Four translucent filaments dangling in a test tube of water signal my successful plant-rooting experiment. Inspired by “Rooted in Design: Sprout Home’s Guide to Creative Indoor Planting,” by Tara Heibel and Tassy de Give, I snipped sedum and echeveria from sidewalk gardens to grow on my kitchen wall. It’s one of many ingenious ideas the authors suggest for creating a calm connection to nature within the home. And now, I feel like the parent of a newborn, checking the water daily to look for roots. Eventually, the propagated babies will be sturdy enough to plant in soil.
Greening an urban space can include plants grown on walls, ledges, the floor, in the air, and in the kitchen. The book suggests plants that are low-care or high-maintenance, for appearance, cuisine or medicine. Decorating styles range from industrial, midcentury modern, naturalist to neoclassical.
Heibel and de Give own Sprout Home, the successful home boutique with stores in Chicago and Brooklyn. Their strength lies in showing the reader how to use plants to create contemporary interior design. No dusty ficus here, or motley ladder fern, or spindly rubber plant. Instead: repetition, invention and novelty. Use the ubiquitous spider plant, say Heibel and de Give, but let it tumble from multiple monochromatic containers against a plain wall for a stark pattern of stripes and tangles. Repurpose nine glass meter boxes into terrariums as an art installation. Refresh the hippie craft of macramé in a hanging garden made from sleek white cord.
A handy guide matches plant types to gardener’s lifestyle. If you are a “design geek” in possession of an Eames chair and lots of bright light, but you only want to water once a week, choose an air plant such as Tillandsia. If you are a “serial planter” who loves “Little Shop of Horrors” and likes to hand-feed your plants, a Venus flytrap or pitcher plant may suit.
The book is well designed with plenty of white space. It has clear instructions on light, soil, potting, feeding, pruning, pests and troubleshooting. The photographs and styling make the design ideas so beguiling, it’s hard to choose what to make next. Perhaps a kokedama, a plant wrapped with soil and moss, then suspended from colorful yarn, or maybe marimo, spheres of algae floating in water like balls of bright green mozzarella. (Toni Nealie)
“Rooted in Design”
by Tara Heibel and Tassy de Give
Ten Speed Press, 218 pages, $25
Ben Schulman is the editor of the design section of Newcity and co-host of “A Lot You Got to Holler,” the Newcity podcast on design, architecture and urbanism. His work with Newcity is one of many ventures he engages in to communicate the value of design and cities. Ben serves as the communications director for Small Change, a real estate crowdfunding platform that works to catalyze the development of transformative real estate projects. Previously, he was the communications director for the Chicago chapter of The American Institute of Architects, editor of Chicago Architect magazine and communications director for the urban think-tank, the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU). His writing has appeared and been noted in outlets such as ARCHITECT Magazine, Belt Magazine, ICON, New Geography, Streetsblog, The National Review, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pop City Media and as a contributor to The Urbanophile, among others. When not writing about cities, Ben serves as an editorial assistant for the journal New Media + Society, and helps head the Contraphonic Sound Series, an attempt to document cities through sound.
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