I have a client with a vision that defies description. Her vision well may be, is no doubt, visionary. I have a history with her that spans quite a few years, but I am never ready for what might come next with her. I have seen her collect the most amazing and esoteric objects-for both inside and out-and gone on to see her put it all together in a way that never crossed my mind. A few years ago she had the idea to roof a rear terrace. I was not prepared for a steel structure painted orange, and a dichroic glass roof. As I have since learned, dichroic glass is layered with metal oxides. Thus the sparkles that make for a little shade. Dichroic glass-very reflective. The roof, in no way symmetrical, in no way expected.
It did not take long for her to have the idea to enclose the terrace with a roof space with glass walls. A conservatory, if you please. The upshot-a conservatory of the most un-conservatory sort you can imagine. New this winter-integral planter boxes made of marble. A very visually active and sassy marble. I went shopping for the plants. Whenever anyone says home greenhouse to me, I cringe. A working greenhouse is just that-lots and lots of work. Professionals manage this with a steely dedication. Most home greenhouses I have seen are neglected affairs. The remains of holiday pointsettias stashed under the bench. Struggling tropical plants. I would not recommend them to a home enthusiast, unless they promise to live in that space. Places you live in have a whole different feeling than places you visit. My basement is a good example. This conservatory space-a space in which to live.
The orange steel structure, and the marble floor-what plants would I choose? The dichroic glass makes for more shade than you would think. A collection of black and silver alocasias-Black Velvet, Silver Arrow, and the very rare Alocasia Tigrina Superba seemed like a good idea. They are a supporting cast to a particularly beautiful sanseveria-Bantel’s Sensation. Sensational, indeed. Grey, green and black-much like the marble, and the cast iron fireplace.
A fabulous purple glazed sea urchin shaped pot from my client looks all the better for a planting of Selaginella “Ruby Red”. Please note, It was not so easy to choose a plant for this partcular container. I have planted no end of green and lime selaginellas in pots-this variety is new to me. I am falling for it-hard. Little pots demand little growing plants. Some horticultural relationships are about the idea of an equality of contributon. As growing things never are at rest, a sensible start-little for little- makes for a reasonable approximation of equilibrium. This is a fancy way of saying, match your plants to their environment, and watch what will come of it.
My clients lives in the space-any chance they get. This entirely accounts for how compelling and lively a living space it is. She has created an environment that is warm, provocative, and compelling. I have been here to dinner on occasion-the room, the food, the music, and the conversation-magical. Even with the winter light, there is a sense of life that makes for liftoff. Some of the most interesting conversations I have ever had happened in this room. Make of this what you will.
A second, and larger glazed sea urchin pot-I planted it solid with Escheveria Shaviana. Is this not a a happy relationship? The color relationships and similar textures-very happy. How do gardeners shop for plants? For the flowers? For the habit of the plant? For the hardiness? The designer in me shops for the visual relationships. My background in the science of horticulture saves me from foolish choices most of the time-but not all of the time.
Tillandsia Xerographica is a plant I had never seen before. They are strikingly silver grey. Before trying to plant this extraordinary space, I would not have given them a moment’s notice. This space-they belong. Tillandsias are bromeliads. They are commonly referred to as air plants. A plant you can lay on the table, which will thrive with a generous misting twice a week-astonishing.