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Let the right green in

  • Published at 01:03 pm January 9th, 2021
Photo: Vadim Kaipov

Creating an indoor garden nook

“Might I,” quavered Mary, “might I have a bit of earth?”

“Earth!” he repeated. “What do you mean?” “To plant seeds in — to make things grow — to see them come alive,” Mary faltered — Frances H. Burnett, The Secret Garden

Among the many epiphanies and realizations during the pandemic, one has been that of the privilege of residing abroad. Certainly, it has its own share of difficulties but the biggest boon to me right now appears to be just the ability to pop into the nearest chunk of green space for some fresh air. The same unfortunately is not true for the bulk of those living in the urban areas in Bangladesh. When I see my family confined within concrete walls in Dhaka for days on end, I know the same stifling feeling exists across the board. The maze of concrete is not likely to be untangled any time soon; neither will new public green spaces pop-up. We can however make little efforts to bring the green within our own walls instead. The idea is to create a dedicated indoor garden nook in the house. 

Yes, it is commonplace to have plants in the balcony but let’s be honest— most of those has been hogged for drying clothes.The idea of having clothes hanging over our heads or fending off mosquitoes is not exactly appealing. That is why bringing the plants inside the rooms can help us impose blobs of green that are more visible and accessible. The way it works is simply by clustering plants into a specific space, usually by a window, which can double as a lounging corner. This way we can fabricate a wedge of nature indoors that mirrors an opening to the outside world. Bordering out a section of the house also means we multiply space for ourselves. Itnot only offers that welcome respite we crave but this dose of nature can also spill into our mental health. Indoor gardening isnot a novel concept by any stretch.The practice of creating a reserved corner however appears scant, while is fun to dabble with. Should you decide to give it a go hereare few ideas on creating such a nook— within budget and doable even in tiny spaces. 

Start with the basics: Plants

Residing in a tropical country means we are spoilt for choices when it comes to plants. Around the globe succulents are quite on trend due to being easy for beginners to care for.For a softer touch and utilising elevated spaces vines of trailing plants like Pothos, or as we call it “money plants”, philodendrons etc. are good choices.Plants like aloe vera, snake plant, and rubber plant also serve as air-purifiers, which in Dhaka we can definitely use more of. You can go one step further with minimal food-growing efforts by growing herbs and microgreens. The nutrient-dense vegetation called microgreens are unbelievably easy to grow in some old Tupperware using pantry basics like coriander and mustard seeds.Foreign plants may sound elegant but don’t snub the local varieties; in-fact those are the ones which would thrive better. 

Jazz it up

As you grow more confident on keeping the plants alive,you can try out personalising the space with some accessories. Again, ample choices here but I am partial to local and ethnic varieties. Ornate terracotta with traditional motifs or ceramic planters are the go-to choices. (Let’s avoid plastic, please). A couple of metallic (brass) ones will add texture. You can crowd some in a wicker basket that addsa dash of boho chic.With the 2nd tier/decorative-planter you can go creative and turn almost anything into one as long as drainage is not compromised. For the vines, you can opt for macramé or jute plant hangers on earthy and warm tones. This whole section can make for your weekend DIY. 

In-terms of layout— pick a window that gets good amount of light through.Bonus if it has a good view as you can blend the green with the exterior creating the illusion of a larger space.Lace the smaller greens on the windowsill, arrange the medium and larger pots on the floor, and hang few vines on the window sides. You can repurpose some old furniture or containers as plant stands to create additional layers.Mix and match the sizes of plants, type of foliage, and colour of leaves so the space gives off a natural warmth. Wandering Jews have strokes of purple on the leaves that create a beautiful contrast against the usual green hues. Keep curtain fabric light with muted shades to amplify the effect of the green and the sky it opens upto. 

Make it homey

The space is not just for visual but can also make for a cosy lounge. I was sold just at the thought of enjoying my weekend cuppa peacefully around lush greens while sun-rays hit the room. To set the lounge, place a traditional pati with some comfy cushions, throws or kantha. No, patis are not a passé. I know I cannot wait to get my hands on one to bring with me. You can add simple furniture like pouffes, ottomans or cushioned chairs. Preferable is to have ones with soft materials and monochrome hues,so the focus isn’t taken off the greens. If you are into yoga or meditation, you know where to put the mat. 

The above are just some ideas to play around with. Bottom-line is to create a corner that speaks to us; where we can breathe and just be. Maintaining such a space can be inexpensive and profoundly rewarding. Yet, it is not entirely undemanding. Certain plants can be quite mercurial (hint: ferns) and you can easily over dote on them. Neither is indoor gardening a one-off practice; getting plants and failing to care for them defeats the purpose. You may also end up on a rabbit hole where you just want to keep on buying more plants. Yes, guilty. These are just some aspects to be mindful of and should by no means discourage you. For all its effects on our mental health especially during the lockdown and for exuding a sense of tranquillity, creating an indoor garden nook certainly makes for a worthy endeavour. Beyond that, to some of us, the connect to the mute pets that are these plants is just as meaningful as is to any sentient being. Fashioning such a corner then becomes just another excuse to hit the garden centre. Whatever your reason be, here’s hoping you get to flex your green thumb. 

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