Conservatory Archives on how to freshen up your house plants

Conservatory Archives on how to freshen up your house plants

Conservatory Archives’s co-founder, Giacomo Plazzotta talks you through how to create a home planting scheme that will both suit your space and thrive as you settle in

Giacomo Plazzotta and Jin Ahn are both horticultural heavyweights, but despite their impressive status in green-fingered circles they’re modest, softly spoken and reassuringly easy going. Perhaps that’s why their plant store, Conservatory Archives, is an east London cult-favourite with two shops bursting with unusual greenery in Hackney and Lower Clapton.

Jin studied horticulture, so was perhaps always destined to work with plants, but Giacomo’s story is less orthodox. “I was doing a PHD in mathematics at the time,” he tells us, “but, if truth be told I was bored. I went on to do one year of post-Doc research, but I decided to drop my academic dreams and we opened the business together instead.” That was in 2015 and the rest, so they say, is history.

Moreover, Jin and Giacomo have curated all the planting in our newest residence, The Gessner, lending the building’s shared spaces Conservatory Archives’s signature viridescent aesthetic. What about your own space, though? Handily, Giacomo has taken some time out to share five tips to help you shape the planting in your own home.

1 — Keep an eye on changing trends

“Planting trends have changed a lot over the past few years. Two or three years ago, everyone wanted fig trees. Now, they’re really common. Today, we find that our customers are always looking for something new that hasn’t been used elsewhere. We recommend trying unusual aroids like Philodendron Melanochrysum, which have very large textured leaves with lots of venation.

Experimenting with variegation and colour are huge trends right now

Giacomo Plazzotta

2 — Understand natural light

It’s so important when you start to build a collection of plants that you consider the natural light you have available. It’s not like furniture or art where you can just pick something based on its size or shape. Succulents thrive in well-lit spaces with direct sunlight, whereas alocasias or anthuriums and philodendrons all suit cooler spaces that avoid direct sun. Proteas are good in well-lit bathrooms – they like the humidity.

3 — Choose plants to suit your lifestyle

If you travel a lot, you’ll need to work with plants that do well untended for long periods of time. Cacti and succulents work well in this context. Find a couple of succulents that work well and stick to other plants in the same family. Aloe trees are also low maintenance and add an architectural touch to living spaces. Remember that plants are like pets – you can’t neglect them.

It’s easy to over-water small house plants like these, so when in doubt, leave them

Giacomo Plazzotta

4 — Don’t just think ‘green’

Experimenting with variegation and colour are huge trends, right now. Lots of growers are creating colourful cultivars with plants like aglaonema. New varieties keep popping up with vivid shades of pink or even deep red veins running through the leaves. Right now, I’d recommend the aglaonema Cherry Babies, which has really textured, almost velvety leaves.

5 — Less is always more

If you have a habit of killing your house plants, start with a few easy choices and go from there. Succulents or Zamioculcas plants are good options, as is the Sanseviera or ‘Swiss Cheese’ plant. A little bit of water once a month in summer and just a couple a times a season during winter and they’ll do just fine. It’s easy to over-water small house plants like these, so when in doubt, leave them. Plants are tougher than we often think.

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