By Robert Woodman, Plant Specialist
From an early age, I’ve had a fascination with jungles. Maybe it was growing up watching old black-and-white episodes of “Tarzan” or reading Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book.” Jungles seem to be places of intrigue, dark at times yet captivating to me as a young boy.
But growing up in London, there weren’t a lot of places to get my jungle fix. I was limited to television shows or the occasional school trip to gardens with glasshouses.
I loved visiting the Palm House at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew - one of the greatest and most iconic glasshouses. Built during the Victorian era, its elegant, arching structure houses a collection of palms and other important tropical plants, such as chocolate and rubber from around the world, in an environment suited to their hot and humid needs.
Later in life, I returned to Kew as an employee. From there, I had the opportunity to travel to exotic locations, such as Indonesia, Singapore and Australia, to collect or study tropical plants in their environments. In turn, that became a stepping stone to moving to the Caribbean for two years to run Botanic Gardens on the island of Tortola, British Virgin Islands.
My Indiana Jones days of exploring have been put on hold for now. But I find myself wandering around the greenhouses at Merrifield recharging and reminiscing. To me, orchids are plants that really echo the jungle feel.
Jungles - or to be more exact rainforests - have been best described as the ‘Lungs of Our Planet,’ removing carbon dioxide and recycling it into oxygen. It’s no wonder that NASA scientists researching lunar habitats have been studying houseplants to see how beneficial they are in absorbing potentially harmful gases.
Some of the many plants that help improve air quality include palms, spider plants, pothos, philodendrons, peace lilies and Boston ferns, to name a few.
Whether you’re looking to improve air quality or are craving the lush jungle feeling of a rain forest, there are lots of houseplants to choose from, providing there’s access to some natural light. Come by any of our stores and immerse yourself in Jungle Therapy, allowing the bright colors and lush greens to wash away the winter blues.
So this winter why not blur the boundaries between home and garden – and bring the outside in with houseplants? If you come by our Gainesville store, stop for a bite at the new Merrifield Café. We’d love to see you!