Chic, fun and quick ways to freshen home with plants

Savvy homeowners display plants in refreshing new ways to brighten up small homes

Plants are a fresh and popular way to style and brighten up interiors. But savvy home- owners can do far more than pepper their abode with old-school potted plants.

Fresh greenery that reshapes the small Singapore apartment - or even office desk - is now displayed anew in unconventional containers from sleek glass vials to coffee cups to leather planters.

While the principles of decorating often revolve around picking out choice furniture, colour and lighting, the new- look greenery is fast becoming a desirable home accessory.

Ms Irene Hoofs, founder-owner of lifestyle store Bloesem in Tiong Bahru, says plants are definitely a "big thing" with interior decorators and homeowners who want to bring a little of the outdoors inside.

Ms Hoofs, who also writes an interiors blog that was a precursor to the store here, says: "It's easy to decorate with plants as they go with anything."

Plants are a good decorating option, she adds, especially in a temporary accommodation. "Often, there are strict rules about what cannot be done to the walls, such as drilling holes or painting them a different colour. Put in a plant and it changes the look of the space and you can remove it if you have to."

While the typical option of a "plant in a heavy rounded pot on the table or floor" is a typical look, gardening shops and indie retailers are sprucing up their offerings with quirky and chic pots, containers and presentation.

Many of these products are tailored for small apartments in Singapore, taking into account limited floor space, a lack of exposure to the outdoor elements and homeowners who do not have much of a green thumb, or time, to care for a plant.

For example, Boskke Singapore sells Sky Planters, flipping the concept of a potted plant on its head, with an upside- down planter which saves space. Green Banana, meanwhile, dishes out adorable terrariums filled with hardy plants and succulents.

Mr Darren Neo of Vertical Green, a landscaping company, recently launched Noah Garden Centre, an e-retail shop selling gardening products.

Interesting items include a stackable pot system, which can go up to five tiers. Noteworthy, too, is a Flower Bridge Table that can be hung on a balcony parapet, and integrates a table and planter.

Mr Neo says: "Gardening products have moved on from just being about the plants. Modern homeowners don't want those huge pots decorated with dragons. They want something colourful and striking."

Many retailers are also bringing in - or designing their own - products that suit urbanites who work long hours, travel often and are hardly at home to water the plants.

Ms Cynthea Lam, co-founder at The Wholesome Co, a farm-to-table business which teaches people how to grow an urban garden, has started an additional label called Anything Planter, where she uses everyday objects such as kopitiam cups, rice bowls or colanders to house plants.

As these planters are not big, and the plants she uses do not need much maintenance or sunlight, Ms Lam suggests even using them as desk or table ornaments - if only to have some green indoors.

Ms Lam, who decorates her own HDB flat with many of her own DIY plant creations, including mini pots of herbs, says: "Many people get intimidated by having plants in their home as plants can die fast if they aren't cared for properly."

Plants in "smaller doses" are easier to manage, she thinks. "At least, if people have some green in their work and living spaces, they can get back in touch with nature."

Going beyond aesthetics, many indie retailers sell gardening kits to grow edibles - to cater to the budding home gardeners.

Mr Hedrick Kwan, principal horticulturist and partner at Plant Visionz brought in Woolly Pockets, an American vertical wall planter system, which comes in a hard box container or felt fabric form. Both can easily be hung on the wall by either drilling the container to the wall or tying down the fabric planter to window grilles or any surface where it can hang off.

Mr Kwan makes his own potting mix, and advises clients on what types of vegetables to grow, such as sweet potato leaves, Thai sweet basil and tomatoes. The system costs $150 to install and includes three plants and his potting mix.

He also sells a Sprouter Kit which requires no more than a small part of a table top and a simple dish filled with water. Any edible vegetable seed, as well as pulses, beans and legumes may be sprouted.

Mr Kwan, who started selling Woolly Pockets a year ago, says: "No one wants a system that requires rocket science to figure out how to use. This is a straightforward system which is popular because it takes up little space. It's not messy and homeowners can grow their own food and cook it when they need it."

New homeowners Angie Neo and Lim Jia Hong, both 28, wanted a green spot in their home, even if they are not avid gardeners. The couple, who got married last year, are in the process of moving into their executive condominium unit in Pasir Ris and have installed a three-tier gardening system purchased from Mr Kwan.

The system has been placed on a small portion of their balcony wall, and the couple have been growing sweet basil and sweet potato among others.

Mr Lim, who does marketing for a food company, says: "We don't have a lot of balcony space to fill with big flower pots, so putting our plants on the wall takes up less space.

