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Houseplant Tastemakers

#PlantsMakePeopleHappy, Houseplant Tastemakers, Interview

Jeannie Phan, Illustrator, Freelance

October 13, 2017

Meet Jeannie Phan, an editorial illustrator residing in Toronto, Canada, with her furry best friend, Odin. Jeannie immediately captured our hearts with her picture-worthy and plant-filled apartment when we stumbled upon her on Instagram. Then we realized that she is also an amazing illustrator with a cult following. Swoon. 

Headshot by Dawn Kim

Name: Jeannie Phan
Location: Toronto, Canada
Occupation: Freelance Illustrator
Favorite Plant: Strelitzia nicolai (Giant White Bird of Paradise)

Can you share a little bit of background about yourself?
I’m above all, an artist, which explains why I can’t help but keep my hands moving and picking up things like plant care, home organization (or really, just the obsessive re-arranging of bric-a-brac) and DIY projects. If you’re into the Meyers-Briggers personality typing, I’m an INTJ, but far from a mathematician.
Originally, I’m from a small city in the prairies of Canada (Winnipeg), born from immigrant parents who brought us up on resourcefulness and appreciation of the outdoors. Although, I’d say I’m a definite late-bloomer in the latter, to the surprise of many! Currently, I hang out in the bustling city of Toronto with my feline best friend, Odin, and an uber supportive life partner. I work, live and grow in a home

Can you share a little bit about your art?
Sure, my art has developed from being highly ornate to now a body of work that appreciates the simpler forms of people, objects, and places. Hilariously, unlike my personal life, which is buttered in neutrals, my art is colourful, bathed in saturated primaries and overlayed with the colours inbetween. I’m an optimistic person with a dark sense of humour and I like to think my work radiates some of that, particularly with my personal series. To get to the nitty gritty, I’m primarily an editorial illustrator that draws for publications globally. But I also do work in advertising and have a few influencer
campaigns under my belt (I love social media!).

What’s a secret skill you have?
I have an incredible ability to forget birthdays.

What’s the best present you’ve given or received?
You know, I have to say when my friend Justine (@patternsandportraits) gifted me with my very first plants, which were two succulents I couldn’t even tell you the name of. I killed one overnight by suffocating it bare-root in a bag (yup…) and the other rotted. I give huge thanks to Justine and my other friend Elaine for really planting the seed with this whole plant obsession. If it wasn’t for that gift and a huge stubbornness to redeem myself, I probably wouldn’t be as big of a plant nerd. Thanks Justine!

If your space was on fire, what’s the first thing you’d grab to save?
My cat Odin, of course!! I have a thing where I don’t put a lot of value in physical objects so everything can burn, and so long as my loved ones are safe, that’s all I need. But alright, if I had to pick something physical, I’d grab my hard drive because it’s the lifeline to my work and an archive of a lot of priceless photos.

What’s on your to-do list today?
Work out. I’ve been really into fitness this year (after years of failed attempts) and valuing self care. Not only is being a freelance illustrator mentally straining, but it physically chips away at your body from hours of drawing at a table. So every day I’ll either go for a walk, jog, or pump some iron.

What is your favorite plant and why?
Strelitzia nicolai (Giant White Bird of Paradise) because it’s one of my oldest surviving tropicals. It was with me when I was a budding plant enthusiast not knowing what it wanted and stuck by when I became better versed with plants. Thankfully, like a trooper, it survived our move and grows bigger (it’s over 6ft tall!) and even prouder. The giant paddles for foliage strelitzia have are no short of majestic. It transcends me into a different world and I’ll often just sit and stare at it while having my morning coffee.
Do you have a “green thumb”? Not naturally, no. People are always surprised when I say I’m a former plant murderer because my mom had a beautiful garden, and I show my love for plants like we’ve been best friends since grade school. But, it just goes to show that anyone can learn the language of plants and appreciate nature, even if it’s not woven within their DNA.

Any plant care tips you can share?
Shower your plants one a month. Much less often for dessert plants of course, but your tropicals, like your garden plants, appreciate some “rain” even if it’s not actually from the outdoors. It helps clear dust, flush out the soil, and keeps pests at bay. Good circulation and adequate light is key afterwards though! To properly dry out the soil.

What tops your houseplant wish list?
I’d love a variegated monstera deliciosa but I’m much more of a plant opportunist, so I gather plants I like when I see them and seldom “hunt” for them. I have enough plants as is!

When did you start illustrating?
I started freelance illustrating full-time in 2013 but I was drawing since I was a kid. I went to art school at OCAD University here in Toronto, and graduated in 2012 with a bachelors. After working at a concept shop/gallery on Queen West or about a year, I decided to dive into freelancing full-time. I started off doing layout design as a graphic designer, but lost interest in it so I finally pushed to just do art 100% of the time. And here I am today!

Do you have a favorite illustration or project?
Recently, it’s the Acqua di Parma influencer campaign I did where I visualized all the scents in their Blu Mediterraneo collection. This collection was inspired by natural botanical ingredients and I just couldn’t imagine a more perfect project to mesh my love of plants and art. You’ll see the sketches for this project pinned on my wall as a momento. They were also kind enough to send me all the perfumes, so you can catch me swimming in the scent of citrus fruit or figs almost everyday.

What inspires you?
Nature, long conversations with friends, my cat.

Any words of advice for those looking to do their passion full-time?
No risk, no reward. You can be strategic in finding a way to freelance full-time but don’t lay plans that are too concrete (because this is a profession that’s fluid) and don’t let it paralyze you. Sometimes, jumping in and learning to swim is the best way. One thing I also really want to stress is, when your passion becomes your job, the dynamics of this relationship shifts. I have classmates from art school that realize that they don’t actually want a career that involves drawing 24/7. They want to be strategic thinkers, or creative in another way. Look at the core ability of what you’re passionate about and be open minded in what skills that can be applied to and maybe that’s a 9-5 job, maybe not. Disregard the topical idealism certain freelance professions have because that shiny coating wears out quickly after a few years.

Thank you so much, Jeannie! Following Jeannie on Instagram: @jeanniephan and @studioplants

P.S. More women share their plant passion, including an artist and a jewelry designer





#PlantsMakePeopleHappy, Houseplant Tastemakers, How-to, Interview

Stressed? Plants are The Answer – by Carrie Ingoglia

September 28, 2017

We are thrilled to feature a guest post by Carrie Ingoglia on why incorporating plants and meditation into your life is important.

