A Powerful Passion For Plants
Backyard & Garden Design Ideas|Issue #18.1
Surrounding herself with calming houseplants ensures this green-thumbed apartment-dweller is all smiles
Angela Young
With a collection at last count of more than 150 plants, plus plenty of “babies” currently propagating in water, Rachel Smiles’ Sydney apartment is jungle-esque in its aesthetic, appropriately so for someone who goes by the Instagram handle @LushLittleJungle.

For Rachel, it’s the “instant calming” effect of being surrounded by plants in the home that provides the incentive. “I also feel like they so easily transform a place from a bare and boring space to a unique, beautiful home,” she explains. “I remember when we moved house recently-ish, and as soon as our plants were placed in the apartment, it instantly looked like home even with all the packing boxes. I also love that there’s something new to discover each day, be it a bloom, new growth, or a fresh leaf.”

Having no garden is no problem for Rachel and her partner, who not only fill their rooms with flora, but whatever outside space is available, too.

“My current apartment has an amazing enclosed loggia-style balcony with a westerly outlook,” she says. “It maintains humidity really nicely, too, so it’s ideal for my tropical collection. Plus, the beautiful (mostly indirect) bright light keeps the sun-lovers like my Colocasia, herbs, cacti and succulents happy. The only downside of this space is that the afternoon sun can be a little harsh, so I’m careful to place my plants in such a way to avoid sun burn. I have about 40 or so out there, plus a mini growing wall that I constructed for some of my climbing and shingling aroids.”

Rachel’s a fervent advocate of vining plants for smaller spaces such as hers. “I have some beauties — heart-leaf philodendron, devil’s ivy, Peperomia scandens, Indian rope hoya, lipstick plants, rhipsalis, chain of hearts and satin pothos. They’re spilling off every shelf I own, and grow like little champs. Aroids comprise the majority of my collection, with numerous monsteras, alocasias (I have more than 10 of those) and philodendrons.”

RACHEL’S TOP TIPS

1 Propagating plants to maximise greenery in any space. You can fit little vases and test tubes in the smallest places, plus they’re well suited to lower light spots. This way you can add little touches of green to brighten up a space, like a bedside table, an office desk, or your kitchen bench.

2 Overwatering is one of the top mistakes of new houseplant owners, so make a moisture meter your best friend. You can pick these up from Bunnings for less than $15 and instantly remove the guesswork from watering.

3 If you want to keep some big leafy plants, try putting a bench or two behind your couch to display them. This creates an instant green wall effect, plus it has the added benefit of keeping them out of reach of kids and pets. As an added benefit, clustered plants create humidity through shared transpiration, which will help them thrive. I’ve used two hall tables and an IKEA plant bench to set mine up.

4 Established plants are so much easier to keep alive than small plants. While it can be tempting to try a small plant if you’re worried about keeping one alive, they’re actually much easier to overwater. A large, more mature plant will be a lot more resilient and rewarding.

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