The Wind Down With Alice Vincent
This weekend, we’re hopping into bed with Alice Vincent, a writer and advocate for organic inner-city gardening, living in Brixton.
Alice shares the simple joys she gets from pottering in the garden, her winding down rituals and introduces us to Christopher Figgins – the Fiddle Leaf Fig that lives in her bedroom.
What do you do out in the world?
I’m a writer and a gardener! I’m the Features Editor of Penguin.co.uk, which means I interview authors and write about books and the ideas in them. My book, Rootbound, Rewilding a Life, was released last year and I’m currently working on another one, about womanhood and the earth.
I live in Brixton, South London, and am an advocate for organic inner-city gardening, which I believe should be accessible to all, and write about it for The Telegraph, The Observer, The Guardian and Vogue, among other places.
What drew you to plants and working in nature?
I think it had been a seed sown in childhood but awakened in my mid-twenties, when on paper things were looking pretty good - I was a music journalist for a national newspaper, went to a lot of parties, had a nice home and good friends - but I was struggling to find any satisfaction.
I started to grow herbs on my balcony and found it gave me a space - mentally and physically - that I just didn’t have elsewhere in my life.
What makes gardening worthwhile for you?
I find it endlessly surprising and gratifying: the persistent push through of the new, the constant tether to the seasons and cycles of life. It’s very grounding.
Can you tell us about your home gardening/plant ritual?
I have several houseplants, most of which gather in the sunny south-facing living room and tend to look after themselves, but more of my attention goes into the garden.
I try to get out there at least once a day, often to take a tea break, for a few minutes of watching, looking and learning. Bigger jobs tend to happen on the weekend. In either case, it’s an amazing way of losing track of time.
What plants/flowers would you put in your bedroom and why?
We have a five-foot Ficus lyrata (Fiddle Leaf Fig) in the bedroom, named Christopher Figgins, which is - aside from my partner - the first thing I see in the morning.
It’s a beautiful, sculptural plant and breathes life into what is the most minimalist room in our home. They can be tricky to look after, Ficus lyrata, but the bedroom is south-facing and so far Christopher seems pretty happy.
Alice's Fiddle Leaf Fig Christopher Figgins
How does gardening help you wind down?
Olivia Laing put it best: “I’ve never found an activity as soothing or as wholly absorbing. It’s like being immersed in a deep, silent pool.”
My mind is noisy and often struggles to remain in the moment, but with gardening you have to be very present, or it doesn’t work: it urges you to simply be. When I garden, my brain quietens.
Alice winds down with the Linen & Cotton Throw in Rose
Do you have any other winding down rituals?
I find cooking very relaxing! Nothing fancy, normally just slowly sauteing something, usually in butter. It’s like a speeded-up gardening: a way of creating something from nothing.
I also read a lot - comes with the territory of being a writer - and that can be a calming way to start or end a day.
Alice sleeps in Linen in Rose
Is there a particular corner that you like to relax in at home?
There are two distinct book nooks in the study, one for my partner and I, but if I’m honest I’m 100% a sofa-blanket person.
What do you want your home to feel like and why?
Welcoming, cosy, fun. It’s been a bad year for it, admittedly, but we both love to entertain. When people aren’t over (which they’ve not had much opportunity to!) then it’s really important to me that home is somewhere calm and peaceful; I need quiet to read and write, and I spend quite a lot of time doing both.
How would you spend your perfect day off at home?
I have a tyrannical body clock and wake with the dawn, regardless. So a lie-in would be a nice change! Probably some reading and a cuppa in bed, maybe a crumpet if I’m lucky, before a languorous brunch over the papers.
We’d probably squeeze a little bike ride into the city before coming home for a sunny afternoon in the garden. Then dust down to make a simple dinner and less-simple cocktails for a bit of a get-together with friends in the evening.
Are you Relaxed, Classic, Linen or Luxe and why?
I wish I was relaxed but I’m undoubtedly linen - frequently rumpled, but usually performing better for it.
What three things do you do before you go to bed?
Brush my teeth, read my book, stick my phone on airplane mode.
What’s your trick for going to sleep?
‘My sheets make me feel…’
Lucky to be in bed.
‘The song I fall asleep to is…’
Whichever earworm my partner’s been playing of late.
One pillow or two?
Alice’s Lie In List
At the moment, Wild by Jay Griffiths and Kudos by Rachel Cusk. In general? Anything by Zadie Smith or Modern Nature by Derek Jarman.
I’m fairly screen-phobic in bed but love a John Hughes film and/or Selling Sunset.
The Cut podcast; Cerys Matthews on 6 Music on a Sunday; Joni Mitchell
Matilda Goad for interiors
Haarkon for travel books
Dalefoot for compost
Follow Alice on Instagram @noughticulture