If you’ve been feeling any stress lately, you’re not alone. There’s a lot going on in the world of ours.

Maybe you’re constantly running through your to-do list. You feel impatient or frustrated. You have trouble sleeping or digesting. Or maybe you get stuck endlessly scrolling through your social feeds (This morning I went to look up the weather, and 20 minutes went by while I checked Twitter and Instagram. Meanwhile, I totally forgot to look at the weather.)

No matter how stress manifests for you, nature offers a biological antidote that we often forget.

We’re built to respond to the seasons and the natural environment —being close to nature helps us go with the flow. But because our daily lives are often so far removed from the natural world, it’s easy to feel disconnected. Luckily, you don’t have to immerse yourself in bioluminescent pools or spend hours forest bathing to get the positive effects of nature.


When we are stressed, our bodies react by turning on our “fight or flight” response. This is a chemical response that makes our hearts beat faster, our breathing get faster and more shallow, and our digestion slow, redirecting energy to the big muscles of the body so we can run away or stand our ground against the tiger that’s chasing us through the forest.

The problem is, our body doesn’t know the difference between a very real threat from an animal of prey and a message on social media that makes us angry or defensive. It reacts with the same stress response to a tiger or a tweet. And being in a constant state of fight or flight is exhausting and can lead to all sorts of ailments big and small.


The good news is, the stress response has a built-in counter balance. We can reverse the whole thing, and we can do it just by breathing. Becoming aware of your breath has a way of getting us out of our heads and into our bodies. Deep breathing is known to slow the heart rate and helps bring us down from fight or flight.

Our breath and our bodies are our instant connection back to the present moment. By paying attention to that, we can more easily come back down to earth — no matter where we are.


Adding natural elements to our daily lives can help us feel more connected and less stressed out.

It’s no surprise that a hike helps calm us down. Or that gardening can be used as a kind of meditation. In fact, according to Psychology Today, several scientific studies have shown the presence of houseplants has been found to be lower blood pressure, increase focus, and lower anxiety in schools, at work, and even in hospitals. (Learn more about the benefits of indoor plants here.) 

Plants help keep us grounded when we’re all up in our heads.

  • Take three deep breaths.

This one is easy and you can do it anywhere. But it may take some practice. Wherever you are, pause. Sit or stand with your feet planted on the ground and let your spine be long. Breathe in through your nose to the count of three. Then breathe out through your nose to the count of five. Do this three or more times and see how you feel.

  • Go for a walk outside.

Even if you’re not in the woods or on the beach, just being outside can help make us feel more connected. If you’re at work, try going for a walk around the block without your phone. Stand on the corner waiting for the bus without checking your email. Spot a little dandelion sprouting through the cracks in the sidewalk. Just be outside.

  • Do a guided plant meditation.

Spend some quality time with whatever plants you have around you, whether it’s a big Fiddle Leaf Fig or a tiny succulent. Luckily, you’ve got a guided meditation right here to help start you on you’re way.


Thank you so much, Carrie! Have you ever meditated (and do you have plants around you when you do it)? What else would you add? 

PS Carrie is a yoga teacher and the writer + producer of the podcast, Yoga For the Revolution

PPS Find our plant picks that will purify air while you meditate HERE!








#PlantPorn, #PlantsMakePeopleHappy, Behind The Scenes, Houseplant Tastemakers, Plant History, Style Tips

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston

July 5, 2017

Isabella Stewart Gardner was an art collector, philanthropist, and patron of the arts. She was also a regular in the newspaper gossip columns, for her eccentric and, at the time, scandalous behavior and tastes. The Globe’s Jack Thomas writes: “There was only one Isabella Stewart Gardner, which is too bad, for nobody was better at shocking Boston society in the late 19th and early 20th centuries…” (Fenway Park, John Powers, P 37).

Isabella Stewart Gardner (1888), by John Singer Sargent. This painting was considered provocative at the time because of the low neckline and pearls around the waist.

Isabella Stewart was born in New York City on April 14th, 1840. At the age of 18, her former classmate Julia Gardner invited her to Boston, when she met Julia’s brother John Lowell “Jack” Gardner. Three years her senior, he was considered one of Boston’s most eligible bachelors. They were married two years later, and moved into a home at 152 Beacon Street in Boston.

After the death of her two year old son from pneumonia, learning she could not bear any more children, and the death of her close friend/sister-in-law, Gardner became depressed and ill. Her doctors advised that Jack bring her to Europe to improve her health and lift her spirits. The trip had the desired effect – when Gardner returned to Boston, she was as vibrant as ever.

Inside one of the galleries surrounding the courtyard at the Gardner Museum.

The Gardners’ frequent travels allowed them to put together a world-class art collection of paintings, statues, tapestries, silver, ceramics, stained glass, and more. Although already enlarged once, they struggled to fit their collection into their Beacon Street house. But Isabella realized their shared dream of building a museum after Jack’s sudden death in 1898. She purchased the land in Boston’s marshy Fenway area, and was involved in every aspect of the design and building process. The museum opened in 1903. Its glass-covered garden courtyard was the first of its kind in America.

The glass ceiling above the museum’s courtyard garden.

Isabella died in July of 1924 at the age of 84. She is buried in Cambridge, Massachusetts, but her vibrancy lives on at the Gardner Museum in Fenway. The museum is home to a world-renown collection of more than 2,500 works of art. Artists represented include Rembrandt, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Degas, Raphael, Matisse – and more. But one of the most astonishing works of art on display is the museum’s interior courtyard…

Four walls, four stories tall, surround the museum’s enclosed courtyard garden.

A living work of art, the plants on display in the Courtyard change seasonally.

Despite how lush the courtyard looks, the environment isn’t ideal for plants. “The UV light filtering glass and humidity levels are appropriate for artworks but not plants,” the Museum points out. “It takes hard work to keep the garden looking spectacular.”

One way the gardeners keep the courtyard looking fresh is through a technique called ‘successive gardening’. The plants, a majority of which are in pots, are continuously rotated so they’re only in the courtyard when in peak condition. When not on display, the plants are nurtured in an offsite greenhouse, and then onsite greenhouse. There are nine different plant displays throughout the year.

