Soon after settling in beside the wood stove with Summer Rayne Oakes’ How To Make a Plant Love You and a comforting cup of tea one recent cold Saturday, I had to lay that book right down again – and turn to plants.
She explains up front that this isn’t strictly a gardening book, but more of a relationship book.
It’s a fascinating meander through philosophy, science, history and habitats, a thoughtful exploration of plants’ life-giving, health-promoting qualities and how to nurture our innate human connection to plants.
“Plants are living, breathing beings that when acknowledged and brought more intentionally into our lives, can be monumentally rewarding … Solid, lifelong, and rewarding relationships require a healthy dose of observation, respect, effort, understanding and love.”
Summer Rayne Oakes, an entomologist, environmental scientist and communicator, model, and sustainability-oriented entrepreneur, grew up immersed in nature. Moving to the city, she set out to cultivate her own personal green space – indoors.
Since becoming a city dweller, more than 1000 plants have found their way into her care. To her surprise, when Modern Farmer Newsletter featured her drafty plant-filled Brooklyn loft in 2016, it went viral.
It’s easy for city people to lose touch with nature, so no surprise that she tapped into a deeply felt need. But we’re all inside too much in winter, wherever we live.
Her message that “… caring for plants is about nurturing yourself, by creating the environment that you want to live in” changed my outlook – and propelled me right out of that comfy fireside chair.
I realized that somehow, my indoor plants had become just another job on a way-too-long “to-do” list. Our relationship needed t.l.c. from me, p.d.q..
Next thing I knew, I was in human pretzel mode, squashed inside the greenhouse window over my kitchen sink.
Off with those light-cutting window screens! Wash those dirty windows and dusty leaves! Out with those cobwebs and dead bugs!
I finger-combed the crunchy dead bits out of my Santolina chamaecyparissus topiary, glad to smell something so pungently alive again, carried the ghostly pale rose-scented geranium up from the basement, potted up rosemary sprigs rooted in water, snipped and primped to my heart’s content.
And returned to this inspiring book ever so much happier.
The book’s relationship-building exercises lead readers to look deeper and develop a care-giving mindset. Oakes urges plant shoppers to consider not just what plant you’d like to live with, but what plant would like to live with you.
Considering where and how plants grow in their native habitats helps us choose plants that will be happy in the habitats we provide, whether indoors or out.
A chart suggesting plants adapted to different interior light levels, space constraints and owner attentiveness is a helpful start. Go to her You Tube series, Plant One On Me for the nitty-gritty – and delightful – details.