We write about hundreds of products a week. Here, in our version of the Sunday circular, we’ve plucked out some of our favourites — expert-recommended essentials, life-changing stuff you didn’t know you needed, newly launched gizmos, and the very good deals we uncovered while trawling through the vast online-shopping universe. This past week was Plant Week at The Strategist, so our picks are overwhelmingly green-fingered, from a cactus that practically thrives on neglect, to the secateurs favoured by Monty Don. (And if you want even more Strategist stories sent straight to your inbox, sign up for our email newsletter.)
A columnist’s show stopping floor plant
We launched a new column during Plant Week. “Big Plants. Small Space” is written by gardener and author Sonya Patel Ellis. During her hunt for a show-stopping, leafy plant for her living room, Patel Ellis was deterred from a ficus due to their “finicky” nature. “[They’re] prone to losing their leaves or going all brown and crispy at the edges,’ she says. ‘The heartbreak of losing a fiddle-leaf fig is substantial.” For something that is equally as lovely — but easier to care for — Patel Ellish recommends the Alocasia “Regal Shields”. “I was totally sold on its size and looks,” says Ellis. “A potential height and width of around 2 x 1m (6 x 4ft) and large, glossy, ribbed black-green architectural leaves with the added allure of a maroon underside.” As for care, Ellis recommends positioning the plant in front of an east- or west-facing window, and lightly misting between waterings.
A biodegradable plant pot
To find some stylish plant pots, we delved through the Strategist archives and chatted to a handful of cool people. Nick Jackson, founder of Plantsmith, a company specialising in house-plant feeders, told us all about the pots from Husk. “All their products are made from agricultural waste products, so they have a great sustainability message,” he says. Their “Roman” planter is made from bamboo powder, and available in shades including Lime and Olive. At 19 x 17 centimeters, the pot is ideal for smaller plants, such as the snake plant you’re eager to upgrade from its original plastic home.
And a cat-proof planter
“When we first started populating our home with potted plants, more than one met its end at the paws of our young cat, Curare,” contributor Sandy Yu writes. “I nearly resigned myself to never keeping houseplants alive. Then it occurred to me: My cat can’t knock something over if it’s too heavy to knock over.” Thus began Yu’s search for a weighty, cat-proof planter. She found what she was looking for, surprisingly, at M&S (shortly after securing some fuzzy slippers). “At £12.50, it was sturdier than more expensive varieties I had perused at local plant nurseries,” says Yu. “The surprising weightiness of the legs and the low centre of gravity kept it still through even the most stubborn of pushes.” Yu writes that she found the pot to be so successful at protecting her plants, she’s gone on to buy a second, larger version.
A practically self-sufficient cactus
For new plant-parents, we interviewed a panel of experts about the houseplants most suited to beginners. Tim Sharratt, founder of plant-pot shop Anther + Moss, recommends the “desert candle cactus” in particular. “Cacti are very easy to care for as long as you remember the kind of places they’re native to — lots of light, not much water,” he explains. “This is a wonderful, statuesque plant that can grow as tall as seven or eight feet indoors.” The plant is such low-maintenance, in fact, that it requires no watering whatsoever during winter months.
And an orchid that requires no tending
If keeping even a cactus alive proves too much of a challenge, we also foraged through Amazon to find a selection of the best artificial plants (that require no upkeep at all). Our finds vary from fake Ficuses, to artificial succulents, to this imitation Orchid plant. This faux version, made of silk and bamboo, even comes with its own ceramic pot.
Thoroughly vetted, stainless steel secateurs from Japan
To identify the best secateurs, we vetted ten different pairs, ten different ways. This included referencing enthusiastic reviewers, searching through our archives to find expert recommendations (from the likes of Marie Kondo), and snooping into Gardeners World host Monty Don’s collection. Don’s secateurs of choice are actually from a Japanese brand called Niwaki. Speaking to the Telegraph in 2013, Don said that the quality of the secateurs, hand-forged in the mountains of Yamagata, is “very good indeed.” Out of all the available options at Niwaki, Don opts for their bypass secateurs. “They work like scissors so they’re less clumsy,” he said.
A polished plant mister
We enlisted the help of experts — including botanists and interior plant designers — to discover the best plant misters. Igor Josifovic and Judith de Graaff (authors of Urban Jungle: Living and Styling With Plants) recommend this model from renowned gardening-tool brand Haws. “The press plunger is easy to use, and the size of the water droplets are really nice and small,” they say. “[It also] looks really good”. Whilst the brass shade that Josifovic and de Graaff favour is sold out, the mister is still available to shop in nickel.
The little water pump that could
This miniature water pump, written about by Strategist UK editor Ailbhe Malone, has quickly become a reader favourite. “For as long as I can remember, I have lusted for a water feature. However, a succession of gardenless rented flats and an aversion to anything that fell under the descriptor ‘trickling rock sculpture’ meant that this dream was put on the long finger until I had a garden of my own,” she wrote. This solar fountain — spotted via Gardeners World — only needs to be placed in a trough or a basin to reach up to a “60-centimeter spurt.”
And a horticultural almanac
If you’re trying to decide what to gift the plant person in your life, we took a look at the wishlist of five horticultural experts. They showed us items varying from watering cans, to flower presses, to botanically oriented books. This volume, curated with the assistance of Kew Gardens horticulture expert Hélèna Dove, seeks to emulate the style of classic 18th-century guides to plant life. Inside, readers can find everything from hyper-detailed illustrations, to obscure and unusual facts from the plant world.
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