Life Alive Garden: Lessons for Indoor Planting

The Gardenist

About a half an hour ago I walked into the Cambridge location of one of my favorite places to eat. Life Alive is a local vegetarian eatery that has another location in Lowell, Massachusetts. I tagged along for the ride with a friend who is taking a class nearby. I basically needed a change of writing location and pace… and I certainly got one. I didn't have a post topic in mind when I got here, but immediatley found one when when I walked through the doors.

Life Alive has some pretty great indoor gardens. It is a little space, but they have found a way to grow lots of pretty things in very clever ways, and I immediately realized that there are a lot of lessons to share here.

1) Use a mix of pots to create style. Mix color, shape and texture to create a style uniquely your own.

2) Balance the pot with the plant — each pairing should be a work of art in and of itself. Scale is important to consider. While all rules are made to be broken, if you follow a rule of thirds (i.e., pot is 1/3 the total height of the plant and pot, or, to say it another way, the plant is 2x taller than the pot) you should be in good shape.

3) Use other objects to bring warmth and personality to your indoor garden. Life Alive mostly used books, but you could add sculpture or art or really anything that strikes your fancy.

4) Keep the plants healthy and clean. I have seen some great plants look pretty tired because they aren't dusted and they have lots of dead leaves hanging off them. Give them a little sprucing; this will go a long way to making a pretty arrangement and a healthy, cared-for plant.

5) If you are low on light, or have only glancing light from one direction, use a mirror to reflect more light towards your plants.

6) Alternatively, install a grow light (see how they cleverly encased it with a couple pieces of wood above?). Plants are happier and healthier, and you don't really even notice it.

7) Make a true window garden — they transformed deep windows into full garden beds that have at least 4-5 inches of soil. By lining the bed with plastic or any number of indoor garden related waterproofing products, you can easily create a truly built in garden that you can dig you fingers into all year round.

A Couple of Additional Tips:
Like the looks of the Bamboo plants in the palm leaf pot? Check out this post for achieving something similar - very simply. (Hint: Burlap bag + 5 gallon bucket = beautifully done.)

Also - Taro root bulbs can be purchased quite inexpensively in specialty food markets. They produce the Elephant ear plant — generally not the exact variety seen in the picture with the white veins, but equally pretty.

(Images: Rochelle Greayer)