Here’s what plants I spotted on my recent visit…

Rubber Tree (Ficus elastica)

Dracaena ‘Janet Craig’ (Dracaena deremensis) and Philodendron xanadu

Norfolk Island Pine Tree

Tree Ferns (Cyathea australis), Boston Ferns (Nephrolepis), and Orchids

Looking into the lush courtyard through a first floor window.

What plants do you spot?

Don’t forget to check out the museum’s greenhouse, which houses some of the courtyard’s potted plants when they’re not on display, on your way out! (We’ll be sharing photos of our favorite plants from inside the envy-inducing greenhouse next so stay tuned.)

#PlantPorn, #PlantsMakePeopleHappy, Behind The Scenes, Houseplant Tastemakers, How-to, Interview

Having Pets AND Plants

June 22, 2017

We interviewed a few of our team members that are parents to both pets *and* plants for their top tips about keeping the peace in a jungle-like apartment… 


Above is Tweeks, one of our Marketing Director Erin’s cats, sharing her favorite sill with a few potted plants! 


NAME: Angela Muriel

PETS: I have 5 cats living in my apartment. I got involved doing some TNR (trap, neuter, return) volunteer work in my Crown Heights neighborhood and in the process found an abandoned litter of kittens. I was able to get a few adopted but a couple still remain in my care so they are now a part of my crew.

Cisco _ Helios (Angela)

PLANTS: I currently have a Boston Fern (Nephrolepsis exaltata), a Grape Ivy (Cissus rhombifolia) and several terrariums. I always keep a flat of grass for all the kitties to enjoy and to provide them with some nature.

TIPS: Cats will find their way into just about anything and are incredible climbers. My large plants are in hanging baskets out of their reach and of course the terrariums are enclosed in glass so they can’t get to those (ha ha!). I am able to enjoy a huge variety of plants in the terrariums, as well as create a whole environment in miniature form.

Sally on grass (Angela)

I have reviewed many poisonous plant lists and quite frankly if one were to adhere closely to them your choices would be really limited (find all our non-toxic plants here). One thing to keep in mind is that with many plants the animal would have to ingest a substantial amount to become ill. It is most important to observe the behaviour of your pet in regards to your plants. Many pets will simply ignore the greenery, where as others may be attracted to certain leaves or growth habits. That said, there are certain plants that can be fatal if eaten i.e. Sago Palm (not a “true palm” but a Cycad which are a primitive group), some plants from the Euphorbia family which produce a milky sap when cut, a few Aroids especially the Dumb Cane (Dieffenbachia) and any bulb plants such as Lilies, Hyacinth, Daffodil, Amaryllis, etc.

Never assume that an animal will instinctively “know” which plant is “good” or “bad” and this isn’t any measure of their intelligence. Our pets are domesticated animals and so much of nature is just not in their realm of experience. A good pet owner will just have to practice keen observation.



NAME: Peggy Lu

PETS: I have a 2-year-old French Bulldog, Olivia, and a 10-month-old cat, Mia, who my husband rescued off the street.

Peggy's dog-2

PLANTS: I cohabit with probably 40ish plants now. Most of them are air-purifying plants – Fern, Snake plant, ZZ plant, Pothos, Ivy, Philodendron, Spider plant, terrarium plants, and many cacti and succulents – that I bought since I started working at The Sill. Yes, I am that girl who wants to put her plants to work: providing fresh oxygen.

Peggy's cat-2

TIPS: My dog, Olivia, could not care less about plants, the one I had trouble with was my kitty, Mia. She is only a baby – she has so much energy in her. She bites and swaps my plants ALL THE TIME. It used to bother me a lot; however, I realized she only does it out of boredom or when she is in a playful mood. I’ve learned some tips that hopefully will help your pet and your plants live in harmony:

1. Buy cat grass. Bonus: you’ve got another plant!
2. Don’t discipline your pet when they’ve chew/attacked you plants. Especially cats will react to negative and positive reinforcement the same. Trust me, they will do it while you sleep. I pretend to not see it while Mia is at it now, and quietly clean up after her while she is not looking.
3. Try a citrus spray! Dogs and cats do not like anything that is in citrus family. Bonus: your home will not only will look nice with plants, but it will smell amazing too!
4. Play with them! Enjoy one-on-one time and tire them out. A happy and tired dog/cat will leave things alone.
5. Live with it. I’ve learned to live with imperfect foliages. Overall, It is your pet’s home too!
6. Do your research before buying a plant – both for the health of the plant and your lovely companions at home.

Peggy's cat-1



NAME: Catherine Cummings

PETS: I recently adopted a kitten from the Somerset County Shelter in NJ to grow my little family! Her name’s Lana after the character on Archer. She’s non-stop energy and endlessly curious.

PLANTS: My house is filled with plants of all kinds, including hanging pothos and philodendrons, cacti, succulents, ferns, etc. I’ve completely lost track of how many I have at this point, but they cover every available surface…

TIPS: I keep most plants up out of her reach on shelves mounted on the walls. The plants that take over the windows I always make sure are safe for pets, such as haworthia succulents and bromeliads. She’s never shown any interest in chewing any of them – and I make sure she has plenty to keep her busy while I’m gone by leaving out boxes and new things for her to explore. Luckily she’s more interested in trying to catch my fish than chewing on the plants!



NAME: Sarina Perez

PETS: My chubster, Gideon. I adopted him after a former roommate found a box of kittens in the dumpster three years ago. Back home, we have a dog named Cash who lives in my mom’s country garden on the outskirts of San Antonio.

Screen Shot 2017-04-11 at 4.12.13 PM

PLANTS: I have around 30 houseplants, but unfortunately only one window in my LES apartment’s living room. My bedroom is actually subterranean. Thankfully through my time working at The Sill I’ve found there are so many types of plants that can tolerate moderate to low-light situations. I have a lot of philodendron and pothos variations, snake plants, a few broadleaf ferns, and palms.

Being a Texas native – I really miss all the cacti that line the streets, so I cram what I can into the biggest spots on my window. I love large plants, so I have a nice big rubber tree (Ficus elastica), Philodendron vellum, and Monstera deliciosa right by the window. My mom has everything from a prickly pear cactus over 7ft tall, to ivy, to begonias, to elephant ears, to palm trees. Cash pulls some weeds every now and then – but he also loves to nap amongst them.

