In a fast moving world, with distractions on every corner, libraries have to constantly reinvent themselves. From a small, quite, book oriented setting, libraries are blossoming into creative, networking, green spaces, where information exchange, social connection and a closer link to nature are gaining ground.
Recently, indoor plants have made their way into libraries. And no, not in books. But in real pots on library shelves! The phenomenon is called Plantotek and it’s a project that offers the possibility to everyone to adopt and bring back home plants for free.
The initial idea came from Stéphanie Weisser, an employee of the French-language library, and thanks to her, the pioneers of this project are now the Dutch-speaking and French-speaking libraries in the Brussels municipality of Jette. As a frequent visitor of plant Facebook groups who are now selling a pilea plant at 3 euros a piece, the two libraries in Jette are now offering indoor plant lovers the possibility to adopt these plants for free.
The project strives on plant donations and the active work of volunteers, who meet twice a week to take care of the plants, to transfer new baby plants and to label their names and care instructions. Events and workshops are regularly held in order to spread the word about this initiative, as well as to teach people how to look after their new plants.
Personally, I started liking indoor plants only a few years ago. Any plant I bought found its way in my trashcan convincing me each time that I don’t have what it takes to take care of an indoor plant. So, the less money I spent on house plants, the less stressed I felt about its survival and soon enough I learned that you need only a few tips and tricks for plants to survive and thrive.
Caring for house plants has taught me so much. Besides the various plant care instructions, indoor plants taught me patience, trust and better non-verbal communication. An indoor plant needs time to adjust with its new environment. You have to be patient with it and trust that it will soon accommodate to its external conditions.
I remember how frustrated I got at the beginning when I saw the plant starting to turn yellow or wilt. The only way I knew how to “save” it, was by drowning it in water. With time, I learned to be patient and turn my frustration into curiosity. Instead of panicking, I started to observe. What could it need? More light? Less light? Less water? A plant communicates non-verbally and you need to observe and respond to its messages. It takes constant adjustments until you find the best place for it. We are in fact responding to nature and it is communicating right back to us.
Having said that, I think the element of wonder and surprise is the most special when caring for a plant. When that dormant orchid blossoms after two years, when that spider plant survives and strives despite looking livid for one year, when you actually get to use your aloe vera to soothe your child’s chicken pox… It is in these moments that you realize that we can stay connected to nature even when we live in a small, urban apartment and that in the end we are actually meant and supposed to cohabit no matter the circumstances.
No matter in what areas libraries are branching out, I am so thankful that every time I enter one, I come out of there with my head, heart and hands full. Now go and grab that plant you always wanted for free! And if you have extra plants, be kind and leave a donation.
Curious to know why indoor plants are beneficial?
- Cleaner indoor air
- Stress reduction and increase of well-being
- Contact with nature in urban areas
- Learning to navigate around new plants and their various needs
- Information exchange with other plant lovers