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Home Front with Cate Burren




Cate Burren of Cambridge’s Angel and Blume Interior Design shares her enthusiasm for incorporating flora of all types into our homes

I am currently rather in love with a giant fiddle leaf fig tree that is sitting in the Colefax shop in Pimlico. Like a splendid work of art, it catches my eye every time I go in there and it is fortunate that it does not seem to be available for purchase as I have neither the cash nor the space in my home to buy a plant that is significantly taller than me and heralds from the heart of Chelsea. However, it is magnificent (and it knows it), as is the beautiful oversized basket that it lives in, and it has single-handedly reminded me of what a great addition to our interiors plants of all descriptions can be.

The first thing I would say, because I can hear the mutterings already, is that if you really aren’t green fingered - I am not, an orchid once died in my car on the way home from the shops - there are some very hardy plants around and, if that is still too much to entertain, there are some fantastic artificial trees, plants and flowers to be had. Artificial no longer means dusty silk roses that can be spotted as fakes at a hundred paces; modern artificial is almost impossible to call until you touch it and even then, you can be fooled. My own personal choice is to have a number of good fake plants and flower arrangements in my home and to also have a few real offerings that can be replaced as and when death occurs.

The trick with real is to know your plants. I would not insult you by offering horticultural advice but getting the right plant in the right place, and looking after it, I am told, will result in almost guaranteed success. I am currently carrying out just such an experiment with a Swiss Cheese plant (purchased from Homebase near the Beehive Centre in case you are wondering) in the front window of the office where there is plenty of indirect light and as I write, the Swiss Cheese is thriving. However, if you pass by and it is gone, please assume that I have moved it into another room, rather than unwittingly murdered it.

Galvanised coated herb planters from Sophie Conran (26178851)
Galvanised coated herb planters from Sophie Conran (26178851)

As important as selecting the plants that will thrive, is finding plants that fit with your interior style. The chances are that the flora you are drawn to will naturally work within your home but it pays to consider what you might want before turning up at the garden centre. If you have a modern feel to your home, you will probably want plants with a more contemporary feel – a snake plant or aloe vera for example. A traditional interior may call for something more in keeping such as lavender, hydrangea, cyclamen or camelia.

There are a few very natural fits in the home where plants are concerned. Citrus trees in conservatories or rooms where there is a lot of glass look very at home, as do herbs in a kitchen where they seem ready to leap into a recipe at a moment’s notice. I also think plants look great near a window that looks onto greenery of some description as they seem to naturally blend with the view, blurring the lines of inside and outside.

How you present your plants or flowers will have a significant effect on how they work within your scheme. Pots and vases come in endless shapes and sizes and making sure their look fits with the plant is as important as how they work in an interior space. Try to be creative with your container, thinking about both the plant and the surroundings it will be in. Remember that if you go for something non water- or soil-proof such as a basket, a plastic pot inside the container is the key. In fact it is often better as it makes watering easier. Remember in addition to look at the scale of the container relative to the plant - an over or undersized pot, basket or other will look odd, so try to get a balance between the two.

While we are on the subject of size, the overall height and width of your plant and pot needs to work with the space that it is in. An oversized plant can look fantastic (particularly in a large posh shop) but the minute it is even vaguely crammed into a space, it will look odd. Similarly a very small plant and pot probably needs to be arranged with other things (books, photos, lamps, other plants) so that it doesn’t get lost. If it is going to work on its own, it will probably need a windowsill or other smaller space so there is something around it.

Grouping plants together can work well but such an arrangement does quite quickly create a small jungle feel, so I think it is better to try to find the right size plant for the space in question unless there is a good reason to do otherwise - a collection of herbs for example.

I haven’t intentionally avoided the subject of cut flowers here – my love of the big fig tree has only very temporarily distracted me – as I think flowers in a home are wonderful and actually, similar rules apply. Artificial are now very good and it is great for both your time and wallet to invest in some good artificial and treat yourself to fresh when you can. I would also suggest sticking mainly to your style rules about modern or traditional blooms and having a collection of vases that work with your interior. Scent from cut flowers is one of the most delicious aromas in a home, so find what works for you and place your blooms in a location where you will enjoy them most.

So as we edge into spring and outside spaces come to life, think about bringing a bit of that green growth into your homes; it really will add a fresh new feel to your interior spaces.

* See angelandblume.com for more.

Fresh herb plants in a kitchen are attractive and useful. Galvanised coated herb planters from Sophie Conran - see sophieconran.com

Galvanised coated herb planters from Sophie Conran (26178852)
Galvanised coated herb planters from Sophie Conran (26178852)

Plants of similar variety look great in the same style of planters. Concrete planters from Cox and Cox - see coxandcox.co.uk

Concrete planters from Cox and Cox - see coxandcox.co.uk (26179240)
Concrete planters from Cox and Cox - see coxandcox.co.uk (26179240)


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