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Indoor plants green a gardener's world

Indoor plants - Odgers and McClelland Exchange Stores
Indoor plants - Odgers and McClelland Exchange Stores
Indoor plants - Odgers and McClelland Exchange Stores
Haws Traditional Watering Can 4.5 litres, green, $149.95;  Haws Indoor Watering Can 1 litre, burgundy, $149.95; Haws Indoor Watering Can 1 litre, green, $149.95;  Haws Pot Waterer 0.5 litre, galvanised, $79.95; Haws Mist Sprayer, nickel, $59.95; Haws Pot Waterer 0.5 litre, copper, $129.95; Haws Indoor Watering Can 1 litre, copper, $179.95; Haws Mist Sprayer, brass, $59.95; Burgon and Ball RHS Chrysanthemum Design gardening gloves, $38.95; Burgon and Ball Indoor Watering Can 1 litre Chrysanthemum Collection, $39.95; Leather Handle and Carbon Steel Blade Secateurs, $34.95;  Haws Mist Sprayer, copper, $69.95; Burgon and Ball Traditional Trug, Large, $89.95, Medium, $69.95; Burgon and Ball Hand Trowel, $26.95 and Hand Fork, $26.95; Ash Timber Handle and Stainless Steel Blade Secateurs, $46.95; Goat Skin Scratch Protectors, $39.95; Haws Indoor Watering Can 1 litre, Sage, $149.95.
Indoor plants - Odgers and McClelland Exchange Stores
While photographing watering cans from the shop in our neighbour Nicola Worley's north facing sun room, she laughs when I ask her how many house plants she has. We have known each other for 15 years and during that time her indoor and outdoor plant population has propagated.
After a mental walk through the house, Nicola estimates there are about 50 plants in the sunroom, dining and living rooms, library, and bathroom. She and husband Ian have also planted hundreds of trees in their garden and on their sheep property.
Nicola remembers buying her first indoor plant about 20 years ago when she and Ian moved into their first flat in Canberra while studying at university. 
"We had been living in share houses and it was the first time we'd had our own space. It was a miniature rose with red and orange flowers and I kept it on a windowsill. It never looked great and didn't do very well."
It was moving to Nundle and making a family home that fuelled her plant addiction in earnest, starting with potted palms.
"I really liked the Victorian sensibility of big palms in Oriental pots," she says. "Any excuse to buy beautiful pots."
Other plants like Devil's Ivy, and maidenhair and fishbone ferns were added to the house.
"When I first started I would buy indoor plants from large retailers, but I discovered buying locally from craft shops, and farmers markets was more successful. You can talk to other gardeners, ask their advice, the plants are acclimatised, and have a better chance of surviving."
Nicola recommends buying one or two indoor plants that appeal to get a feel for looking after them and go from there.
"Read the label or ask gardeners about the best position for a plant, whether it's direct or indirect sun, or a darker room. You'll soon know whether a plant is happy or not."
She says it's also important to buy potting mix suited to specific plants.
Her own collection combines plants with contrasting leaf shapes, variations of bright and dark green tones, and all sizes. She displays them at different heights, hanging from baskets, placed on planter stands, tables, and shelves, on tiled hearths and a slate floor.
She admits it's not ideal for everyone, for example people with young children or indoor dogs may choose to display their plants to avoid accidents and breakages.
When it comes to maintenance Nicola waters her indoor plants about once a week, collecting water in a bucket in the shower and sharing it around. She also feeds the plants pellet fertiliser every 6-12 months. 
"They are very hardy. I could go away for about two weeks without watering them. Even if they become wilted they usually spring back."
Nicola advocates the benefits of indoor plants from filtering the air to promoting a healthy frame of mind.
"They give me a lot of pleasure, it's very satisfying when something blooms," she says. 
"It's also an introduction to the gardening sub-culture. Gardeners are generous and sensitive, as well as environmentally and socially aware. We're all trying to do our bit to green our world."
Some of Nicola's favourite additions to her indoor plants are easy-care succulents, climbing fig, peace lily, and Dwarf umbrella trees. She's enticed to dip a toe in the water of the world of terrariums, which could spark a whole other collection.

Megan Trousdale
Megan Trousdale

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