In keeping with his totally surreal and dazzling life, it’s apt that the last person Hilton Carter hugged—aside from his wife—was Food Network icon Rachael Ray. You know, one of those pre-lockdown hugs when you could wrap your arms around someone and really lean into it. Carter was in New York City in early March promoting his book Wild Interiors: Beautiful Plants in Beautiful Spaces on The Rachael Ray Show. The train ride from Baltimore’s Penn Station that early Wednesday morning had been eerily empty, his first real indication that this COVID-19 thing was getting serious, and Ray’s producers informed him when he arrived that there would be no studio audience. So Carter acted as the lone non-staff audience member until Ray called him down for his segment. “What? Is this The Price is Right?” he joked at the time. He and Ray talked about self-watering hacks and using pencil shavings to keep bugs off plants. After the show, he boarded the train back to Baltimore and has only ventured out of Maryland once since.
But Carter—with his familiar scraggly beard, hip hats, and easy-going style— has been doing a lot more than just watering his 250 (give or take) plants these past 11 months. He and his wife, Fiona Vismans, a dentist, bought—and are renovating—their first home, they created a tight-knit pod of friends to survive quarantine, and Carter wrote his third book. “I had nowhere to go,” laughs Carter. “I figured I should spend it making a book—with a few breaks to puzzle.”
Carter and his publishers realized that while many special events were canceled and businesses suffered this past year, plant ownership exploded. Some folks got pandemic puppies, others ended up with a fiddle-leaf fig or philodendron. “For me, it’s a beautiful thing to see,” says Carter—who has almost half a million followers on Instagram. “There was a time when I was the oddball in the group. Now, it’s a normal way of living—bringing the greenery into your space.” Maybe it’s the need to bring the outside in. Maybe it’s the satisfaction of keeping something alive during such a dire time. It’s that, says Carter, and more. “Plants make you step away from the noise and craziness,” he says. That’s one of the ideas behind his new book, out this spring—Wild Creations: Inspiring Projects to Create Plus Plant Care Tips & Styling Ideas for Your Own Wild Interior.
“I think Hilton resonates with so many people because he has a fresh, contemporary take on houseplants,” says Cindy Richards, his publisher with Ryland Peters & Small and CICO Books. “He is different than most dry horticulturalists who will tell you the best plants to grow but don’t tell you how to live and love your plants or how to integrate them into your life. In Hilton’s world, you become a plant parent.”
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