Millennials are at the vanguard of today’s trend for indoor greenery. I find my inner twenty-something and join them…
A few months ago I was walking around Florence’s Santo Spirito Sunday market. I ignored the tempting array of artisan stalls boasting handmade olive oil soap, family-produced honey, brightly-coloured ceramic fish and egg cups in the shape of the Duomo. Instead, I was fixated on a small display of weird-looking plants. They hung in the air as if by magic — green leaves sprouting from various sized balls of moss invisibly criss-crossed with string. I asked the price of a small one. Fifteen euros seemed very reasonable for this little alien being and so I handed over the cash and took possession of a Kokedama which I carefully transported home, holding it by its string, as pleased as if I had just bought a lost Caravaggio.
We are surrounded by birds and animals and trees and fields and flowers and — yes — green. We miss it terribly when in Florence
Living two thirds of the year in one of the most beautiful cities in the world sounds — and indeed is — amazing. I married the Anglican vicar of Florence two years ago and we live “above the shop” in a fourth-floor apartment in an early sixteenth-century palazzo. We (mainly I) commute between this Renaissance gem and our country home, a somewhat bohemian farmhouse in an unknown valley in Tuscany called the Casentino. It is, to use a very common phrase here immersa nel verde, often badly translated as “immersed in the green”. You get the idea, I’m sure. We are surrounded by birds and animals and trees and fields and flowers and — yes — green. We miss it terribly when in Florence, which although it has a park and some green spaces here and there, is basically not a particularly nature-filled city.
I have therefore filled the apartment with houseplants. I have searched out ones that can tolerate a lot of shade, because our palazzo is almost within touching distance of the one opposite and although dramatic and oh-so-Italian, it is very dark during the day. To counteract this almost troglodyte existence, we’ve installed a daylight bulb, which is on almost all the time. I have placed the precious plants on those windowsills that get the most light.
In researching how to care for my exotic new arrival, I discovered that I had unwittingly joined a growing movement, (yes, aware of the pun), led by Millennials, which has at its core a powerful passion for the once humble houseplant. This trend appears to have started in the USA, whose indoor plant sales have doubled in the last three years to $1.7 billion according to the National Gardening Association.
There is a huge disconnect between people and nature. No wonder they long for some greenery in their offices and homes.
I was fascinated by this. I remember when I was of Millennial age (roughly between 22 and 37) houseplants were something your parents had, often suspended in some kind of odd macramé holder in the bathroom window. Cheese plants and spider plants were particularly popular as I recall. Oh, and cacti. As a late-twenty/ early-thirty something, I could barely look after myself never mind a collection of houseplants, unless they happened to double up as hangover cures.
I was baffled by this Generation Y behaviour and had to find out more about this yearning for houseplants.
About 90 percent of today’s bright young things spend a mind-boggling 22 hours a day indoors, according to the 2019 Garden Media Trend Report. (And as most of that time is spent in front of screens, it truly does boggle the mind.) There is a huge disconnect between people and nature. No wonder they long for some greenery in their offices and homes.
Millennials are marrying later, renting more and are often not having children until they are older. They may not be allowed a pet in their rental accommodation, or are charged a premium for having a furry or feathered companion. The very human need to nurture and take care of something is transferred to plants. That makes sense too.
Instagram, Pinterest and other vision-led social media glorify simple living in uncluttered space, the glamorous and clean interiors softened by an avalanche of greenery. There are string gardens, bonsai collections, terrariums and living walls to covet and copy. Influencers like NY houseplant-delivery company The Sill have hundreds of thousands of online followers, their constant Millennial anxiety soothed by learning there are plants even the most hapless urban gardener can’t kill.
The Seventies revival and love of all things retro means that macramé is now “a thing” again. I have succumbed to this too and bought an over-priced string holder for the country house, which has reminded me of why I never liked them in the first place as they are hard to water, easy to forget and get in the way when you open windows. Still, I am on trend, which is important and worth whacking my head on a swinging spider plant every now and again.
I place my Kokedama on its hook. I have learned that Kokedama is Japanese for moss ball, that it needs regular plunging, and that it has something to do with propping up bonsai trees. I just like its mad, jaunty look in our smart Florence apartment. It reminds me of Wilson, the character Tom Hanks draws on the basketball in Castaway.
I water my motley crew of green friends, feeling more middle-aged than cool, and my heart goes out to the poor, nature-starved, digitally-addicted Millennials trying to find love, and a modicum of sanity, among the pot plants.