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Indoor Green: A Book Review of Life with Plants

Words by
November 22, 2016
Bree Claffey opened Mr Kitly in Melbourne, Australia in 2010 because of her fascination with indoor plants. Years of living in Japan and visits to urban environments like Brooklyn inspired her to create the current shop, which plays the part of gallery and architecture studio as well. Designed for plant lovers like herself, she sells plants, pots and home objects. Indoor Green is a hardcover, glossy paged passion project realised through Claffey’s network of houseplant aficionados around the world that enters into the plant-filled homes and workspaces of creatives all over.
Indoor Green
“This book presents a unique opportunity to explore notions of decor, and to ask deeper questions of how and why we find aesthetic pleasure in plants,” says Claffey in the introduction. “Plants are gorgeous, multifarious, messy and real and can inspire all kinds of action and reflection,” she says.
Their response to how they approach houseplant care? “Look around. If plants look happy, don’t water them. If they don’t look happy, water them.”
Indoor Green certainly doesn’t feel messy: it’s a bright, glowing and carefully curated compendium of interviews, essays and houseplant care tips— a worthy exploration of how to live with plants indoors.

Jewellers, architects, ceramicists, designers and even avid orchid-collectors are all interviewed about their life with plants: from New York City to the heart of Sydney and across the globe to Japan. From just outside of Melbourne, Irene and Peter Selzer run the design studio Iggy and Lou Lou where they create jewellery and homewares. Their home is quilted with vines of green, natural light, and carefully chosen accessories that give it a farmhouse feel in a suburban, seaside setting. Their response to how they approach houseplant care? “Look around. If plants look happy, don’t water them. If they don’t look happy, water them.”
Claffey also interviews Joe Crawford, retired police officer and a lifetime orchid collector. With somewhere around 200-300 orchids among the greenhouses in his home, Crawford has been collecting rare and also native Australian species of orchids since the 60s, when he first attended an orchid show in Melbourne.
At the start of each profile, readers get a brief run-down of the person and plants being portrayed in the following pages. Crawford’s plant list stretches long, but his favourite orchid is the Paphiopedilum. He keeps all of his orchids in greenhouses outdoors and surmises that many people find orchid care difficult because of the conditions of an average home: “We need warm, dry conditions to live in. They like to be warm, moist and airy with plenty of wind around them,” he points out.

Interspersed among the intimate interviews are candid and clever essays from influencers in everything from design to botany. In a quick bit entitled How to grow fresh air by Dr. B.C. Wolverton, the retired NASA scientist, maps out the best plants for filtering the air from pollutants. An accompanying table sheds light on the most common indoor plants and their efficiency in keeping the air clean. While mostly practical in advice, Dr. Wolverton also shares his own experience with an intricate filtering and hydroponic plant growing system involving waste water from his bathroom, plants and goldfish. Perhaps this section merits a Don’t try this at home without supervision warning!

At the end of the book, you’ll find practical plant profiles detailing how to care for ten of the most popular houseplants, from Devil’s Ivy to the Pony Tail Palm, while the last pages include an index of scientific names of indoor plants and general care tips. It’s rewarding to find a book that mixes the practical with the fanciful and Indoor Green does just that, deep diving into a world where green guides daily life.
Indoor Green
Publisher: Thames & Hudson (2015)
Author: Bree Claffey
Language: English
Published in: Australia