Screen Shot 2017-04-11 at 4.12.04 PM

TIPS: Gideon loves hiding behind the large ones and jumping out to scare me. Also has been known to nap under the wide leaves of my monstera, which I totally understand. Sometimes when he is mad at me though he will dig the soil of the larger plants. I’ve found that if I put a few large rocks on top of the soil, he won’t do it again. If you’re thinking about getting a cat – I would keep small plants off the edges of your shelves and tables, since they’re bound to knock a few over. If you notice your pet going around a certain plant, try surrounding it with a few potted cacti…



NAME: Jenna Kohl

PETS: I have two Siberian cats named Munch and Finn. I adopted them from the Meow Parlour a few blocks away from The Sill shop. My boyfriend named them after detectives on Law and Order SVU.


PLANTS: I have over one hundred plants the last time I counted; they are everywhere. Luckily, my apartment has space to fill, so it doesn’t look overwhelming – i.e., there is still room for more plants. I have snakes and aglaonema in a hall with low light. Then scattered everywhere else are monstera, ponytail palm, pilea peperomioides, calathea, aralia, a lot of pothos and philodendron, fiddle leaf fig tree, peperomia, fern, and the list goes on.

TIPS: If you’ve got a furry nibbler like mine are, the ASPCA has lists of toxic plants that are worth looking at, and The Sill has a special pet-friendly, i.e. non-toxic, collection page. All my toxic plants live either on high shelves, kitchen cabinets, plant stands, or a wardrobe. My cats aren’t great jumpers so they don’t even attempt to get them. The accessible plants are all pet friendly; if they chew on one I don’t have to worry. I also deter them with wheatgrass which is good for their digestion.




NAME: Rachel Lyons

PETS: Peloton Seelyons

Screen Shot 2017-04-11 at 4.28.01 PM copy_2

PLANTS: My Brooklyn apartment houses a few Monstera deliciosa, Pothos, Bird of Paradise, Agave, Schefflera, Prickly Pear Cactus, Fiddle Leaf Fig, Calathea, Xerographica, Boston Fern, Orchids, Snake Plants, Jade, and much much more…

Screen Shot 2017-04-11 at 4.28.53 PM

TIPS: My 1.5 year old barn kitty rescue rarely tries to eat any of the plants. He was raised with them from a tiny kitten, so for Pelo it’s more about using the greenery to get my attention – by rustling leaves, teetering terra cotta, or snapping branches in the early morning hours to say ‘feed me now’. Sometimes he’ll chew my aloe, which is toxic, but he never swallows it or shows signs of distress. Don’t let feline friends ruin the bliss of having houseplant friends. Put up shelving, get creative and wall-mount your greens. Or have one sacrificial non-toxic plant that takes the pouncing each day so that the others can flourish safely.

Screen Shot 2017-04-11 at 4.29.05 PM



NAME: Robyn Moore

PETS: My dog Disco!


PLANTS: Succulents, Cacti, a Snake Plant, an Avocado Tree (yes…!), an Aglaonema, and assorted Ferns

TIPS: I keep all my plans up high (countertops, planter stands, shelves, etc.) so Disco is less likely to be distracted by them. I have friends who have had issues with their dogs eating more toxic items – like bad foods, or garbage – but plants have never been an issue. Dogs are smarter than cats (sorry…) and will leave it alone once they realize it doesn’t taste good or make them feel good! It’s important to pay attention to your dog’s behavior. Most often, the warning signs of consumption are clear and rarely fatal. But it’s always best to just avoid any occurrence – if your dog is prone to chewing, stay away from plants with a latex-like sap (pencil cactus, rubber plant, ZZ).


P.S. Shop our team’s favorite pet-friendly houseplants.


#PlantsMakePeopleHappy, Houseplant Tastemakers, Interview, Plant Care

Yanna Garecka, Jewelry Designer, Squidlicks

June 13, 2017

Meet our June Houseplant Tastemaker – Squidlicks jewelry designer and orchid mom Yanna Garecka! 

Yanna Garecka

Northern Virginia

OCCUPATION: Kitchen Manager by night. Graphic Design Student by day. Jewelry Designer in-between.


Can you share a little bit about yourself – and your jewelry? Thanks to apples not falling far from trees – my whole life I have been fascinated both by art and nature, specifically geology and botany. I grew up with my plant-hoarding, oil-painting mother constantly reciting names of plant to me as we would pass them by. My fascination with jewelry design began as a therapeutic hobby when I was a struggling in my teenage years, which quickly lead me to selling bright and bold collage necklaces on the beta era of Etsy in 2006. These pieces usually featuring plastic toys such as squids and bugs. Over the years I have experimented with many mediums. Three years ago I feel in love with eco-resin and haven’t stopped since.

What’s a secret skill you have? 
I can make balloon animals.

What’s the best present you’ve given or received? 
My boyfriend made me candles – shaped and carved like the stones from the 5th Element (we are sci-fi nerds, one of our favorite movies). Everyone who recognizes them in our home gets very excited.

If your space was on fire, what’s the first thing you’d grab to save? 
I would grab my cats of course! Boo and Grey – jewelry is replaceable, they aren’t!

What’s on your to-do list today? Catching up on social media posts today. Tend to my cats, plants, and then go into my night job, which is running a kitchen in music venue.

What is your favorite plant and why? 
Orchids! All my life I have struggled to keep them alive and I have finally cracked the code.

Do you have a green thumb? 
Any plant care tips you can share? 
Over all you could say I have a green thumb, honestly it’s all a matter of timing your watering, and not overwatering.

What tops your houseplant wish list? The thing to top my houseplant wish list would be for Grey Kitty to stop chewing and eating all my plants so I don’t have to put them in strange cat inaccessible places. That would be great. 

What or who inspires you? The overall impression of mosses and lichens in resin remind me a lot of natural resin – amber. My family is Polish, and one thing Polish people like as much as potatoes and pickles is beautiful glowing amber. More then anything though, I love the color green. I love forests carpeted with moss and rocks living with lichens. I want to capture those elements into a piece of wearable jewelry, just like how people like to keep terrariums in their homes.

Thank you so much, Yanna! Follow Yanna & Squidlicks on Instagram here

(All photos are taken by Yanna.)

