Whilst we may not all be blessed with plenty of outdoor space, it doesn’t mean we can’t make gardening part of our winding down ritual.
This week, we chat to Tor Harrison from Toro Studio (an online shop selling houseplants & handmade ceramics), about the simple joys of pottering in the garden and how city dwellers can get their green fingers going at home.
Photography by Tor Harrison. Follow Tor on Instagram @toro_studio
What drew you to plants and working in nature?
I’ve always loved plants. When I was young I would always be outside in the garden with my mum, she gave my brother, sister and me a lot of space and creativity to grow what we wanted.
I have strong memories of my first home grown strawberries. It’s magic, especially growing something from seed, every stage is fascinating and that wonder has never left me.
Tor sleeps in Bedfolk Linen in Ink
What makes gardening worthwhile for you?
Gardening is a balm for mind, body and soul. It can’t really be rushed and that slow pace is really calming.
There are soothing repetitive jobs that I find meditative and in general it really allows me to take time for myself, getting fresh air and dirt under my fingernails, observing all the small changes that are taking place around me.
Can you tell us about your home gardening/plant ritual?
My indoor plants need quite a lot of care at this time of year, after the fairly dormant period of Winter, everything is now bursting with Spring energy, needing a healthy balance of nutrients and water.
I’ve got to know all of my houseplants pretty well and I feel quite intuitive about what they’ll need and when. Sunday is definitely my day of plant care.
Outside I have a small wonky vegetable bed, fruit bushes and a herb garden that I go and visit every morning with my coffee in that quiet time before the rush of the day.
It’s all quite wild and not particularly neat. At the beginning of March I got organised with seed packets, pots and compost and since then there has been a steady routine of planting out, weeding and watering as needed.
Any recommendations for city dwellers on how they can get their green fingers going?
Indoor plants are an obvious starting point, they bring such life, vibrancy, colour and scent into our homes and spaces and many commonly available houseplants are extremely low maintenance.
If you have windowsill space it can be fun to grow microgreens and herbs as they grow satisfyingly quickly and are really useful in the kitchen.
If you do have a garden it can be quite daunting knowing where to start, I would start small and decide what you’re interested in growing, whether it’s flowers, vegetables, shrubs, herbs or a combination. Pick a few things, read up on them and get stuck in, you can learn from the failures more than the successes!
Tor at her home in Cornwall
What plants/flowers would you put in your bedroom and why?
There are certain plants that are noted for their ability to ‘clean’ the air, filtering out toxins and synthetic chemicals that are present in our homes.
I would choose big leafy numbers like Rubber plants and Fiddleleaf figs which are beautiful and very low maintenance, though it all depends on the position of your bedroom and how much natural light it gets.
Spider plants, snake plants and peace lilies are easy to obtain, easy to care for and have great filtering properties.
Why do you think people are so attached to their house plants? What other home comforts are you attached to?
Caring for houseplants allows us to connect with something that is natural, magical and full of life, bringing out our nurturing side and taking us outside and beyond ourselves.
The rituals of care we create around our plants can be a balm for the stresses and anxiety of modern life. They allow for a moment's pause or a chance for perspective.
I also love the comfort of my homely routines, Sunday morning lie-ins, coffee in the garden and morning yoga. A nighttime bath followed by getting into freshly laundered sheets (Tor sleeps in Linen in Ink) and reading in bed with a good book is such a luxury.
How does gardening help you wind down?
In the same way that slowly swimming laps calms and quiets my mind, I find gardening instantly soothing. Even the repetitive motions of weeding or sowing can be meditative.
It’s also a refresh for the senses that have maybe spent too much time beyond a screen: the silky feel of soil on your hands and the heady scent of freshly dug earth all contribute to an overall feeling of calm and connection.
What’s usually the first thing you do when you get home from a long day?
Give my dog Foxy cuddles and take her outside for a stroll by the river, she’s getting really old now so we don’t go far. Nothing beats the welcome home from a beloved dog!
Top tips for how to care for plants while we’re staying at home?
Now is a great opportunity to get into good routines with your plant care. I always suggest picking a day (mine is Sunday) where you do a sweep of the house, checking every plant to see what it needs.
At this time of year when it’s hotter and brighter plants use lots of energy to grow, the compost will be drying out quickly and they will need regular (monthly) top ups of nutrients.
Start feeding at the beginning or end of a month and then it’s easier to remember the following month. Remember though, most plants are killed by over-watering so don’t keep them waterlogged!
Effortlessly Crumpled and Super Soft Bedfolk Linen
Tor's Lie-in List
I love The Thrifty Forager and The Thrifty Gardener by Alys Fowler, in fact I love pretty much anything written by Alys, so insightful, inspiring and accessible.
Rakes Progress is a beautiful journal to get lost in with inspiring articles on the art of gardens, plants and flowers.
The most inspiring series I watched recently was Monty Don’s Japanese Gardens, I found it so soothing and transportive.
I love listening to BBC Radio 4’s Gardener’s Question Time, a weekly show where live audience members ask a wide variety of garden related questions to a panel of green fingered experts.
You never know what you’re going to learn and it’s turned into a bit of a Sunday listening ritual in our house.
@annagreenland is a current favourite, Anna is an organic grower and her instagram and blog is peppered with really helpful, practical advice with plenty of lush, dreamy escapism.
Graen Studio offers beautifully designed products for gardening, plant care and flower arrangements. I especially love their seed packets inspired by iconic photographer Karl Blossfeldt.