Grow Your Own Fresh Air

If you follow me on Twitter, then you may know I recently started back up in UCLA’s interior design program. I’m easing into it with a light schedule this quarter, and one of the classes I’m taking is all about ecological and sustainable design. Fun!

Our professor mentioned this building in Milan, which is currently being built. Apparently Milan has terrible air quality, so the goal in building this high rise is for all of the air that comes into the building to pass through a series of plants first, naturally filtering the air. Because as they taught us in elementary school science class, plants turn carbon dioxide into oxygen! Brilliant! (I’m hoping for a trip to Italy sometime in the near future, and hoping even more that this will be built by then so I can go see it in real life!)

Many plants also have a natural ability to filter out toxins that travel through the air, such as those nasty fumes from VOC’s used in paints, glues, and even carpeting. SOM designed a living air filter that could cut down VOC’s in a typical office building by 80%. That’s a whole lot more fresh air at work!

So I got to thinking. What other ways are people using plants and vertical gardens to improve their quality of life and the quality of the air they breath? Well for one, there has been a significant movement in vertical gardening lately, and Patrick Blanc seems to be at the head of it.

Blanc had the record for the world’s largest living wall (located in Madrid), until Francesco Bollani one-up’ed him with this one in Milan.

Patrick Blanc is also responsible for this overpass in New Zealand. Wouldn’t it be magical if all of Los Angeles’ overpasses looked like this? Less concrete, more plants!

What about underused indoor spaces, you say? Well last time my husband and I traveled to the East coast we had a layover at Chicago O’Hare and discovered this incredible vertical garden (video). And it’s not just for show! It’s a fully functioning hydroponic vegetable garden, and the restaurants in the airport are welcome to use these fresh veggies and herbs in the meals they prepare for you while you wait for your next flight. (This was probably my favorite discovery in an airport, ever… so much more exciting than realizing an airport has not one but TWO Dunkin’ Donuts…)

If you want to bring more fresh air into your own home (and especially if simply opening a window is more like inviting smog in and letting oxygen out), Kamal Meattle suggests the Areca Palm, Mother-in-law’s Tongue, and the Money Plant in this video. I’ll admit this is not the most entertaining Ted Talk I’ve ever seen, but he talks about his involvement in a huge project in India where they have brought a veritable forest of these plants inside to vastly improve the air quality in some huge office buildings in Delhi. Adding a few of these plants to your house seems a simple way to boost your oxygen levels at home in the same way.

Do you have indoor plants in your house? Will you be adding any to your indoor environment now?

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Orchid Dreams

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five buds bloomed my orchid this year

I have lived in Los Angeles for 8 years 7 months, and counting. I’m going to guess that I have been trying to make an orchid part of my decor for approximately 8 years 1 month. I have killed exactly 7 of them to date, but this time I did it! I have successfully nurtured this orchid plant for close to one year now, and not only is it alive, it is blooming!

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my happy, healthy orchid

You’ll have to forgive my excitement. After several people telling me it’s easy to care for orchids, and then me subsequently killing them, this is something I never thought I could accomplish. And much to my chagrin, itactually was pretty easy!… With a couple of new conditions in play:

1) I have this awesome gardening window in my new house. It does not get direct sunlight, but that’s great because orchids don’t like direct sunlight. The window is shaded by a huge ficus tree, so it gets plenty of light but no harsh direct sun rays.

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some of the new roots that developed in the past couple months

2) The gardening window is over the kitchen sink. What does this have to do with anything, you may ask? Well, every time I do the dishes, I am reminded to check it to see if it need watering. And I just water it in the sink when it does. Piece of cake!

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the base of the stalk that grew this year

3) This particular orchid is a Phalaenopsis, which likes to get completely dry between watering. So it was always easy for me to tell when it was time to water it again. Water it when the bark in the pot feels dry.

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Phalaenopsis with red lips

So to encourage those of you who might have felt like me, and think that you can’t take care of an orchid, I’m here to tell you that you can! Here are a couple links that will make it easy:

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five blossoms

Have you tried to maintain an orchid? Did you find it easy or difficult?