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Houseplant haven

1 February 2022
Houseplants placed close together on a table

For Summer Louise Hunt, growing an indoor jungle gave her a new lease of life. Words Shannon Hunt Photos Summer Louise Hunt

As Summer Louise checks her cuttings for emerging roots, she glances up at the monkey mask vine (Monstera adansonii) looping its way across her ceiling and smiles. She feels proud of the ‘indoor jungle’ she has created.

It began with pink and green bubble plants (Callisia repens). Summer Louise nurtured these at the home where she and her daughter Violet used to live. When she began a new life in her new flat, Summer Louise began investing more time and energy into her indoor plant propagation hobby.

Summer Louise and daughter Violet with Ellie, the family cat and house plant in background.
Summer Louise and daughter Violet with Ellie, the family cat.

“While leaving proved to be a difficult time,” she explains, “I knew I needed to leave and create a sanctuary somewhere else so I could be the best parent to my Violet. Somewhere stable and secure.”

Focusing on being the best mum she could be and learning how to propagate and grow her indoor plants at the same time, helped Summer Louise cope with the changes to her life.

“I had dreamed of growing a wall of plants in my lounge for a long time, and the move was the perfect time and place for me to start.”

On the day she moved into her new flat, Summer Louise carefully placed her two not-too-happy bubble plants on the sunny kitchen windowsill above the sink, where she would remember to water them and they would get plenty of sun and filtered light.

“A few weeks later I noticed how they had begun to thrive. I realised caring for them was something I had been doing ‘just for me’ in my old house and I knew it was important to keep doing that, so I decided I wanted to grow more plants. I didn’t have spare money to buy any, but I knew I could rely on my friends and family to give me cuttings. I figured all I had to do was learn how to make them grow.”

Taking counsel from green-fingered members of her family and friends, she was soon getting her hands dirty, practising how to cut, strip and place cuttings in water to grow roots.

“Just doing it, making mistakes, starting again, trying new things and taking advice from others who had done it before proved to be the best learning curve for me, and now I’m proud to say I have 50-plus healthy indoor plants growing in my home,” she says. “I’m not stopping there though because any plant I propagate but can’t fit in my flat, I gift to friends and family.”

Summer Louise chats freely and fondly about the growing habits of her plants. Her growing plant family includes a Tradescantia zebrina; a Peperomia caperata ‘Burgundy’; a Philodendron hederaceum ‘Brasil’ she grew from a node cutting; a string of pearls (Curio rowleyanus, syn. Senecio rowleyanus); a string of turtles (Peperomia prostrata); a string of buttons (Crassula perforata); a prayer plant (Calathea); and her aluminium plant (Pilea cadierei).

She is very proud of her big, soft, moisture-loving maidenhair fern (Adiantum) because she knows they are not the easiest plant to keep alive. Along with a snappy little Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) and a pitcher plant (Nepenthes), it thrives in the bathroom alongside her terrarium planted with Fittonia albivenis (nerve plant) – native to the rainforests of South America – and the pretty New Zealand native button fern (Pellaea rotundifolia).

Today, as well as making the most of her ‘green fingers’ and keeping busy her mum-of-a-seven-year-old duties, Summer Louise runs a boutique photography business from home, editing her work in her office, which is a compact, cupboard-sized enclave opposite her ‘living’ wall.

“And when one of my photo shoots needs some live greenery added for effect, I simply choose a plant from my collection,” she smiles.

An arrowhead vine (Syngonium podophyllum) sits in its pretty pot on a wooden stool behind the couch, and her cupid peperomia (Peperomia scandens ‘Variegata’) bounces in its white macramé holder hanging from the ceiling. Her two, now thriving, bubble plants are happy sitting side by side in their new windowsill space.

“Pink bubble plants only turn that gorgeous shade of marshmallow pink when they get enough indirect sun and the right amount of water; the green bubble plant goes a luscious green colour. So I know they are happy in their new home, too.”

Summer Louise agrees wholeheartedly that her passion for growing indoor plants blossomed when she began her new life, in her new home, and is adamant that growing and nurturing her indoor jungle contributes hugely to her general wellbeing and love of life.

“I found that focusing on nurturing my plants, especially if I was feeling sad, helped me to put things in perspective. These days I’m happy that my days are filled with more fun for me and Violet, lots of good people and lots more creativity.”

And while, like most young mums, she dreams of having spare time, Summer Louise does manage to snatch moments to go op-shopping for vases. Her favourite find so far is a test-tube bud vase with two glass beakers that sit on an angle supported by a frame.

“I couldn’t believe my luck when I spotted it. It looks great on my table and it’s my favourite propagating station,” she says.

She loves that her plants are thriving around Violet and the family cat Eloise – Ellie for short. When Summer Louise first began propagating, Violet was a toddler who had just mastered the skill of walking. At every opportunity she could get, Violet would delight in heading straight for the young plants to pick off their leaves.

“Now she loves to help me water and feed them, and I love that. When I come into the lounge in the morning, seeing my jungle of plants puts a smile on my face and with a big, good morning cuddle from Violet and a smooch from Ellie , I’m ready to face the challenges my busy life brings.”

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