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THE STEM

DracSong-of-Jamaica
DracSong-of-Jamaica

A very low maintenance, long-legged Australian chesnut is looking for a nice home. An XL native of the Canaries is also seeking an attentive companion or flatmate. While Mrs Iceton Croton is desperately looking for someone to dote upon her.

There are a lot of plants out there looking for love and long-term commitment. And a lot of us look for Mr or Mrs Botanically-Right.

Leytonstone-based The Nest, like other companies,  offers a lonely hearts match-making service to help you choose your lifetime Plant Buddy.  A banana plant in a breeze pot could change your life forever. As could a close relationship with a Jungle King.

Folger
Folger

Once , only hypochrondiacs’ houses  and the homes of germ neurotics were filled with weeping figs, ponytail palms, Peace lillies  variegated candelabra cactii and snake plants. But moreo f us are now discovering  that plants are Samaritans.

Our shelves are groaning with large hardy elephant ears and Devil’s ivy.  And we have realized that there should  be at least one fiddle leaf tree and a red-edged dragon tree in the lounge, a pygmy pineapple or two and a Boston fern in the kitchen, an asparagus in the hall and an OTT expensive £90 potted “Croton Petra” somewhere conspicuous , a bird’s nest in the bathroom  and a  macrame hanger to absorb the mould spores and  airborne faecal particles .

Once we have achieved our 10000 steps for the day, written our gratitude diary, crunched it on Peladon and read about Vanessa Feltz’s gastric by-pass  is there a better, healthier or more positive  way to fill in lockdown time than talking to your mother-in-law’s  tongue and bathing your humidfying fronds?

Kalanchoe
Kalanchoe

During COVID, sales of indoor plants have spiked. If you can’t afford a Shengzhen Nongke orchid to cheer yourself up, you can go in for some purposeful decorating by  buying plants to absorb Co2 , lower nasty benzene levels and eliminate the toxin of boredom.  And have them delivered.

Green-spacing our prisons, better appreciating south–facing windows and medium, indirect sunlight has become a national pastime. You don’t need to subscribe to the Journal of Physiological Anthropology to know that interacting with snake plants and indoor pollutant filters is good for you.

For many , low maintenance large leafed philodendron plants like Monstera deliciosa or a hands-off £150 large Draceana Song of Jamaica have  become much-loved members of the lockdown family. In the current crisis, we have grown closer to our indoor plants. Looking after them has become therapy.

PLAMT-HAPPINESS
PLANT-HAPPINESS

Companies like The Nest are a breathe of fresh , clean air which have come into being with an explicit floral well-being focus,  to build up the biodiversity in our home sand help battle Covid and SAD, lower stress hormones and boost your overall  well-being.

It’s all about integrating more wandering dude violets and lace ferns into our  lives through a guided process of Passive Exposure, Active Engagement and Internalization.

Scientists and florists believe once we start paying attention to plant life, and nurturing specific plants over an extended period, benefits accumulate. Some of these effects come from evolved responses, while others are due to changes in thought patterns. It’s a mutually supportive relationship.

Stem1
Stem

Instant benefits of plant care are improved air quality, better respiratory health, a stronger immune system, faster recuperation times, fatigue relief and better concentration.

Living amongst vegetation in a plant-rich environment improves our mental health. So foster active relationship with a polka dot begonia or a dumb cane, lovingly dust you zeylanica, compassionately repot your areca palm And show them some TLC. It’ll make you feel good.

Or , better.

Perhaps the best feel good, mood-busting, night-time oxygenating plant is Flaming Katy , Magic Bells or Dolly. Known otherwise as kalanchoe and available through the Dutch specialists, Always Kalanchoe. Try yellow for positivity, red for an energy boost or soft pink for a moment of calm. Make room for something succulent in your life.

 A £90 Philodendron Xanadu -with the price tag  visible- will do you wonders and enhance your Zoom call confidence dramatically too.

ZZ plants and dried flowers were an unexpected  stop on the career path for the former M&A banker who discovered his purpose during gardening leave and founded The Stem.

James Folger grew up in Dulwich. His mother was a company secretary and his father the director of the Financial Service Authority.

“I worked for 2.5 years at Rothschild doing financial services M&A, and previously at Jefferies for 1.5 years after graduating,” says James who founded  am on-line garden and plant retailer and indoor plant home delivery service while wrestling with City-induced mental health challenges.

“Spending time in nature was an important sanctuary for me and enabled me to rebuild my sense of self. I wanted to start a business that helped others find their own connection with nature by making plants more accessible than ever.

“Travelling into nature allowed me to manage stress and anxiety and put me on a much healthier path. I was moving to a new bank and during my three month gardening leave, ironically decided to start a gardening business and help others to forge their own connection with nature. Since launching about 18 months ago we are quickly growing into one of the leading industry players off the back of our £500k crowdfunding on Crowdcube.”

The Stem launched  uts website at the end of March 2020 on the eve of the pandemic. “At the time it was still a one-man band with me  delivering orders in myelectric van during the day, managing social media, customer service and ordering stock in the evening. Orders grew from close to zero in March 2020 to 2,000 in January 2021.”

The Crowdfunding round made The Stem the 2nd best funded garden retailer start-up at a stroke after Patch. “The UK garden retail market is fragmented between supermarkets, DIY stores, independent garden centre chains and new digital players. Incumbent players lack relevance and appeal to younger consumers. Especially urban ones.”

James offers indoor horticultural furnishing advice. “ It’s got to be a show stopping Parlour Palm in the hallway. The Peace Lily compliment any bedroom interiors scheme. The glossy green leaves are superstars at cleaning the air. The Kentia Palm is perfect for bathrooms and is another great plant for removing pollutants. Golden Pothos is perfect for the living room. I’d recommend an agave for the kitchen.”

Green foliage is calming and having plants around can  improve concentration and productivity too. “I’d always have a Chinese Money plant in the study. They are said to bring prosperity.”

Folger has set up a plant care hub for beginners, slackers and the time-pressed.  He believes that green spaces are good for you even that means have a desk plant like an Aloe Vera or Maidenhair Fern. Interacting with plants is relaxing and many  are excellent air purifiers and foes of VOCS ( Volatile Organic Compounds). He has a soft spot for the Heart-Leaf Philodendron.

But equally low maintenance outdoor potted plants are good for you too. He recommends Red Cordyline and New Zealand Flax (both £35) or a Key Lime Tree (£55) or a Canary Island Date Palm (£65), As well as air-purging gerbera daisies, airborne toxin- gobbling  Broad Lady palms and toluene-eradicating Chinese evergreen bamboo.

Mindful cultivation works.

Dried flowers are also a great way to bring nature inside. Keep them moist and keep yourself composed. If kept n good conditions (good airflow, low humidity, out of sunshine) they can last as long as three years.  Says Folger : “They are another great way to benefit from being close to nature.”

 

www.thestem.co.uk