Plantings as Living Art: Permanent Botanicals with Live Plants
By Charlee Storner
I believe that every inspired plant artisan digs their shovel into their own soul, and sprays their own nature into their work. As a botanical stylist, I work in partnership with leading design and architectural firms, designing retail, hospitality and corporate interiors for many leading businesses including KV Pharmaceutical, Hyatt Riverfront Hotel and the Sheraton St. Louis City Center.
The environmental benefits of incorporating plants into the workplace are beyond dispute, as live plants improve air quality by removing toxins, minimize dust and help maintain optimal humidity. Plants are installed in buildings because they look beautiful and help to provide a tranquil environment in which to work or relax.
A naturalistic trend—mixing permanent botanicals which are botanically-accurate replica plants made with authentic, dried stems and flowers from natural plant materials or with silk and plastics alongside live plants— is taking root across workplaces. Permanent botanicals do not attract insects, don’t require pesticides and create an allergy-free environment.
Live plants integrated with faux plants offer a creative way to blend artistry, color and style. Integrating live and faux foliage can deliver a look as fresh and alive as it appears in the natural world. Plantings are living art which can touch the soul, lift the spirit and improve the quality of life.
My top five permanent botanical picks that are picking up steam in the integrated plantings world include:
1. Yarrow: According to legend, yarrow (Achillea millefolium) was named after Achilles, the Greek mythical figure who used it to stop the bleeding wounds of his soldiers. Today, the yarrow herb is valued for its abil ity to fight off colds and flu. Plantscaping veterans look to yarrow to complement live plantings in lively arrangements.
2. Moss Balls: Preserved moss balls made of real or artificial moss can add substance and style to a natural décor. These balls are also found as decorative faux moss balls with duckweed and natural twig. These decorative balls can be used simply as an accent in vases or bowls, or as the foundation for one-of-a-kind décor mixed with an assortment of greenery.
3. Reindeer Moss: Preserved or dyed reindeer moss can add a naturalistic finishing touch to potted plants, and is an ideal decorative covering for plants. Reindeer moss assists in drainage for living plants and allows air to reach roots on amaryllis and orchids.
4. Bamboo/Wood: Mixing a bundle of spiral, curly bamboo or bamboo reed stalks can compliment live plantings. Wood textures drive visual appeal, paired with many live plant species.
5. Hydrangea: Permanent reproductions of the hydrangea, a botanical beauty which is a popular and colorful ornamental plant grown for its large flowerhead, adds vibrancy and panache into live planting beds.
The top five live plant species that integrate well with faux foliage include:
1. Succulents: Succulents come in many compelling varieties and offer a cornucopia of colors, shapes, styles and textures that work well with permanent botanicals. Adding gravel, sand and stones to the succulent container allows for drainage and also provides for some styling variations.
2. Selaginella: Selaginella is a genus of plants often referred to as “spike moss,” "fern allies” or as the “resurrection plant” which are found in the wild in Asia. These perennials are grown for their eye-catching, scale-like foliage and are used for edging greenhouse benches, covering pillars, planting in hanging baskets and decorating terrariums. Most of these plants are found wild in tropical America and Asia.
3. Tillandsia: A genus of over 500 species in the Bromeliad family, Tillandsia are found in the wild in forests, mountains, and deserts in Central and South America, Mexico and the southern United States. The Tillandsia genus mixes and matches beautifully with permanent botanicals including hydrangea.
4. Living Mood Moss: Living moss, which is recommended by feng shui masters to help create a space where one feels safe and energized, offers a natural bed that succulents thrive in. The thick moss, which grows in mounds, has a soft look and feel to it, which provides a center stage setting for permanent botanicals.
5. Dragon Tree (Dracaena Marginata Branched): While they are sometimes mistakenly identified as palms, the Dracaena Marginata is a genus of forty species of subtropical, evergreen, woody plants grown for their statuesque form and ornamental foliage.
Interior landscaping design is more than just putting a beautiful plant or tree in a space. Poor plant placement can be wasteful and costly. When you have a location that is not conducive to live plants, replica plants can create organic beauty in even the most difficult locations, such as windowless conference rooms.
This article first appeared in Irrigation and Green Industry Magazine.