Q&A with David Squires, author of Houseplant Handbook

By Shelley Pierce | April 22, 2018
by Shelley Pierce
April 22, 2018

David Squire studied botany and horticulture at the Hertfordshire College of Horticulture and the Royal Horticultural Society’s Garden at Wisley, both in England. He has been an editorial staff member for several gardening magazines, book companies and part-work publishers; he has written more than 85 books which have been translated into several languages and sold in 20 countries.  In his latest book, “Houseplant Handbook“, Squires provides step-by-step instructions on the selection, watering, feeding, presentation, re-potting, grooming, propagation, and pest control for over 300 houseplants.  Read on to learn more about this book and enter below to win a copy from CompanionHouse Books!

1. How did you develop a love for houseplants?

Garden plants – as well as native types – have always held a fascination for me. Therefore, it was a life progression that when my wife and I decided to create a family home we should welcome another ‘family’ join us – one of houseplants!

I had long believed that a house or apartment without houseplants lacked friendliness and the qualities to enrich and stimulate family life.

Most people, including those living on their own, benefit from the presence of houseplants. They provide company and comfort from an often stressful and lonely topsy-turvy world.

2. How does this book help a reader to be a houseplant gardener with confidence?  What are some standout features that readers will find particularly useful or helpful?

The Houseplant Handbook has been tailored to offer instant guidance on houseplants, from choosing and buying to watering, re-potting, increasing, training and supporting. Also, it offers at-a-glance information on height, spread and essential care during both winter and summer.

Identifying house plants can be confusing. Therefore, a major part of the book is devoted to a plant directory and includes flowering types, those with attractive leaves, ferns, cacti and succulents, palms, bulbs, bromeliads, air-plants, insectivorous plants, bulbs and plants famed for their attractive berries.

3. What are some solid houseplant choices for beginning gardeners?

Several types of houseplants give assured success, including flowering potted plants which are sold established in pots. These encompass Flaming Katy (Kalanchoe blossfeldiana), Butterfly Flower (Schizanthus pinnatus) and All-Year-Round Chrysanthemums. Check them before buying to ensure plenty of flowers buds are waiting to open.

Good and reliable foliage plants are Spider Plants (Chlorophytum comosum), Kangaroo Vine (Cissus antarctica), Flame Nettle (Coleus blumei), Aluminium Plant (Pilea cadierei) and Variegated Canary Island Ivy (Hedera canariensis ‘Gloire de Marengo’).

Cacti and succulents are ideal for sunny windowsills, but take care not to give them too much water during winter when their growth is slow.

4. Name a houseplant that you love and one that you hate and explain why.

Without a doubt, the climbing and trailing Pink Jasmine (Jasminum polyanthum) comes to mind with its wealth of sweetly-scented white flowers, pink when in bud, from early winter to late spring. The richly scented flowers never fail to create a welcome-home fragrance.

Scented-leaved pelargoniums are also a treat for the nose, with a range of species providing fragrances including lemon, apple, almond and peppermint.

I do not dislike any houseplant, but often wish those with little eye-appeal, usually the result of neglect or ill-treatment, could be hospitalized and encouraged to make a recovery.

5. What’s growing in your indoor garden?  What pet names have you given your long-lived plants?

We have a wide range of flowering potted plants, including the glorious Flaming Katy (Kalanchoe blossfeldiana) and Cineraria (Senecio cruentus); window-ledges are packed with cacti and succulents while an ever-reliable Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum) in an indoor hanging basket cascades its variegated leaves. Our Venus Flytrap (Dionaea muscipula), an insectivorous plant, always attracts attention with its fly-trapping hinged jaws. Invariably, children are amused by it.

As to plants with pet names, an earlier tree-like Rubber Plant (Ficus elastica), now regrettably pensioned off, was known as Claud, while a decorative room-dividing screen cloaked in the Kangaroo Vine (Cissus antarctica) was Kanga. Children are often the best givers of ‘pet-names’ – it also engenders an interest in plants.

Win a copy of “Houseplant Handbook“!

To enter, simply leave a comment on this blog post by midnight on Sunday, April 29, 2018 (be sure to provide a valid e-mail address) in answer to the following question:

What houseplant are you interested in learning more about?

Be sure to include a valid e-mail address. The winner will be drawn at random from all qualified entrants, and notified via e-mail. (See rules for more information.)

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