#PlantPorn, #PlantsMakePeopleHappy, Behind The Scenes, Houseplant Tastemakers, Interview, Plant Care

Darryl Cheng, @houseplantjournal

May 8, 2017

Our team has been a huge fan of the Instagram feed @houseplantjournal since we can remember, so we’re thrilled to finally feature the man behind the feed, Toronto-based Darryl Cheng, in this edition of our Tastemakers series



Who is Darryl Cheng? 
By day, I’m a business analyst for a tech company. In general, my job is to understand client requirements before delivering a product. By nights/weekends, I spend time with my fiancee; take care of my plants; play music (piano, vocal, guitar – I’m the music director at my church); play sports with my brother/friends; play with my niece.

What’s your ideal ‘happy place’?
A garden nursery of tropical plants.

Darryl plant hunting

What’s your favorite thing about living in Toronto?
Definitely the variety of neighborhoods. I work in the bustling downtown area but live in a peaceful, yet accessible suburb.

What T.V. show do you love to binge watch?
Star Trek Voyager

What can’t you leave your house without?
My iPod. Yes, I still use one for music.

Have you always dreamt about working with plants?
I still do since I’m technically not paid to work with them. If The Sill comes to Toronto, please hire me!

Darryl in his element!

Can you explain what the House Plant Journal is and how it started? 
House Plant Journal is the result of my love for photography and house plants. The thing I love most about plants is how they grow and become a long-term friend (well, most of them). I started documenting my plant hobby on Tumblr because it was easy to use its tagging system to find my photos on a particular topic: I still frequently refer to them when I get asked questions like “how do you propagate pothos?” or “what did your monstera look like when you first got it?” I just wanted a reference to my personal experiences with house plants. I moved to Instagram to share my more artistic photos, “plant art”, and time-lapse videos. More recently, I started a blog where I hope to instill the very basics of house plant care. I’ve also started a Youtube channel but I’m having difficulty finding time to shoot and edit videos these days.

Darryl's Houseplants

Do you have any tips for aspiring plant parents that you can share?
This mostly applies to indoor tropical foliage plants:
– If you want to keep a plant alive for a few weeks: you must give it adequate light and water.
– If you want to keep a plant alive for a few months: you must aerate the soil.
– If you want to keep a plant alive for a few years: you must repot and refresh the soil.

Plant Portrait

What’s your coolest plant find?
During a trip in Hong Kong, I spent an afternoon wandering their Flower Market district – 2 blocks of plant shops! It was really cool to see all the different varieties of plants their suppliers provide. I found many cool plants but I’d say the coolest would have to be three intertwined blades of a type of snake plant I had never seen before (photo below). Unfortunately, plants are strictly controlled items and I would never have been able to bring any home to Canada.


Your Instagram feed is so inspiring! What is your favorite post on your Instagram? 
Thanks! In fact, I should thank @thesill for twice featuring my photos! My favorite photo would have to be the ones of my plant shelf (photo below). The landing of my stairway receives so much bright indirect light from my skylight, it seemed a waste not to have some kind of shelving system just for plants. I know I’m very fortunate to have such ideal lighting for plants, which is why I share it often.


How many plants do you own?
I would estimate 100 to 120 if you combine my home, office, and church plants.

When did your love for plants begin?
I’ve helped my mom in the garden since I was a child but it wasn’t until we moved into our current house, which features two large skylights – that’s when I went plant-crazy indoors. I love to see new growth and flowering – signs that a plant is happy living in my home.

Time for a drink

What plant would you recommend for a person with a super busy schedule?
Sansevieria – they look good without much attention (photos below); they tolerate completely dry soil; they don’t need too much sunlight.



What is on your to-do list today?
Survey my jungle to see which plants need water or other attention. Honestly, it’s impossible for me to keep any kind of watering schedule but it’s a testament to the notion that you should be watering the plant whenever it needs and not by adhering to a schedule (great tip!). I need to queue up my next few Instagram posts. Sometimes I’ll even type out the captions beforehand – I put a lot of thought into some of them!

What is your favorite plant at the moment? 
Snake plants – I’ve been collecting different varieties as I find them.

Thank you so much Darryl!  P.S. Check out Darryl’s Instagram feed here



#PlantsMakePeopleHappy, Houseplant Tastemakers, Interview, Plant Care

Caitlin Ezell Waugh, Artist

January 26, 2017

Our newest installment in our Tastemaker series features Louisiana-based artist and plant lover – Caitlin Ezell Waugh! We came across Caitlin’s timeless stained glass pieces and wanted to know more about her inspiration for incorporating plants into her work. And the more we learned about Caitlin, the more we realized that she’d be the perfect coffee date, if only she lived in NYC. Check out our Q&A with Caitlin below. 


NAME: Caitlin Ezell Waugh

LOCATION: New Orleans, Louisiana

OCCUPATION: Self Employed Artist, Paraph Studio

FAVORITE PLANT:  This question got me ranting to my boyfriend. “Nightmare question!” I began… and now that I think about it, I’m thankful for the question because now I’m thinking about how and why I love so many plants. I love all herbs, for their smell and taste and medicine and memory triggers.

When I plant basil, I yell and shout, like the Italian lore tells us to, as a way of ensuring a strong taste. I love the French lilac that blooms in spring outside of my childhood kitchen. I love snacking on leaves of the ever spreading chocolate mint whenever I pass it. I really enjoy chewing Calamus root for focus and calm. I ALWAYS stop and smell jasmine, gardenia and white ginger when I walk by them. I’m really proud of how well my little bay laurel and meyer lemon trees are growing. My whole back yard is full of banana trees that shade me and feed me. I’m grateful for an ecosystem of plants that usher me through the seasons.

fav fern

Can you share a little bit about yourself – and your art? I was raised in the woods in Maine, which is where I learned to love plants and discovered the pleasures of working with my hands. I focused on literary journalism and conceptual art at Hampshire College, and got clear that my art gets to tell stories and help me synthesize continued research into new subjects.

I’ve run my design and restoration business, ‘Paraph,’ from my home studio in New Orleans for the last decade. I apprenticed under a master glazier before moving to New Orleans, and I’m dedicated to the rejuvenation of the stained glass trade by using traditional techniques inventively. My workload is a balance of commission projects, retail collections, stained glass restoration, and conceptual gallery work. In each of these endeavors I’m fueled by a connection to people. As a maker and a preserver, I’m fascinated by humans’ attachments to objects, by the nostalgia and energies we infuse into objects. I strive to create and maintain a sense of the sacred with my work, and I increasingly see myself as healer as well as artist.


