A Musing: The Unexpected Houseplant


I simply adore Tovah Martin. She first got on my radar from her wonderful books about Tasha Tudor. I then noticed her work as garden editor and writer with Victoria Magazine. She also gave us the definitive book about terrariums! When I saw that she put out a book about houseplants I had to snap it up immediately, as my houseplant situation can use some attention.

I realized that all of my houseplants but for one (that’s the lemon button fern in the photo above! I purchased it to go in that lovely fern frond pot I trashpicked (!) on my walk home from the train. Who’d throw that out!? -Portlandia he hee!) were either gifts or cuttings from friends (which is lovely, don’t get me wrong), and I really hadn’t made actual decisions about what I would want to have in the house, or what would suit the kind of light and temperatures my home has. I also have a cat who is as sweet as can be, but is an Enemy of Houseplants. I was amazed to read that Tovah Martin does too! Her Einstein is what she calls a mauler (he doesn’t eat the plants but like to shred them) and that is exactly how my Woody is.

After reading this book, I now feel prepared to choose some fantastic plants that will work with my particulars. Even though it is a reference, it’s written in a chatty, personable tone and is eminently readable cover to cover. It’s organized by season, and each plant entry within has not only all the important growing information, but Tovah’s (I hope you don’t mind that I use your first name, Tovah! I feel like I sat in your house with a cup of tea after reading your book) actual experience of growing the plant. There is a sidebar for each plant with the Latin and common names, and all of the important highlights such as water, light, soil, and temperature requirements, growth rate, problems, etc. There is also a thorough section on basics at the end.

One of the strongest aspects of the book is the photography. Not only is it gorgeous, but you can envision the size of the plant and what kind of container it can use. I’ve honestly never seen so many beautiful pots and containers in one book! I am going to have my eyes continually open, looking for beauties I can purchase or reclaim for my houseplants. Containers were always an afterthought me, but I now realize after reading this book that they are part and parcel of a beautiful and successful houseplant, and their selection should be taken as seriously as choosing the plant.

I also adore that there is a chapter on Love, Thwarted. These are the plants that have given her heartache! Fussy,  hard to grow, wouldn’t flower no matter what, buggy as all get out, etc. It was so educational to read about her troubleshooting process, and to see when even an expert knows it’s time to move on to another plant type.

If you are ready to take your houseplants to intentional and yes, unexpected (you won’t find entries on the usual suspects such as golden pothos in this book) places, check this book out. I hope you will be as delighted as I am. Tovah, you’re a treasure!

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