"It's also pretty convenient for us because we use some of the edibles such as mint leaves to make drinks. It's right here and we don't have to go to the supermarket to get it."

Ms Neo, a photographer, adds: "It's nice to look at too, especially when the plants grow well. We don't get a lot of time to tend to them, so it's great that they just need watering twice a week. We're looking at getting more planters to hang over the balcony rail, since this one has passed our survivor's test."

natashaz@sph.com.sg


TAKE YOUR PICK

ANYTHING PLANTER

What: Inspiration for these quirky planters hit urban farmer and organic chef Cynthea Lam as she was walking around Chinatown and saw these nostalgic kopitiam cups. Each cup is a perfectly sized planter to keep on a small desk and is easy to maintain. Ms Lam makes each one with a variety of plants such as fittonias and pileas. There are three different types of Anything Planters to choose from. Under The Wholesome Co label, which she founded, Ms Lam often has workshops on how to start urban farms.

Price: From $18

Where: Anything Planter, go to naiise.com

TERRARIUMS BY GREEN BANANAS

What: Place these classy terrariums on your desk or dining table to glam up your area. Filled with succulents and cacti, these plants sit pretty in jars and glass containers, above a beautiful sand bed. Green Banana also does bespoke terrariums.

Price: Starts at $35

Where: Green Banana, go to www.facebook.com/greenbanana.net. They are also sold at Tyrwhitt General Company, 150A Tyrwhitt Road, Level 2; Strictly Pastry, 267 Joo Chiat Road; By The Branch, 33 Erskine Road; National Design Centre, 111 Middle Road, 01-05; and Mondays Off, 76 Haji Lane.

CORSICA FLOWER BRIDGE TABLE

What: Noah Garden Centre is a newly launched online retail store, which has gardening products for urbanites. Take their Corsica Flower Bridge Table, which doubles up as a balcony planter and a table, where you can place your drinks or books as you lounge in your balcony.

Other interesting products include the Vertical Garden, where space-starved homeowners can save on floor space, and still have more than one plant, by "stacking" the pots.

Price: $35.90 for the Flower Bridge Table and $14.90 for the Corsica Vertical Garden

Where: Noah Garden Centre, go to www.noahgardencentre.com.sg

BOTANICAIRE AIR DETOXIFIER

What: Botanicaire is an air purifier which can remove dust and odours using a special bacteria known as the Nuvoc Technology, as well as toxic gases which are released from cosmetics, aerosol sprays or paint. Designed in layers, the top part of the detoxifier is a removable cartridge, which can be replaced. The base of the detoxifier can be filled with water and fishes put in to create a small tank.

If you are looking to spruce up your home with something more colourful, check out their Plant-in-a-Bottle series, where plants are grown in colourful, nutrient-rich gel - instead of soil - and placed in bottles and wine glasses.

Price: $198 for Botanicaire and from $15 for the Plant-in-a-Bottle series

Where: In Vitro, go to store.invitro.sg, tel: 6896-6758

LEATHER HANGING PLANTERS

What: Go bold with your choice of pots. Instead of traditional ceramic or plastic options, check out these chic leather planters which can be hung from a hook on the wall. Bloesem, a lifestyle store, also has three other styles of planters, including the macrame planter where pots are tied with pretty rope.

Price: $49 for the leather hanging planters and $59 for the small macrame planter and $89 for the large one

Where: Bloesem, 59 Eng Hoon Street, 01-79, tel: 6689-0146

URBAN FARM SUPPLY BY THE PLANT STORY

What: Urban Farm Supply is a series of eco- friendly guided DIY kits to encourage urbanites to grow their edible garden from seeds. A Seed Sachet comes with instructions on fold-out panels on how to grow green beauties such as sunflowers and tomatoes. The Bio-degradable Seed Pot can be planted directly in the ground or into a larger pot when seeds become seedlings, while the Germination Kits are meant to help newbies grow their own edibles such as broccoli, wheatgrass and alfafa with ease.

Price: $5 for a Seed Sachet or a Bio-degradable Seed Pot and $15 for a Germination Kit

Where: The Plant Story Galleria, 33 Hyderabad Road, 01-01, tel: 9722-0438

LIVING WALL PLANTERS

What: If you are not quite sure about a full-scale vertical garden, why not try out these simple planters? You can choose between a hard container or fabric planter. Both are easily installed. The system comes with a special potting mix, created by Mr Hedrick Kwan, principal horticulturist and partner at Plant Visionz which brought in the system.

Price: $150

Where: Plant Visionz, go to www.facebook.com/plantvisionz or call 9625-3146