What’s a secret skill you have? I really love to write. I enjoy writing and reading guided meditations and conducting small intimate ceremonies as a way to connect with plants, animals, the earth, and self. I do that in private settings, so it’s still pretty ‘secret’. It’s been a great way for me to dig deeper into using my observation skills, trusting my intuition and practice different ways of communicating.  I’m also pretty good at working through difficult conversations and situations.

What’s the best present you’ve given or received? When I graduated from high school my sister Kaiya told me to choose where in the world I wanted to go. We backpacked through Greece that summer and she taught me how to travel without a strict plan, which changed my life.

If your space was on fire, what’s the first thing you’d grab to save? The cats, Stagger Lee and Elwood. If I had time, I’d grab the wooden box of my journals and sketchbooks and I’d look longingly at my shop tools, my altars (so many beautiful crystals and precious little objects), my great kitchen knife collection, and all of the inspiring art I’ve collected.


What’s on your to-do list today? I’ll work in my studio with the phone off until about noon, and then write follow up emails to clients and make a few phone calls while I do the dishes and fold laundry. Then I’ll write a couple of letters and package up several orders and go to the post office by 3pm. I’ll listen to NPR and work in my studio for another hour or two and go to my favorite yoga class at 6pm a few blocks from my house. Then I get to make dinner and figure out what to do with all of the ripe bananas I harvested from my banana trees!

What is your favorite plant and why? See above… but right now my favorite houseplant is a phlebodium aureum mandaianum. It’s a gorgeous huge fern that cascades over my bed. I’m also amazed by my night blooming cereus. It only blooms for one night, once a year, and it’s a gorgeous bloom.

Do you have a green thumb? Yes. So do my both of my parents and my sister, it was a huge part of my childhood growing up in an old farmhouse in Maine.


Any plant care tips you can share? My relationship with plants, and food, is an extension of my art and ritual practices. Taking care of plants is about paying attention to them. Plants give lots of hints about how they’re feeling and what they like, so it’s important to watch them and listen. Ritual helps with that. For example I water my plants on Sundays (cactus every other Sunday), and it helps me feel grounded and ready for the week. I feed my orchids on the full moon, and I feed all of the outdoor plants around Easter and Thanksgiving (I live in the deep south). Most of us find health and a sense of well being in rhythm, so figuring out how to ground your weekly, and seasonal schedule to your interactions with plants is a wonderful way for your plants’ health to support your mental health. Along those lines, I was taught that sweet peas should be planted at Halloween here in the South.

When I realize that I no longer notice the artwork on my walls, I move it around. Plants are similar. If you find you don’t notice the plants when you walk by them, move them. Arrange them in ways that make you feel excited about the space. I also arrange my plants with objects I love, found pieces of ceramic or shells I’ve collected, sculptural objects, funny little figurines. I arrange vases of cut flowers near potted plants too, so I’m constantly paying attention to what’s changing.


Keep plants that feed you. Harvesting from your plants (herbs and citrus trees come to mind) is a great way to really fall in love with them. When my herbs go dormant outside, I buy little hydroponic potted herbs for the winter kitchen. I love cooking with fresh herbs, and if you don’t cut them all the way back, they can often be potted in soil and become outdoor plants in the spring.

Healthy plants don’t always look like they’re thriving. I have a bunch of plants that look like sticks for a month or two, and then they come out of dormancy looking great. Don’t assume that your plant is dying just because it’s loosing leaves or slowing its growth! I find my plants need less water when they’re dormant, but they should still be in the watering rotation. I cluster my dormant potted plants together in one part of the yard in the fall so I can keep an eye on them. Any plants that I feel worried about I put on the back steps because that’s my favorite place to sit and watch the sun set, and I see them every day.


I keep my orchids in the bathroom during the winter – so they can have the hot house effect. Don’t be afraid to trim, especially during the growing months, it produces more growth!  Also, get to know what the soil feels like in your plants when they are happy. That helps trouble shoot later when they’re not so happy. Soapy water is a quick way to get rid of mealy bugs. Also, sharpen your clippers for clean cuts, wash and dry your clippers if you’ve been working with a plant you suspect is diseased.

What tops your houseplant wish list? I saw a gorgeous old Cyprus bonsai the other day that I’d love to live with.

What or who inspires you? Ah. I really could go on and on with this list. I grew up around clever creative makers, they inspired me first. I have an incredible community of artist friends here in New Orleans (and spread across the world!) that inspire me daily with their own work, through conversation, and in collaborative projects which I find creatively invigorating. I’m inspired by walks in the swamp, by sunlight through tree canopy and by the rust and decay and growth of the cityscape.


If choosing one, Liza Lou is the artist who most inspires me. Her work is obscenely patient, and her focus tunneled her from a place of working alone and unseen to a vibrant career working with others to create meaningful work.

How would you describe your work? My work is patient as well as spontaneous. I like to make decisions throughout the process, so I usually resist patterns and lots of planning. That said, I work with metal, glass, and clay primarily and much of my work requires puzzling out the best order of operations so the materials can function. Most of my work has a very ‘organic’ feel, very hand produced. For the last couple of years I’ve been focusing on a kiln process of fusing plants between glass. The delicate structure of the plants remains as ash fused in place. I call this process ‘enverre’.


How do plants play a role in your creative process? I use my enverre process to preserve plants for two main reasons. One is to preserve specific blooms that clients have a relationship with, like flowers from wedding bouquets or funerals, plants from home gardens or travels or other special life events. I make those panes of glass into custom windows or furniture or sculptures. The moment in time that the plant was blooming drives the purpose, and I love listening to the stories, the nostalgia and emotion people have attached those particular plants.

The other body of plant based work I make is driven by the symbolism, the medicine, the messages from physical forms of the plants. I harvest plants and research the medicinal uses, history, lore and symbolic meanings given by different cultures to the plants. I’ve learned the names of lots of new plants, and I record when and where they bloom. I fuse the plants in glass and my research informs how I make them into art objects.

Do you have a favorite project (or upcoming project) that you’d like to share? I have a new gallery space to play with at 5700 Magazine Street in New Orleans. I’m using the space to curate art events that encourage civic participation. I believe handmade objects help us ground and stay present and therefore support sustained engagement. These events are designed to connect people with specific ways to get involved and to avoid feeling overwhelmed.

