We are very grateful to the QEII Centre for their ongoing support during lockdown. This contributed to our survival during this period where we saw our revenue plummet and our staff furloughed. Luckily, we had time to install one last display and leave a trace of magic for any lone passers-by who happened to look inside the venue. This also provided them with material for their marketing department to talk about whilst people were at home and looking for things to occupy their minds.
For us, this marks the end of a two-year journey exploring nature, sustainability, environmental awareness and craftsmanship on their behalf. Once the summer was underway and thoughts turned to the return to work, we discussed how best to dress the venue bearing in mind the implications of social distancing measures imposed by the government. We decided that the best way we could serve them was to introduce planting schemes that looked stylish, simple, rich and abundant and that could be used to separate people without resorting to inanimate barriers that felt dehumanising and sterile.
We therefore replaced the floral art installations with a series of planters; these were placed in the entrance to create walkways marking the one-way system but also served to prevent clients from coming into contact with others as they left the building. We used materials that matched the modern building for the planters – in fact these were made of concrete, but moulded simply and stylishly to look chic, corporate and understated.
The choice of plants was greatly influenced by the inhospitable conditions in the entrance: a pair of wide doors open onto a wind tunnel which, in the Winter, blows icy air into the reception. To counteract this, industrial heaters blast hot air downwards to take the edge off the impact of this unfortunate natural occurrence. The plants therefore have to cope with driving cold and heat, alternately, which no plant enjoys, and many would not survive!
We chose to use dracaena plants which are the mainstay of corporate offices the world over. They are trusty plants that withstand some of the worst conditions the corporate world often subject them to, and though they may not thrive exactly, they invariably stay the course.
My experience of them is that they are boring, only just ‘alive’ in the sense that they rarely change in structure or appear to grow, which is why they are ideal for inhospitable situations, but which also makes them much less engaging. We therefore looked for slightly more mature plants that had some character, ones that had a slightly fuller leaf structure, looked more abundant and richer. These plants were fuller than the normal ones you see in town, and therefore appeared more inviting and more engaging.
Having chosen these, we bought some taller plants in the same variety and planted them in similar containers which varied only in colour to add a point of interest. These were placed around the reception area where we took some ‘before and after’ photos to really showcase the difference they made, especially in such a modern, spacious, uncluttered space.
Having set the general mood of the area, we chose our focal plant. This was a Crassula Ovata or ‘money plant’ as it is commonly known. Being a very mature plant, it has the dreamiest personality – small rounded, fleshy ‘leaves’ which are reminiscent of coins arranged in a cascade around the chunky, sculptural stem of the plant.
There is a particular elegance in the way it holds itself - upright, rounded and gently reaching out towards the onlooker with a certain regal air. This is a plant that inevitably will be named by the staff as they pass by each day on their way around the building. To highlight its special status in our mini plant kingdom, we chose a beautiful, round, wooden planter with a pattern reminiscent of parquet flooring to emphasise the classical nature of this beautiful specimen and to create a dramatic contrast with the concrete and white Perspex of the surrounding area.
Scientists have proven that by looking at an object we change the molecular make-up of that object. I firmly believe that if we look at a plant with love and admiration, it can sense it and will respond. There is nothing more satisfying, therefore, than to see a plant that is flourishing (just as there is little more depressing than one languishing in the corner, waiting to die).
This is why we go to such lengths to make sure our plants are dressed to perfection, so that people who look at them enjoy what they see and the plant responds accordingly in a rather beautiful ‘dance’ of reciprocity. Biophilia is man’s innate need to engage with nature. This need can be fulfilled on a multitude of levels and now, more than ever, we need to cater to that need.
Read more on how we help you have a positive impact on places of work with plants.