Three Unusual Ways to Use Plants Inside
By Kate Dawson
We're all familiar with the office pot plant. Usually a sad, lonely figure, holding off an irresistible tide of grey and beige with only a few bedraggled leaves keeping it clinging desperately to life. It's a relic of older management techniques, which suggested that token effort would keep productivity and morale high among workers.
There's evidence that office plants help worker health, but you should aim for more than the bare minimum. Fortunately, there have been a lot of cool developments in how we use plants. These newer, more human, more awesome uses for plants are about as far removed from that ugly Yucca as you can get.
Use Plants With Character
Instead of the typical, flavourless ferns, leafier palms, and rubber plants − which can do a good job of purifying air but tend to be visually unappealing − why not use plants with a bit of personality to them? Bamboo Palms, English Ivy and the Peace Lily are all quirky, attractive plants, and as an added bonus, they all rank highly on NASA's official study on air purifying plants − yes, that NASA!
African Violets are more typically used about the house, but their bright colours can really transform an office, especially given the difficulty of growing most blooming plants indoors. Instead of just buying a plant and saying, "Sure, that will do," see if you can find plants that suit your character, plants that you can look at and enjoy. After all, that is what you are buying them for.
If you're a management type who doesn't mind people being a little afraid, keeping a Venus Flytrap about the place can give out exactly the right message.
Nothing saps the energy out of a promising new day with quite so much remorseless efficiency as the exterior of a typical workplace. Brutalist architecture, a throbbing architectural hangover from the sixties, has left behind a lot of eyesores. Fortunately, humans are an ingenious bunch, and with every problem, we seem to find a solution that carries a whole heap of incidental benefits.
"Green walls" are a great example of this. Starting from a desire to obscure the ugly facades of industrial, commercial and public buildings with gorgeous greenery, they have since proven their worth in all sorts of unexpected ways. Manmade materials, especially the cheap manmade materials that many modern buildings are made from, are not perfect insulation, and absorb heat like nobodies business. This can lose money over time, and more importantly makes for unhappy people − freezing all winter, sweating all through the summer. Green walls, though, are brilliant at protecting from the heat, and provide a natural layer of insulation from cold weather.
Green walls can be free−standing, in addition to being attached to buildings in the usual way. Use this to your advantage by using "green screens" outside, and professional−looking green walls in internal areas with a lot of free space.
Interior landscaping is what you end up with when you take the simple idea of plants inside a building, and you run with it just as far as you can go. What this means in practice is complicated, beautiful, intricate arrangements of plants throughout your office, rather than just leafy bits here and there.
It requires a combination of interior design, landscaping, and practical gardening expertise, so it is difficult to do it properly yourself, but if it's done right it can look stunning. Instead of simply ordering a few plants in and placing them haphazardly about the place, an interior landscaping service will provide lush vegetation and plan out absolutely everything about the way the finished product will look.
Interior landscaping uses all kinds of things in addition to the humble pot plant. Not only does it make full use of all the kinds of plant which can thrive under office lights, rather than just the most common and obvious choices, good interior landscaping also incorporates little bits of traditional design work here and there, to ensure that the new arrivals fit in. Overkill? Maybe for some situations, but for the right place interior landscaping can work wonders.
Be sure you have the time and ability to take care of your plants. It sounds obvious, but a natural and unsustainable array of plant−life is not automatically superior to a sustainable artificial display.
Got your own tip for the creative use of plants? I'd love to hear it in the comments.
About the author:
Kate Dawson is a freelance journalist who also runs her own office−based business. She blogs for Ambius, an interior landscaping company that is focussed on improving workplace environments through the use of scenting and office plants.