Additionally I’ve been curating collections of my work by plant symbolism to help support organizations. For example, one collection of objects I’ve made all contain plants that symbolize protection, understanding, sanctuary, innocence, and family. A percentage of the sales of that collection are donated to CASA, an organization that helps advocate for foster children. I also made a line of plants to help support the water protectors at Standing Rock. I’m excited about channeling messages and medicine from plants into healing in this way and am conscious of the line between support and opportunism. It feels very right to align my art and my politics.

P.S. To find out more about Caitlin and her work, follow her on Instagram and Facebook, and visit her Website. (And check out her beautiful collection for CASA here. )


#PlantsMakePeopleHappy, Houseplant Tastemakers, Interview

Simon Posch, Plant Artist

January 12, 2017

The newest installment of our Tastemaker series features plant artist, Simon Posch! We came across Simon through his Instagram account, where we were inspired by the gorgeous photos of kokedamas that he has posted. We highly recommend that you give his Instagram page a scroll through for some great plant inspiration! Check out our Q&A with Simon below! 


Name: Simon Posch

Location: Innsbruck / Tirol / Austria

Occupation: Student (Biology Bachelor) | Plant artist

Favorite Plant: Moss

Can you share a little background about yourself? I’m 31 years old, have two kids and an ever increasing love for plants which probably started out with helping my grandfather in the garden. Later on, I had my own little garden for a while but when moving to a flat my interest shifted to houseplants. I started making kokedamas (calling them mooslinge, which is kind of a diminutive of moss in German) to save space and increase air quality in the flat. I was still working my regular office job at that time. But as I was spending most of my free time working with and reading about plants I decided to take a chance and follow a long kept dream to become a botanist and started to study biology.


What’s a secret skill you have? I am able to find the right plant for every environment or person – and can share my passion for plants, infecting others with it.

What’s the best present you’ve given or received?  This years birthday present for my significant other, I hope.

If your space was on fire what’s the first thing you’d grab to save? My kids…and maybe one or two orchids 😉

What’s on your to-do list today? Doing an interview with The Sill :-); caring for my houseplants is a continuous task; a stash of plants that have yet to be kokedamified, and many university exams.

What is your favorite plant and why? The most difficult question of all. I don’t have one favorite plant. I have a great interest in moss but other than that I have favorite current plants. This time of the year many of my orchids are in bloom. I love orchids. The favorite of the ones I have are my Brassia toscana followed by the Oncidium twinkle. I very much like succulents too and a good Monstera deliciosa of course, well and Staghorn ferns and on and on.


Do you have a green thumb? I’d say so yes! The trick being, I try to only deal with plants that suit my environment. Which leads me to the next question.

Any plant tips you can share? Choose plants that work well at your place. Cut your losses. If a plant isn’t working for you, get rid of it and try another one. Don’t waste your love, time and energy on plants that just won’t do. And don’t start out with tiny delicate seedlings or cuttings, but get a well sized plant to start with.

What tops your houseplant wish list? Discorea elephantitis.

Thank you so much, Simon

P.S. check out more guest posts, including Darryl of @houseplantjounal, and Brain, an awesome ceramic artist.

(All the photos above were taken by Kathleen John – )

#PlantsMakePeopleHappy, Houseplant Tastemakers, Interview

Olena Shmahalo, Art Director, QuantaMagazine

January 6, 2017

We are thrilled to introduce you to our featured guest in this newest installment of the Tastemaker series: Olena Shmahalo! While scrolling through Olena’s instagram feed, we fell in love with her tasteful and aesthetically pleasing photos of houseplants and vegetation. We knew we had to reach out and find out more about her love of plants. Check out our Q&A with Olena below! 


Name: Olena Shmahalo

Location: New York, NY

Occupation: Art Director at

Favorite Plant: I don’t like to pick favorites! However, if I had to, maybe Philodendron gloriosum — that’s the plant I’ve made into my instagram logo/icon right now, because it kind of invigorated my botanical obsession, for better or worse. I first saw it in photos of @aleajoy’s home and was amazed at its huge, velvety leaves. It’s unreal!


I’ve always liked plants, but the specifics eluded me. I don’t think I knew that something like P. gloriosum existed, and better yet, that it could be grown easily indoors. It made me curious about other species and genera, and all the different sorts of leaves and shapes out there. I’m a visual person, so I was absolutely intoxicated by this whole new world of living sculpture, with all its colors, patterns, and textures.

Can you share a little about yourself?

I’m Ukrainian, spent most of my childhood in California, and then moved to New York. Not sure where I’m “from” anymore, but I’ve been here in NY for about a decade now and it’s where I feel most at home.

I was always sure I would be an artist. Everybody else told me so as well; I think other people were more convinced than I ever was! Ironically, it was during art school that I questioned it more and discovered a latent love of science.

Now, I’m working as the art director (/producer/illustrator) at Quanta Magazine, which is a really cool science news outlet. Every week, I get to visually interpret the latest esoteric, gritty work in math and science that more popular media usually doesn’t cover. Make invisible things visible — it’s really a puzzle! It’s a great mix of both worlds. (Promise I’m not trying to advertise; just excited by it and proud of our little team.)


At home, I moonlight as an indoor gardener/botanist-wannabe. I have over a hundred plants in my tiny apartment. My SO jokes that it’s a second full-time job. I love taking photos of them (they’re such patient models!) and sharing in the plant love with other self-described “crazy plant people” around the world. Especially on Instagram, there’s such a great community.

What’s a secret skill you have?

Hmm. Secret is relative. Our professional lives and social media encourage a fairly one-dimensional view of people. Pick a theme and stick with it, right?

But that’s not reality, is it? Everybody is multi-faceted. I’m lazy (ahem, efficient), but if I find something super interesting, I get a bit overzealous in doing that thing to its fullest. I’ve always wanted to be a “Renaissance man”. So, people who knew me as an artist have been surprised by my work/education in science, and the plant stuff. People on Instagram might be surprised about the former.

(I also like to write a lot, whether or not anyone will read it. Can you tell? This is why real writers have editors.)


What’s the best present you’ve given or received? 

I’m having an inordinate amount of trouble with this question. Because, again, I hate picking favorites and I hate surprises. But I’ve always felt happy and grateful when friends have given me little things they thought I’d like — a cool rock, a hat, a dead bug, a weird little plastic thing that plays recordings of Buddhists chanting. Oddities and treasures.


If your space was on fire, what’s the first thing you’d grab to save?

I guess my boyfriend. I kind of like that guy. But assuming he could do his own saving, I’d grab my phone. Not very sentimental is it? I want to say that I’d grab some plants, but by the time I decided which ones, we would all burn.

