Most homes have the odd houseplant. Whether a poinsettia at Christmas or as a centrepiece for windowsill or table, houseplants have an enlivening effect on indoor space simply by being alive, natural and beautiful. As a bonus, they improve air quality in our homes. Until recently they might have seemed like part of the furniture but now, with urban living and increasingly busy lives, it is no exaggeration to say that they can be a lifeline.
Over the past decade, sales of houseplants have boomed along with increasing concerns for health, both personal and environmental. This trend grew exponentially at the start of the pandemic when so many of us were obliged to stay home, becoming more concerned than ever about our health and longing for fresh air and contact with nature. As if addressing this shift in priorities, Susan Betz’s latest book Herbal Houseplants encourages us to take a new look at our indoor spaces and try growing herbs as houseplants. It is topical, practical and very appealing. Instead of a poinsettia, we could buy a strawberry-scented geranium and pomegranates and make a ruby-red sorbet for winter cheer. Or perhaps collect mints or sow a pot of cilantro in the kitchen? Why didn’t we think of this before?
Alongside the factual information on how and where to grow herbs indoors – “Thymely Tips and Sage Advice” - are enticing quotes that make you want to read on: “let’s go to that house, for the linen looks white, and smells of lavender, and I love to lie in a pair of sheets that smell so.” (The Compleat Angler, Isaak Walton, 1653). Who could resist?
Susan’s “up close and personal” style is bound to win friends and influence readers. She writes reassuringly about herbs as “good friends” that you can trust to make life better. Just give them a try and see what works best for you and your space. In addition to simple recipes for tempting things you can eat and drink, there is no end of other ways to use your herbal houseplants, from creating potpourri and herbal parchment paper to topiaries and ‘talking bouquets’. Some are easy enough for youngsters. Making a mint bubble bath could bring some light relief from home-schooling. And it might, come to think of it, add one or two useful skills.
But growing herbs as houseplants is not all about “how to”. All the herbs that Susan suggests are so intensely fragrant and have such interesting textures – silky eucalyptus, spiky rosemary, velvety horehound, - that you will not be able to resist stroking them and breathing deeply. “Gardens do not have to be measured in feet, yards or acres, they can be measured in inches just as successfully” (Kitchen Gardens, Mary Mason Campbell). What better way to relax than with herbs at your fingertips!
Deni Bown © 2021
Author Royal Horticultural Society/Herb Society of America Encyclopedia of Herbs Their Uses. Dorling Kindersley 1995, 2001
—Deni Brown “Besides cultivation information, Herbal Houseplants is filled with Susan’s years of experience with herbs. There are many recipes in ‘Preserving Your Herbal Harvest’, from drying and freezing to butter, syrup, vinegar, and mustard.”
—Susan Belsinger, Herbalist and author of Grow Your Own herbs: The 40 best Culinary Varieties For Home Gardens."If you are an enthusiast of herbs and want to grow them inside your home, “Herbal Houseplants: Grow Beautiful Herbs Indoors!” is a book you really cannot do without."
, The Orange County Register
This pretty little book is filled with clever ideas from a skilled herb gardener. Betz chooses the best herbs for houseplants. Some suggestions for keeping indoor plants attractive are to select interesting pots and create a topiary. She explains special care needed when your house becomes your herb garden.—Kathi Keville
, American Herb Quarterly