Natural selection

Local resident, actor Dan Dewhirst, indulges in a spot of sustainable indoor gardening at his London City Island apartment. Here he shares his top tips on how to bring the outside in

Decorating with plants has become increasingly popular as we seek to reconnect with nature and bring its soul-nourishing, calming influence into our homes. Plants have a sculptural quality; they are always changing and have intricate details. There really isn’t any other design element quite like them. Available in a plethora of shapes, colours and textures — the scope for decorating with plants is endless. 

As well as being beautifully decorative and scented, the health benefits of plants are well documented. Not only can plants help purify the air, the activity of indoor gardening can also be extremely mindful.

Plants are a brilliant tool for softening living spaces, particularly LCI apartments with their strong angles and architectural features. To help inspire you in your choice and arrangement of greenery, I’ve put together some of my favourite plant installations from my very own LCI home, along with some light tips.

However, before you leap to fill your home with houseplants, however, be sure to pay attention to all your occupants’ needs. Many plants that are harmless to humans can be dangerous for our pets. For example, the Allium family (onions, garlic, leeks, chives, etc) are poisonous to dogs and cats. There are also parts of relatively common plants that are poisonous to humans, too. So do your research and pick the best plants for your home. 

Walking into a foliage-filled room is uplifting. From shelves to windowsills and even hanging from the ceiling, think creatively about how you can use them to create an immersive and magical feel. It is high maintenance but really worth the effort when they flourish and your room is ever-changing with new growth. 

Living room
Layering plants is a lovely way to bring life and interest to the standard, white-walled living space, adding natural texture, organic shapes and a pop of colour to the room. Plants will bring an element of softness and freshness to any shelf. Think about the container they are displayed in and choose a vessel to match your decor. I like to make the most of the nautical theme of the island by accessorising my containers with nautical knots. Whatever pots or vessels you choose, ensure they have good drainage – leaving house plants sitting in water is a recipe for failure! 

Your bed is likely to be the centrepiece of your bedroom and can easily be freshened up by surrounding it with air-purifying plants, which will help to encourage relaxation and aid a good night’s sleep. 


The bathroom can easily be overlooked when it comes to decorating with plants because it’s a room which often lacks natural light. So the use of preserved or artificial plants here can create a fun, spa-like feel to this space. I enjoyed making myself a “moss wall” using sustainable preserved moss (available online).


Make the most of where we live. There is a lot of inspiration on-site, from Botanic Square and the herb garden to the coffee-table books (such as Fredrik Berselius’s Aska) in the London City Island foyers! The world-famous Kew Gardens is just a Tube ride away. Its plant shop is excellent, too, although pricey, so if you’re on a budget it can be even more fun, not to mention green, to grow your own plants from food scraps. Try placing some seeds in a propagation container as a feature and enjoy watching them flourish.


Wet soil will attract flies, each of which can lay 100-150 eggs at a time. Avoid the need for harmful, cruel and environmentally unkind pesticides by simply placing some sort of harmless decorative covering over your soil instead. Some of my personal favourites are recycled corks and local stones — we have an abundance of beautiful slate here in East London (just give it a wash before using it).


• Many plants are toxic to dogs and cats. For some of these the merest contact can cause irritation and rashes on a dog’s skin. Others require ingestion to reveal their toxic effect. Please check that any plant you have in your home is safe for your household.

• Keep all plants, berries, bulbs, seeds, potting soils and fertilisers out of reach, or in rooms where children and pets are not allowed.

• Label pots with the plant name and state whether or not it is toxic. Research your plant! Even some of the most common plants can have poisonous parts to them. (For example: the stalks of a rhubarb plant are safe to eat, but the leaves are poisonous to both humans and animals).

• Check pots and soil regularly for mould and mildew.

• Make sure all hanging containers are very safely secured, strong enough to support the plant with no chance of anything falling.

• Don’t place vining plants where the tendrils are in reach. A child or pet could pull the plant from the shelf by tugging.

• Make sure plant shelves and ceiling hooks are strong enough to support the plant.

• Always keep fresh water for pets so that they aren’t tempted to drink from plant trays. Toxins can leach into the water.

• Keep plants and anything moist or wet away from electronics and plug sockets.

• Keep plants away from anything flammable.


Photography by Dan Dewhirst. Follow Dan on Instagram @dandewhirst