it a clean, and add a layer of pebbles, a layer of activated charcoal (try your local pet shop), and a layer of soil, checking the requirements of any specialist plants like succulents. Dig a hole for each and, having loosened their roots, pop them in. Plant them close together and fill any gaps with moss or pebbles. Give your terrarium a spritz of water and place it in a warm spot out of direct sunlight. You can buy DIY kits from geo-fleur.com from £15, find inspiration on their Instagram feed @geo_fleur, or sign up for a workshop in London to be guided through the process. 

3.    Grow Your Own

Plants are being put to work in the kitchen, where windowsill herb pots are expanding into full-scale indoor kitchen gardens. “The trick is to make sure you’re getting the most from your space,” says Daisy Chubb, founder of interior design studio Living with Daisy. “Go for small plants that deliver high flavour such as chillies, herbs, or spicy salad leaves.” Petersham Nurseries’ Assistant Horticultural Manager, Amanda Brame, agrees: “Many vegetables have intensely-flavoured young ‘micro-leaves’,” she says. “Pea shoots, baby carrots, turnips and radishes all spring to mind.” Arrange them in ‘living walls’ (see below) with minigarden.net’s modular systems (from £39.95), customise IKEA’s Fintorp rails, hooks and cutlery buckets (from £2, ikea.com) to hang them where you need them, or attach spray-painted guttering to a blackboard so you can keep track of which herb is which. Recent design graduate Alicja Patanowska’s Plantation collection (from £19.50, trouva.com) turns domestic glassware into hydroponic planters so you can grow veggies from left-overs like avocado stones, ginger root and potato peelings. Line a whole windowsill for real wow factor.

4.    Living Wall

For the ultimate space-saving, high impact way to bring the outside in, create a vertical garden or ‘living wall.’ Ferns, grasses and ivy all work well to provide instant cover, and if you’re keen on a kitchen garden you’ll be glad to hear that herbs, lettuce and strawberries will thrive too. “Simple living walls can be created by training climbing plants up a trellis,” says Gary Grant, the man behind the UK’s largest living wall (greenroofconsultancy.com). “Most house plants can be used, the issue is matching water and light requirements.” Choosing plants with similar needs appropriate to the space is key, but choose right and almost nowhere is out of bounds – even dark spaces can be fitted with artificial lighting systems. Large-scale vertical gardens should be installed by professionals but for smaller scale installations, modular systems and ‘planting pockets’ are available. The modular Wolly Pocket system (woollypocket.co.uk, from £29.99) is easy to hang yourself and comes with an optional irrigation system.

Top five Instagram accounts to follow for green-fingered inspiration:

·      Gardening coach, photographer, and wannabe urban farmer @gardengirl_la is full of clever ideas for growing food in tiny spaces

·      London’s oldest (and swankiest) garden centre, @cliftonnurseries is worth following for ideas, even if your budget won’t stretch to actual purchases

·      Toronto-based Darryl Cheng of @houseplantjournal shares pictures of (mostly) indoor plants together with tips and tricks for looking after them

·      @plantsofbabylon finds and photographs tiny signs of life in even the most hostile urban environments, proving that plants can flourish anywhere

·      English gardener John Tebbs shares products and stories inspired by the garden @thegardenedit