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Growing my green thumb: House plants 101

By Anna Wootton

When I was 10 years old, I planted a bay tree with my dad that grew from a 4-inch-tall plant to a tree taller than me and three times as wide. This is my gardening claim to fame (I will take all the credit, despite much help from my father and aunt.) However, the fact that I have to cast my memory back two decades to recall my last gardening success story is perhaps a more accurate indication of my relationship with the plant world.

Anna and bay tree

The author with her bay tree. Photo: Anna Wootton

And yet, as we all stayed home during the COVID-19 lockdown, many turned their attention to their gardens. I don’t have a garden of my own, but house plants can fit in anyone’s home environment. My lack of knowledge stumped me on where to begin and, a few dead plants later, it felt serendipitous when 3 Girls & A Kiln advertised that Blair Ebanks of Plant Based Studio would be hosting a House Plants 101 class at their Camana Bay studio.

Ebanks brought her horticultural instruction to 3 Girls & A Kiln in late 2019, offering classes in everything from plant pot decorating to terrarium building to this introductory house plants class. Entirely self-taught, Ebanks has a particular love of “bringing the outside in,” filling her home with plants of every variety. Soon she was inspired to open a business, Plant Based Studio, specialising in “interiorscaping” or “plantscaping”: “the decorative installation of plants in an indoor space.” Having designed the lushly landscaped locations of Ryde, Anytime Fitness, No. 11 Spa and more, Ebanks has cornered a niche in the local market on combining interior design with horticulture and touts the various benefits of indoor plants, including an increase in the quality of oxygen and the therapeutic benefits of being surrounded by greenery.

Plantscaping

Examples of Plant Based Studio's "interiorscaping." Photos: Plant Based Studio

Plantscaping
Plantscaping
Blair Ebanks Plant Based Studio

Blair Ebanks of Plant Based Studio.

“There is something about putting green in a room that makes me instantly happy,” Ebanks says. “I see the joy in people when they put green in their house.”

As a 101 class, Ebanks offers attendees high-level information on the various topics needed to educate the amateur gardener. While subjects such as propagation, potting soil, and plant bugs and maladies could all be classes of their own, Ebanks provides students with enough information on each to get their hands wet (literally!) as they choose, pot and care for their own house plants. While more in-depth classes are in the works, House Plants 101 has proven popular for making gardening approachable. Alicia Hill was one of the students who signed up for Ebanks’ August class. She runs a proactive indoor air quality monitoring company, Invyro, and often recommends house plants to her clients to help improve air quality indoors. Naturally, Hill wanted to practice what she preached, which led to her signing up for Ebanks’ class.

Plantscaping

Examples of Plant Based Studio's "interiorscaping."

“I have no idea what I am doing with them, though, so after killing all of them (time and again,) I figured it was time to learn more about how to properly care for them,” Hill says. “I found it really informative and helpful, especially Blair’s advice on choosing the right plants and the best places in your home to keep them.”

Choosing your plant

Ebanks cautions that this isn’t as simple as going into the garden centre and picking out your favourite plant. She says to pay careful attention to where the plant is located in the garden centre – lighting is very important for plants and they all have specific lighting requirements to thrive. Some plants “tolerate” different lighting but they will not thrive if the lighting is off. She also cautions buyers to check the toxicity of plants, too – many can be harmful to children and animals.

Potting your plant

“I like terracotta pots, as they are very porous and allow plants to breathe more,” Ebanks explains. “The pots also soak up the water so the plants don’t often get overwhelmed.” Indeed, regular drainage of your plant after watering is important, as well as choosing the right potting soil.

Caring for your plant

People tend to fall into the categories of “under-waterers” and “over-waterers” (read into that as much as you want, armchair psychologists!) and both can be fatal for a plant.

There are many, many facets to caring for plants, and Ebanks says the main difficulty in teaching these classes is not getting too caught up in the detail.

“It’s easy for me to get carried away on all these topics, but then I start to see the ‘deer in headlights’ look and I reel it back in and try to keep it top-level but still useful,” Ebanks says. While House Plants 101 is an instructor-led class as opposed to an activity-based class, students still get the chance to pot their very own snake plant to take home at the end of class. She chose snake plants because they are low-maintenance plants that require watering only once a month. Ebanks says they are “unkillable.”

Typically, I would see that as a challenge, but armed with the information learned in Ebanks’ class, I leave the class with my terracotta-potted snake plant and a renewed sense of hope.

Contact Blair Ebanks at plantbasedstudio@gmail.com and keep an eye out on 3 Girls & A Kiln’s monthly class schedule for her next class in Camana Bay.

Snake plant

The author's snake plant. Photo: Rhian Campbell

Anna Wootton

About the author

Anna Wootton is the Digital Marketing & PR Manager for Dart’s business development and real estate companies and assets, including Dart Real Estate, Provenance Properties, Cayman Alternative Investment Summit (CAIS), Camana Bay and The Residences at Seafire. Born in the Cayman Islands, with British heritage and a Canadian passport, Anna is multinational with a Caymankind heart. Anna has a background in journalism and a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature from University of British Columbia. She has worked in Camana Bay for the past six years and can be found at an afternoon Ryde class or getting her paint on at 3 Girls & A Kiln.