Green-fingered guru Alyson Mowat believes in elevating plants into works of art. Her story is a romantic one – tales of cultivation and adventure across the globe in search of her next green inspiration. A celebrator of nature, her first love is plants, but she is adamant that she remains “firmly rooted in the urban jungle of London”.
She trained as a graphic designer and worked in the fashion and jewellery industry for years before discovering her true passion. Now, she has founded her own company – Botanique – which offers a bespoke service to architects, interior designers and businesses.
Alyson is designer-in-residence at The Hospital Club – a private member’s club in Endell Street, London (thehospitalclub.com)
Bringing plants into your home can really change the way you see things.
I live in quite a small flat – typical London living – so I have to be creative because space is limited. There is no need to feel restricted just because your rooms are small or you are high up. Don’t let there be limitations, there is no reason you have to stick with those awful plastic boxes you see in shops. You can be really original, I try and use ceiling space to hang things, also walls or even plaques to mount even more plants, the possibilities are endless.
I have a really close relationship with plants. Being able to watch the seasons pass, the life cycles and flowering gives you a sense of time flowing. Bringing plants into your home can really change the way you see things. I find having growth around me inspiring because it means you are surrounding yourself with life.
Curate your plants and group them together
By considering complementary shapes, textures, pattern and colour – as well as their need for light – I like to group plants together rather than displaying them individually. I collect mid century West German (fat lava) ceramic pots and vases, which come to life when planted.
Choose unusual potting containers to liven up your rooms
Think outside the box when considering what to put your planters in. Old trunks and woven baskets make wonderful containers for root systems or even vintage bags. I love the juxtaposition between concrete and nature and a visit to the conservatory at the Barbican always inspires my interior planting decisions. Another of my plant inspirations is a beautiful store in San Francisco founded by two landscape designers called Paxton Gate (paxtongate.com) it is filled with all kinds of wonderful, curious things. Jonathan Adler also does it beautifully and puts plants in giant bright pots in orange, yellow and blue (jonathanadler.com)
Mount your plants like pictures
Where space is an issue, consider mounting plants such as Staghorn Ferns on walls. For a subtle pop of living colour, decorate bookshelves by dotting surfaces with “air” plants (plants which are rooted in a structure rather than soil).
Replace your curtains with vertical gardens
I’ve replaced the curtains in my living room with draping plants; their stems fall gracefully from hanging terrariums filled with crystals and ivy. The ivy acts as a living curtain – it is an evergreen plant so it doesn’t wilt unless it is too close to a radiator. You can also buy some lovely pouches to create your vertical gardens on your walls (woolypocket.co.uk)
Plants make us happier
Consider using glass terrariums in your space
Terrariums make for exquisite centerpieces – I have a jewelled garden in the middle of my coffee table. They also offer longevity which is another advantage. These intelligent miniature biospheres, when closed, can continue for months, occasionally years without any intervention, so are perfect for travel lovers or busy city dwellers who might forget to water their plants. You can go away or on holiday for weeks and they will still stay fresh. Glass is a great design element for plants, it allows for light and doesn’t feel as heavy as some planters can feel, which can be important for small apartment living. If too much moisture builds, simply slide the lid off and allow some air to flow through the plants until they are dry again then pop it back on and the balance will be restored.
Use stems as well as flowers
Instead of flowers, I opt for leafy cut stems in water-filled glass. It’s a great way to make your space feel fresh and alive. You can also expose the root system and display plants in water, which focuses the eye on the sculptural beauty of the whole plant.
have Go-to plants to decorate your home
The Fiddle Leaf Fig or Ficus Lyrata, makes for a bold addition to your home. Fiddle leaf fig trees have broad, glossy leaves resembling that of fiddles. Figs will reach towards the light and can be manipulated into creating a tropical canopy or arch over a reading nook.
The Staghorn Fern or Genus Platycerium is an amazing one for bathrooms, they love the moisture, and so are similar to orchids in that way. I don’t have a window in my bathroom so every now and then I bring my fern out to get some light.
More plants, cleaner air, happier surroundings
We know from research, that plants make us happier (the smallest engagement with nature delivers a huge psychological boost) help us recharge and purify the air we breathe. As expressive as paintings, and as engaging as antiques, houseplants bring life to every room. For those with botanically bereft homes invest a little time and love in a graceful green roommate and reap the rewards all year around.