Suzy's Sanctuary | Interview with a Houseplant Enthusiast | February 2018 | Our Green Sanctuary Blog |

I met Suzy through a Facebook group called Houseplant Addicts. An amazing and helpful group of houseplant enthusiasts who share pictures, advice & their love for plants. Suzy shared a photo of her amazing indoor garden atrium and I was hooked. I'm a huge fan of indoor plants with almost 50 of my own so I had to know how Suzy had created her indoor oasis. Lucky for me, I got to chat with Suzy about her love for houseplants and the inspiration behind this beautiful sanctuary garden.

This is Suzy’s Sanctuary:  

This photo is dated October 2017. 

I’m sure you would agree, this indoor jungle is a sanctuary we could all enjoy!

Suzy’s Sanctuary started back in 2014 when she purchased this property in Victoria. The atrium already existed, with a few tree ferns, plenty of rocks and the pond. For Suzy, this space was a beautiful blank canvas that she envisaged creating something awesome with.

Your garden looks like such a joy to spend time in, what got you into plants? 

I always liked gardening, learning different plant species and watching them change shape. I have been a collector of plants since I was 6 years old. I like to be creative, and plants were the easiest things to get into.  

I admire nature rather than people. People don’t excite me the way plants do. They are colourful, different, some are edible and some are not.  The good thing about plants is they don’t back chat!! All my plants are my babies (as I call them).  I talk to them and it’s like they seem to smile at me when I see them, they show me they are happy and healthy.

You’ve built a tropical oasis inside your home, what inspired you to create this garden? 

I had this huge space but it was boring to watch and look at, it lacked interest.  The entire space had about 5 ferns and just a lot of stones.  The best part was, the structure was all there with the ponds and walkways.  I bought the house in April 2014 and since I moved in, I  have built this area into what you see today. I have added heaps of ferns and plants that like bright natural light and can withstand colder days as well. I mainly have shade loving plants likes of Dicksonia Antartica which is quite huge now, few different varieties of palms, spider plants around the ponds, lots of different types of ferns, bromeliads, calatheas, stromantheas, aspidistra, peace lily and anthuriums. I love plants with character, I have recently added 15 rhipsalis to my collection.  I got into planting to create a peaceful place to relax and wind down after being away for work.  I really look forward to coming home to my paradise.

How long has it taken to create this amazing space?

It has taken me 3 years (2014 - 2016) to establish all the ground plants, then I added the hanging plants in 2017.  I continue adding bits and pieces all the time depending on what I see and like. As plants overgrow I cut them back, transplant and start it all over again from babies so I can watch them grow again.

It’s a sizeable garden, not to mention indoors and has a large water feature. How long do you spend maintaining it?

This is just one part of my garden! Overall, I have 2 acres, inside and outside, plus a vege garden. This space is at the back of the house - facing south, so no direct sunlight comes through the windows. The entire inner area is 25.7m L x 6.2m wide,  the structured garden area is 13 m (L) x 6.2 m (W).  Then I have pot plants in my entertaining area. Majority of the time is spent watering the plants. Since it’s been finished, apart from watering, not much needs to be done. Weed carpet stops weeds coming through and the ponds do not require that much maintenance, it has a good pump system and keeps itself clean. We spend about an hour a day watering and maintaining the gardens during summer, but in winter it’s less; about half an hour watering them all. 

With so much to absorb and enjoy, where do you find yourself spending the most time?

Around the fish pond listening to the waterfalls.  I also have a chair in the dining room that I look out on the plants and admire their beauty. This space is my meditation space; where I can relax with a glass of wine, some cheese and my plants. 

Finally, what would you say to anyone who wants to get into gardening or house plants?

Firstly, start with one. Try choosing something that you think can look after - what's the easiest plant you know how to grow? I would choose Aspidistra - Cast Iron plant. In my experience this one is super easy to look after. 

I suggest to choose a hardy plant to start with. The Peace Lily is another one - you can't kill this! Starting this way will give you confidence and then you can build up your collection with something else.

Calathea Zebrina

Cast Iron Plant - Aspidistra elatior

Rubber Plant - Ficus elastica variegated

You need to ask a few questions when you start adding plants to your home: 

Where are you going to put this plant? 

Would it survive there? 

Study the plant first where it lives its natural habitat and what’s the habitat like at your house?
Take into account temperature, this is especially important for growing tropical plants out of tropical locations. Indoor plant groups - such as fiddle leaf fig, maidenhair ferns, and calatheas - 15 degrees is the minimum for most of these plant types. Lighting is so important, no direct sunlight is perfect for Maidenhair ferns. 

You need to get the plant rooting where you plant it, for this you need good soil. 

Once established you need to feed the plants food, mulch & compost helps improve soil so that things grow well. 

What pot are you using for pot plants? For Terracotta pots - you need a specialised soil mix called terracotta and tub mix. I use this because it has the elements and ingredients to support growing plants in terracotta pots. 

Thanks so much for your awesome tip's and for sharing how you created your awesome sanctuary garden Suzy! 

I had an absolute pleasure chatting with Suzy, sharing her love for plants and hearing fantastic gardening tips. 

If you’ve created a sanctuary like Suzy’s, share it in the comments below!


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About the Author Rachel Okell

A self confessed plant nerd, Rachel loves indoor plants, tropical plants and learning about new plants. Rachel is currently working as a Horticulturist helping people solve problems, pick plants & plan gardens. The best part of her job is being surrounded by plants all day! Rachel has a deep appreciation for all things green & hopes to share her knowledge and passion to help people learn about plants.

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