Q&A with Houseplanthouse - Dr Laura Jenkins
Back in March 2018 Laura contacted us via Instagam and asked us would we like to be involved in a Q&A on her website www.houseplanthouse.com, and we were thrilled! Laura and her Instagram account @_houseplanthouse/ have been a massive part of the online plant community in the UK and have inspired us from day one with her plant collection, styling and care tips. We thought the time was right to do our own Q&A with Laura and find out about how her love for plants began....
Hi Laura, first tell us how you became interested in plants?
I have always enjoyed being around plants and my first interests developed when I was quite young at my grandparents house. I spent a lot of time there growing up and remember sitting on a stool in the greenhouse as my grandpa would show me all the things he was growing; tomatoes were his speciality in there, and runner beans and sweet peas in the garden. He also had an allotment and I remember picking potatoes and being wheeled about in a wheelbarrow! In their house were quite a few houseplants too, there’s a photo of me surrounded by spider plants, I’ll see if I can find it. When I was a teenager I had an allotment patch of my own in a site that worked with ex-offenders. It was a vibrant community space and I loved it, my grandpa would also come and help and bring a flask of tea! Fast forward a few years and I moved apartments and had a bit more space. At the time I was knee deep in PhD studies and found that my houseplants (of which I had a few, maybe around 20 at this time) were a massively helpful way to allow me find a different headspace and relax. I have got back into greenhouse vegetable growing too and have a balcony garden, so like the variety of things I can grow throughout the year.
Do you remember the first plant you bought?
Hmmm, I don’t think so, I’ve always had spider plants, but I do remember that pivotal moment when I bought my first monstera for my apartment… I still have it and it’s probably my favourite. I drove it home in the passenger seat and was so happy! Some of the first plants I got were the standard houseplant gang; yucca, crassula, syngonium, sanseveria
(and they are all still in my collection!)
How big is your plant collection at home and do you have a favourite?
I’ve been trying not to count… but it’s around 200 at the moment. It’s slightly ridiculous I
know. Things have got pretty full at home now as my plants have obviously grown over the
last few years and the last round of repotting I did over summer took a long time! As I was
saying above, I think my big monstera is one of my favourites, mainly because I grew it from a pretty small plant. But other ones that are special to me are ones with special connections - I am very attached to my grandparents old aspidistra that I have a clump of, and ones I have swapped with friends.
Do you have any advice for somebody new to plants and plant care?
I think it starts with the basics; getting to grips with light first. Think about your space, what orientation are your windows? Are the plants you have well suited to the spaces they are in? Really take time to consider this and it will honestly make your plant care experience so much more rewarding. It’s no fun trying to grow cacti on a dark shelf! Thinking about the natural habitats of the plants make this task easier too. Then, watering… overwatering is definitely the main cause of plant death! So get a good plant care book such as DG Hessayon’s ‘The House Plant Expert’ (my favourite) and have a read. Look online for plant care guidance and see how other people are growing theirs. Oh, and get yourself a golden pothos, they are a great beginner plants!
Tell us about your plant success stories?
Aside from my beloved monstera, my spider plant I had as a tiny cutting off a friend is absolutely ginormous and produced so many babies! I have a bit of an excessive collection of trailing plants because when I started making macrame plant hangers, I wanted everything to trail down! So my marble queen pothos, and philodendron brasil are pretty epic now.
So mentioned earlier about making sure the plants are happy in the space they are in… a few years ago I had stubbornly decided I wanted to hang my string of pearls in my west facing living room, high up on my curtain pole. It was definitely not getting enough light and did not survive at all!
Whilst I love a lot of tropical plants, I try to be a bit mindful about what would actually be
happy in my home. My apartment is old and I collect mid century furniture and both of these factors mean that I can’t use a humidifier without getting mould on the walls or on my lovely teak pieces. That is not something I want to be battling with! I really love aroids and there are so many philodendrons that I am lusting over right now. And a rhaphidophora tetrasperma. I can’t believe I haven’t got one yet!
Finally, what are you future goals within the plant community?
I think the plant community is growing and evolving in a really exciting way. I have been
writing my houseplant website for over two years now ( houseplanthouse.com ) and have had some great opportunities come from this. I love working with plants in any capacity so more of the same is in store for the future I think; I really like the mixture of writing, photographing, educating, selling, growing, and sharing the enjoyment that having a plant collection can bring!