In my line of work (as, I suspect, in many), versatility and adaptability are key. Interior landscapers work in all types of businesses—malls, office buildings, hospitals, and assisted living facilities, just to name a few. The buildings may be brand-new construction or historic renovations, single-level strip-malls or towering high-rises. Our work attire ranges from dresses and heels to sneakers and shorts, neat hair and makeup to braided pigtails and dirt smudges. We work with CEOs and with custodians, start-up enterprises and major corporations. We are the public face of our organization so we strive to always be friendly and personable, but also discreet and unobtrusive when appropriate. Working in this capacity and in the public eye can be challenging, and it can also be enormously entertaining and rewarding if you are built for it.
One thing that makes the work interesting and rewarding is the constant banter with people as they watch us work. Whether it is guests at the mall or employees at a corporate headquarters, the public and our clients nearly always have questions for us. There are certain ones that we hear time and again in the field. Here are a few:
- How do these plants live inside and how do you keep them looking so nice?
We design using tropical plants that survive and thrive indoors, and then we treat them right. We buy our plants from reputable growers with whom we have established relationships over the past 38 years that we’ve been in business. Each plant we use is grown under the right conditions to allow it to do well in the setting. Our designers visit the site before choosing plants, so we can understand the conditions within the space. We are knowledgeable about the plants and use our experience to choose the right plant for the right location. Once the plants are installed our maintenance team takes over, providing professional, guaranteed plant maintenance. The client gets to enjoy the benefits of the plants without any of the work of caring for them.
- Why are you dusting the plants?
I carry an ostrich-feather duster with me at all times on my maintenance route, and pretty often it gets mistaken for a small dog or a chicken! Once the astonished onlooker understands what it really is, they inevitably ask why I dust the plants. Indoor environments can be very dusty, and dust tends to settle on plant leaves as well as other surfaces. In order for plants to live and grow, they must be able to exchange gasses like oxygen and carbon dioxide through tiny openings in their leaves. When dust collects on the leaves it can clog up these openings, limiting gas exchange. By keeping the leaves clean, not only does the plant look nicer but it will also be healthier.
- How much water do you give them? How often?
It is often said that the most common cause of houseplant demise is incorrect watering practices, which explains why people so frequently ask me this question. Usually the question is followed up by a story about a special plant and how it kept losing leaf after leaf until, finally, it died, or by a statement, such as, “I always seem to kill my houseplants.” Proper watering technique depends on understanding the needs of the different plants; the types and feel of the different potting media (aka “potting soil”); the amount and type of light, humidity, and air movement around the plant; and the weekly weather report. I check the planting media and make an individual watering decision for every single plant that I water, every time I encounter that plant. It takes time and training to understand the factors and make the right watering decisions.
- Is it true that I should talk to my plant?
Absolutely! Speaking to your plants sends extra carbon dioxide their way, which plants require to live and grow. Personally, I prefer to sing to them—they are such an appreciative audience!
- Why don’t they just use fake ones?
I would be willing to bet that the all-time most common question posed to interior landscapers is, “Wait a minute, are those plants real?!” People are often shocked to realize that the plants in so many settings—the mall, their doctors’ office waiting room, restaurants, hospital lobbies, apartment leasing offices, college admissions offices, the gym, or even their own offices—are real. Sometimes, though, they ask why we bother with living plants instead of just using fake ones. This is one of my favorite questions, because it gives me a chance to explain (to a non-believer!) why these plants are so incredible. I have to admit that I could be considered a bit of a plant evangelist. I search for and read scientific journal articles on the subject recreationally, and preach biophilia to anyone who will listen. There is a lot to say about the subject, and I could talk for hours about it over coffee, but these are the main takeaways:
- Human beings require a connection with the natural world in order to thrive, and indoor plants help fill that need.
- The air that we breathe inside our homes, businesses, and workplaces is filled with pollutants and many of the most common plants used in interior landscape design are efficient at removing pollutants from the air.
Please, please learn more about the incredible benefits of keeping indoor plants by visiting the Green Plants for Green Buildings website: www.GPGB.org and reviewing the research literature. While you’re reading, I will be working on new and witty responses to some of the other questions I get in the field, such as:
– Don’t you know it is raining out?
– Are you the flower girl?
– Can you come to my house next?
And, last, but not least:
– Well, that seems like an easy job, right?
**About the blogger: Teri Firetto is a professional horticulturalist specializing in interior tropical plant design and maintenance. Plantations Inc., is a full-service interior landscape contractor specializing in design, installation and guaranteed plant maintenance of tropical plants and decorative planters. Located in Bloomfield, they have been servicing some of this area’s most prestigious businesses over the past 38 years. She can be reached at: