Your New Go-To Guide to Indoor Gardening Is Here

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Reprinted with permission from Rooted in Design by Tara Heibel and Tassy de Give, copyright (c) 2015. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Penguin Random House, Inc. Photography (c) 2015 by Ramsay de Give and Maria Lawson. Available on Amazon.

The people who keep plants in their home seem to belong to one of two camps. The first group is comprised of knowledgable gardeners who know how to take care of a plant and love seeing them both indoors and outdoors. The other camp buys them frequently but usually lets them wilt.

In actually, a gray area exists between these two groups. You might know how to take care of a plant, but perhaps you don't understand how to cater to or arrange indoor plants. Or you might lack the skills to take care of a plant but your next DIY project involves succulents. The point is, people who decide to include plants in their interior decor come from a range of backgrounds, and perhaps no one knows this better than Tara Heibel, owner of Sprout Home. Over the years, she's seen a range of clients visit her stores with different needs in mind. Now she hopes to combine the worlds of gardening and interior design in Rooted in Design: Sprout Home's Guide to Creative Indoor Planting, a recently-released book by Heibel and the co-owner of her New York store (and very first employee!) Tassy De Give. Packed with gorgeous photos and helpful tips—made even more practical because they're organized by space type—the book is a go-to guide for all people with indoor plants.

We caught up with Heibel to talk about her background, inspiration for the book, and advice on getting creative with indoor plants.

Tell me a little bit about Sprout Home. You have two locations–one in Chicago and one in Brooklyn, correct?

In 2003 we opened our [Chicago] doors and Brooklyn in 2007. I opened the Chicago store because besides working as a corporate art consultant and being an artist, I was rehabbing houses on the side. I started doing the gardens and I fell in love with gardening. When I was a fledgling landscaper I found that there weren’t a lot of places to find unusual plants or products involved in gardening that were thinking outside of the box. It was all being approached from a conservative viewpoint. I spent a lot of time driving around to different places and ordering online to get something I really wanted. The idea came through that there have to be other people that think like me, and that design and plant. I crossed my fingers and thank God, there were! There were people thinking the same thing… At the time there weren’t a lot of urban gardening centers so you’d have to travel outside of the city to get something or you were relegated to a large corporate box store.

We found online – we have an online shop too, our website is just down currently – that there were a lot of people in Manhattan and Brooklyn who had the same visual approach to plants and who were seeking something different as well.

I’ve talked to a few creatives who find their path in unexpected ways. So for you it just sort of developed unexpectedly.

It was definitely a natural path. It wasn’t a preconceived direction that I was going throughout my whole life. It took form over a moment based on what I was doing.

Tell me about the co-author of the book, Tassy de Give. Is she co-owner of the stores?

She was actually my first employee in Chicago and she was my manager for a couple of years. Her and I worked side by side and got the store going in Chicago. After a couple of years with Chicago, we decided we wanted to open up another store. So she decided to do that and she’s the co-owner of the New York store. So she runs the New York store.

Why did you both decide to write the book?

Some people actually had come to us but we were already in dialogue with each other. Our store not only sells pants and home goods but we sell books. We get to know what our clientele is looking for not only with plants and containers but books. All the books on the market focused on one of two aspects: either one hundred percent on design—or the practical side and care of maintenance of design—or it was just pure plants and how to take care of them. But they didn’t inspire anybody to try new things and plant something. We really wanted to put out a book that combined both. Hopefully it gives inspiration to people but also hey, there are some practical elements to it. Let’s back up for a second and think about your care and maintenance abilities. What can you do? What’s possible for your environment? The last thing we want is somebody coming in to buy a plant here and not knowing how to take care of it.

Reprinted with permission from Rooted in Design by Tara Heibel and Tassy de Give, copyright (c) 2015. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Penguin Random House, Inc. Photography (c) 2015 by Ramsay de Give and Maria Lawson. Available on Amazon.

I really love how you organize the sections of the book by spaces (on the table, in the kitchen, etc). That seems really useful for interior design, especially.

A lot of times people come into the shop and the first thing they say is ‘yeah, I want a plant’ but I say ‘okay let’s start from ground zero.’ And one of the questions is ‘where are you going to put it?’ and people half of the time are like ‘I don’t know.’ And with an urban environment it’s hard to find a space, it’s hard to make room. You have have to think from different angles.

Do you have a favorite space to decorate with plants?

I kind of treat plants like art pieces. I like to find viewpoints in your home where you can spotlight something. I can put plants anywhere. I have plants hanging from the ceiling and the walls. But I do like to treat them in a group or singularly. I kind of approach it as if it was an art installation. And I like to find negative spaces where there isn’t another purpose for that space.

But in effect, plants can be a piece of art. They’re not just bringing green in — you have to respect the space you’re putting them and make sure it makes sense. So no, I don’t have a favorite space. It’s really relegated by what the room says to you and how it fits.

Where were the photos in the book taken?

The photos were taken between our New York and Chicago stores at clients’ homes. They were projects that we created in store and brought to clients’ homes or that were created site-specifically for our clients

I noticed you do a range of services, from styling plants for offices to weddings.

There’s a huge range. At Sprout we do outdoor garden designs and installation along with retails sales and interior plants. That could apply to a home or office or anything like that.

Reprinted with permission from Rooted in Design by Tara Heibel and Tassy de Give, copyright (c) 2015. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Penguin Random House, Inc. Photography (c) 2015 by Ramsay de Give and Maria Lawson. Available on Amazon.

I know there are a lot of tips in the book but I just have to ask—if you had to give advice to a decor lover who wants to start using plants, what would you say?

I would say if you’re thinking about taking care of a plant and bringing it into your life, think about what type of plant parent you are. How often can you dedication time and maintenance to a plant? Are you the type of personal that will over love a plant? People will come in and say ‘I want something easy to take care of’ and it’s like, ‘okay you don’t want to water the plant.’ But some people have the opposite tendency to baby the plants and over water them.

I like to get to know people and their habits. Do they travel a lot? Get to know yourself as a plant parent and get to know your space. Make sure you understand the parameters of what your spaces could provide to a plant. Is there direct sunlight? If so, when is it? If it’s not direct, is it bright? You want to try and find a plant that will vibe with said scenario… Pay attention. Not all plants are the same.

What type of reader did you create this book for? Is there a specific audience?

We tried to make it for a broad range of people… I approach it from the standpoint that I’ve never been in the garden business before Sprout opened. So I approach it from a non-jaded standpoint. But it seems as if we attract a lot of designers — interior, graphic, furniture — who appreciate graphic sensibilities and how things are laid out but don’t know anything about plants. But we also have the people who aren’t into it because of the design aspect but who are plant aficionados. We have the plant aficionados who come here searching for the odd plants they can’t find anywhere else and that excites me — someone who knows their plants and gets excited about what they see here. But designers in other fields get excited about design possibilities so you have to go backwards and discuss care… Between the two divisions I think it’s a little different than most gardening centers. They’re coming here for a particular persona and they trust our designers and employees to put something together.

Reprinted with permission from Rooted in Design by Tara Heibel and Tassy de Give, copyright (c) 2015. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Penguin Random House, Inc. Photography (c) 2015 by Ramsay de Give and Maria Lawson. Available on Amazon.

So you get a pretty wide range of interested people.

It’s fun. It’s dynamic, which is really nice. It’s not the same audience that comes to loo for the same plant that everyone else does. I love the really weird questions.

Anything else you would like to add about the book or the stores?

We’re really proud of it. We’re proud of obtaining what we set out do. We’re happy to bring our knowledge and other ways of looking at things to other people. We’re basically addressing the same questions that people come into our store with every day. And I think there’s an even broader audience that wants to do these things. We’re pretty geeked about it.

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