What’s on your to-do list today?

Loads of stuff for work. It’s Saturday but I just remembered I need to check in with a freelancer. Some boring domestic stuff; cleaning. Then, a 6th anniversary dinner with the boyfriend!


Do you have a green thumb?

No. People think I do; it’s a lie. There’s no such thing. I’ve killed a lot, unfortunately. But I’ve also learned a lot.

Any plant care tips you can share? 

Relax! You don’t need to immediately bare-root and repot your new plant because some internet person said your potting mix has to be a specific ratio of peat/perlite/bark. Leave it alone.

In fact, don’t do anything with your new plant. It’s just survived a bunch of upheavals. Let it rest for a couple of weeks. If you got it in the mail, keep it in a darker spot and let it transition to a lighter one, slowly.


Get a moisture meter, stick it in. Don’t trust the reading alone — pull it out, wipe the soil off with your fingers and rub them together. If moisture comes out, don’t water. If dry, water. Also, “keep moist” doesn’t mean “water again even though it’s still/already moist”.

Get a feeling for light levels. Download an app that reports in foot-candles, test various areas, and cross-reference with a plant lighting chart online.

Fertilize weakly, weekly. Less is More!

If you’re having trouble, you could always ask @plantasshole (who is definitely not me) for help. I guess, if you’re desperate. They’re not very nice.

What tops your houseplant wish list? 

It keeps growing! I started listing some in response to this question but there are too many.I’ll just say, I wish I could have humongous plants. I actually like when they’re “in the way” and I have to duck under, step over, or brush past them to get around. I’d love a 20-ft Monstera deliciosa, or an Alocasia ‘Borneo Giant’ with leaves like blankets. But there’s not enough light and constant humidity in my home for that to happen right now. …I should just live in a conservatory.


Thank you so much, Olena Shmahalo!

P.S. check out more guest posts, including jewelry designer, Yanna, and Joe, a landscape designer.


#PlantPorn, #PlantsMakePeopleHappy, Houseplant Tastemakers, How-to, Interview, Plant Care

Tylor Rogers, Barista

November 2, 2016

This edition of our Houseplant Tastemakers Series features “your local plant boy” – Tylor Rogers. Not only are we envious of Tylor’s personal houseplant collection (check out his Philodendron ‘Pink Princess’), but we love Tylor’s genuine passion for plants which is evident by scrolling through his Instagram feed. This young Instagramer proves that houseplants aren’t just a hobby for the retired. Check out our Q&A with Tylor below! 

Tylor Rogers captured by Sam Davis

Tylor Rogers captured by Sam Daniels

Name: Tylor Rogers
Location: Valparaiso IN//Chicago IL – I split my weeks between the two places.
Occupation: I am a barista back at home in Valpo, and then I’m also fortunate to work at Sprout Home Chicago!
Favorite Plant: Oh man, that’s a hard one. I go through phases where I’m obsessed with a certain plant and then the next week it could be something completely different. I would have to say that a Variegated Monstera deliciosa has been my favorite plant since I’ve been into plants though.

Tylor Rogers in his element by Sam Davis

Tylor Rogers in his element by Sam Daniels

What’s a week in the life of Tylor Rogers like? 

My days usually are pretty busy. When I’m not slinging coffee I’m working around plants! Between my two jobs, I work 7 days a week. I really enjoy staying busy and for the time being I love what I’m doing! I’m crazy about plants and coffee so it only makes sense that I would find myself surrounded by the two. Working at Sprout Home Chicago is very fulfilling, I’m constantly learning about new plants (and constantly adding to my plant gang).

Sam @ Home

Tylor @ Home

When I’m not working I typically spend my time hanging around my plant jungle that is my room. I also really enjoy finding different conservatories/greenhouses to explore. Adventuring through new parts in the city also excites me.

What’s a secret skill you have?

I’m very receptive, I pick up on peoples needs very quickly and it makes working with others very easy. I also know how to get down on the dance floor, which not too many people know!

What’s the best present you’ve given or received?

PLANTS! Always plants. Some of my favorite plants in my collection have been gifts. I also think gifting a plant fits any occasion. You can always find room for another.

Sam and Penelope

Tylor and Penelope

If your space was on fire, what’s the first thing you’d grab to save?

My jungle pup Penelope! She’s an English Bulldog and I’m lucky enough that she doesn’t mess with any of my plants. She only enjoys napping next to them.

What’s on your to-do list today?

I am finishing up writing a letter to my girlfriend Krysten, who’s studying at Indiana University, making my daily plant rounds, (I don’t stick to any type of schedule, you kind of get a feel for which plants need more maintenance and being diligent about checking them has worked best for me), I work at Sprout Home today, after I’m going to a plant auction (of course), and then lastly I’m going out to sing karaoke and to a club with my friend in Chicago!

A pencil cactus looms over some of Tylor's houseplant collection

A pencil cactus looms over some of Tylor’s houseplant collection


Do you have a green thumb?

Not to toot my own horn, but I would say yes! It would be a little difficult to take care of my 100+ plants at home if I didn’t have a green thumb. I counted earlier this week, 86 of my plants are in my bedroom! That’s not saying you can’t have a green thumb too! Reading up on plants and not being afraid to lose a couple in the process will help you cultivate a plant hobby! I actually just killed an air plant earlier this week, but thats okay!

Tylor's Houseplants

Tylor’s Houseplants

Any plant care tips you can share?

RESEARCH! Half the fun of having a plant gang is learning how to take care of your new friend. There’s a ton of plant books out there to help you, and google is there to help 24/7. With winter approaching and us cranking up the thermostat, our plants need extra love too! Invest in a humidifier and keep those tropical plants happy! Lastly, houseplants should bring you joy, if you find one of them is being more of a nuisance to you, don’t be afraid to give ‘em away or toss it out. This is something I still struggle with! 😉

Tylor's Anthurium crystallinum

Tylor’s Anthurium crystallinum

What tops your houseplant wish list?

There’s so many different plants on my wish list that it’s hard to keep track! Most recently it was an Anthurium crystallinum, but just this week I got one from work (Sprout Home)! Anything that I find unusual always makes it onto the list. The list is never ending!


Thank you so much, Taylor!

P.S More guest posts read here.

(all the incredible plant photos above were taken by Sam Daniels –