Header image credit: Anne Batchelor
A stunning collection of botanical illustrations by the talented Edith Rewa Barrett (head here to read our latest interview with her), comprehensive plant profiles and a healthy sprinkling of leafy oddities, Leaf Supply’s brand-new Plantopedia is a treasure trove of knowledge fit for for every kind of plant lover and green thumb.
We met with the incredibly clever ladies behind the book, Leaf Supply’s Lauren Camilleri and Sophia Kaplan to find out how it all came to life, the fascinating plant gems they uncovered, and which fronds they fell in love with along the way.
Let’s take it all the way back to the beginning. How did the concept for Plantopedia first come about?
At the launch party for our second book Indoor Jungle, our publisher, Paul, casually asked, ‘So book number three – shall we?’.
So, back to the drawing board we went! Our publisher loved the idea of a modern plant encyclopedia, a concept that’s evocative of the thrill of learning about the world like a child – a feeling we wanted to emulate for our readers (anyone else remember Encarta by Microsoft?!).
This time, we wanted to dive a little deeper and include a look at the complex history of houseplants, plus a more detailed understanding of the scientific side of things – including the study of taxonomy.
A significant undertaking! What did you find most challenging about the project? And what did you enjoy the most?
Probably the biggest challenge with this book was the scale of the project. Coming it at over 400 pages, the research and writing was definitely a much bigger task than the previous books! We definitely learned a lot ourselves through the process.
Shooting is always the most enjoyable part of creating the books. For this book we worked with the lovely and talented photographer Jacqui Turk who captured the detail and personality of the plants so beautifully, and didn’t flinch shooting in 40+ degree heat in the greenhouses. Her shots of the carnivorous plants in The Calyx at The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney are some of our all time favourites!
You’ve been in the plant game for a while, but did you come across any new (to you) or unusual varieties during your research?
There are so many weird and wonderful plants out there, and we definitely discovered some we’d never seen before shooting the book. Always exciting for us plant nerds!
The chain of hearts (Ceropegia woodii) is a common indoor plant but its cousins the string of needles (Ceropegia linearis) and the curiously-named condom plant (Ceropegia ampliata) were both new to us.
The condom plant we stumbled upon in the greenhouse of one of our growers, and had to include in the book for it’s incredible flowers; and the delicate and textural string of needles is a beautiful and easy care succulent, one of which has since made a happy home at Lauren’s place!
There’s also a couple of rarer plant gems in the book – can you introduce us to your favourites?
It’s safe to say that variegated plants are having a real moment, and some of the special plants we feature in the book are revered for their spectacular leaf patterning.
While varieties of arrowhead vine (Syngonium) abound, the cultivar Syngonium podophyllum ‘albo variegata’ is a very special plant indeed. The cream and mottled green arrow-shaped leaves are a sight to behold, and even better, this beauty is just as easy to care for as its more common relatives! Junior specimens sit happily upright in pots, and as they mature into a vine they look great staked or trained up walls using little hooks.
We love a Monstera as much as the next person, but there’s something about the leaves of the variegated Swiss cheese plants that has us (and everyone else) swooning. They need more bright indirect light than their all green counterparts and higher humidity, but they’re well worth the extra effort. Keep the pot simple to allow this monstera to shine.
Summer is now well and truly here – what should we be tweaking in our indoor plant care routine before the festive season kicks off?
As things heat up, you’ll notice your plants pushing out lots of new leaves and in some cases, flowers. All this energy requires nutrients, of which there is only a finite amount in indoor potting mix, so be sure to fertilise your plants during the growing season. An organic liquid fertiliser specifically designed for indoor plants is best – we generally err on the side of caution, and dilute even more than the instructions given on the label. Check your plant’s specific care requirements for how regularly it needs a nutrient top-up.
As the weather warms, your potting mix will also dry out more rapidly, so check in on your plant more regularly by dipping your fingers in the soil, and adjust your watering schedule accordingly.
If you run into any issues or have a specific question about your indoor jungle’s summer care routine, check in with your local nursery and ask the experts.
Plantopedia: The Definitive Guide to House Plants by Lauren Camilleri and Sophia Kaplan of Leaf Supply
Smith Street Books, $59.99
Available via smithstreetbooks.com