Just In Time For Gift Giving – Book Review

The Unexpected Houseplant by Tovah Martin

In the interest of full disclosure, I have, for a couple of decades at least, been a fan of Ms. Martin’s writings. I have a deep respect for her work. Tovah and I have met. She wrote a wonderful article about my garden in Westchester magazine in 2010 (Less Is More by Tovah Martin). So, by no means is this an unbiased review. However, since nobody asked me to write about this book, I had no reason to do so if I didn’t actually like it. I purchased the book because I’ve appreciated Martin’s previous books. Then I went through it. Now I want to shout from the roof top – Go get a hold of this book! It is sumptuous. Pretty and practical, making it a must read. Give a copy to a friend.

Tovah is a lyrical writer. She liberally and cleverly sprinkles Latin names of plants as though that’s how everybody speaks, and sneaks in horticultural wisdom in the guise of anecdotal stories.The reader emerges feeling not only smarter but quite inspired to follow her ideas and suggestions.

The Unexpected Houseplant really is about the unexpected. To dig up something from the garden and bring it in to cheer up the dark winter days might not be novel. But, did it ever occur to you to bring in a clump of euphorbia? That certainly never occurred to me. The very vision of the chartreuse green bracts punching up the winter’s gray is delightful. Similarly, one is encouraged to try other perennials indoors. Just for the season. Using the garden as a sort of horticultural lending library appeals to me enormously.

How best to show the plants off is demonstrated beautifully in the photographs. The right container makes all the difference. Each plant specimen is treated as an individual, and placed in what serves it uniquely. Much artistic thought has gone into this. I’m left feeling a bit envious of Martin’s collection. Yet, I’m sure if I looked around my house, I’m likely to find unexpected, imaginative planters.

With lots of advice and information, this is a good book to learn about enjoying plants in the house. It takes a fresh look on the subject. I’m all set to add to my indoor plant collection and get through the winter with patience, joy and grace.

IMG_7890(c) Shobha Vanchiswar 2013


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