THE LATE ZAHA HADID ONCE SAID, “For many years, I hated nature. As a student, I refused to put a plant anywhere– a living plant, that is. Dead plants were OK.” Towards the end of her life, it seems the visionary and starchitect seemed to come to terms with nature, planning awe-inspiring projects that were not only integrated, but dependent on their natural surroundings. But we get it. Keeping plants alive is hard. Good thing we now have The Sill to save us from our horticulture disasters. Founded with the mission “to inspire people to bring more of the outdoors,” The Sill, quietly tucked away on the outskirts of Chinatown is single-handedly making cultivating urban flora the “It” hobby of 2017 from hosting horticulture pizza parties to outfitting the chicest spaces in the city. Below, founder Eliza Blank talks first-timer plants, which seedlings thrive off of neglect and why Fiddle Leaf Fig Trees are so 2016.
Photos by Sasha Israel
You’ve pioneered making houseplants chic for the millennial crowd. What’s the best advice in to give someone with NO green thumb whatsoever?
Don’t give up! Everyone kills a plant here or there, even with the best intentions. Look at it as a learning experience. My number one tip is to choose the right plant carefully. For example, if your space is super sunny (like on a south facing windowsill), choose a cactus. If you have a dark spot, like a bathroom, try a snake plant. Take the time to get to know your plant. You and it, will be very happy you did.
How can incorporating plants and greenery into an indoor space be beneficial to your health?
Plants are a simple and sustainable solution for improving indoor air quality. They don’t just look good. They make us feel good. Americans spend over 90% of their time indoors, and indoor air, especially in the office and in apartment buildings, can contain nearly 10x more pollution than outdoor air. Think toxic emissions from synthetic building materials, airborne mold, viruses, and pollutants, along with energy efficient construction that reduces the circulation of air. It’s no surprise that poor indoor air quality can directly contribute to poor mental and physical health.
Yuck! What can plants do to improve the quality of air?
Plants naturally clean your air of toxins and chemicals and consequently improve your overall well-being. In addition to naturally filtering indoor air, the presence of indoors plants has been shown to boost morale, productivity, concentration, and creativity. They also reduce stress, fatigue, sore throats and colds. Wow, right!?
The Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree was certainly the tree of 2016. What do you predict the “It” plant of 2017 will be?
We’re definitely seeing the Ficus lyrata maintain its popularity, but people are craving more easy-care options, too. The Sansevieria, or snake plant, is awesome because it’s super easy to care for. It practically thrives off neglect and can tolerate low light and lack of water. It’s also praised by NASA for filtering toxins like benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene and toluene.
What are the top three low-light plants that you recommend for a dark NYC apartment?
Snake Plant, ZZ Plant, Pothos. All three are super hardy and can tolerate low light.
What is the biggest mistake people make when taking care of indoor plants?
Overwatering! Remember that it’s easier to add water than to remove it.
If you want to spruce up a simple apartment, what would be your table or sill plant of choice to add a little green to an apartment?
Try a trailing plant like a Pothos or Philodendron. Both are super low-maintenance and quick growers. They’re also easy to propagate. Your apartment will have jungle vibes in no time.
What’s a chicer alternative to sending flowers as a gift?
A potted plant, of course. Even more thoughtful if you know the recipient’s space and can choose the perfect plant for them accordingly.
When it comes to your approach to diet and wellness, how would you describe your philosophy?
I typically try to make good choices when they’re available and choose not to stress over the moments when they’re not. If I’m grabbing lunch on my own, I’ll be sure to have a healthy salad so that when I’m out with friends, I don’t worry about indulging. If and when I have time to fit it in, I take a morning yoga class. And if I only make it once in the week, that’s cool too. I’m mostly concerned with getting more sleep!
Can you take us through a day of meals/snacks/workouts from wake to bedtime?
I always have a full breakfast (eggs, toast, coffee) – because a lot of the time it will be the only meal that fuels me until dinner. If I’m by the shop, I’ll go to Stanley’s Pharmacy to grab a quick smoothie. Otherwise, snacks are usually KIND bars or Justin’s Peanut Butter packs. I try and stash them everywhere. Dinner can be anything from a dinner out (I love Sushi and Italian), to cereal on the couch. As for exercise, I usually take one yoga class a week – and otherwise, I’m walking a ton. This past Tuesday I walked 6.5 miles – in heels no less!
What is your favorite way to detox whether it’s from overworking or overindulging?
Sleep and kale.