Jack and the Beanstalk, by Jessie Wilcox Smith
BY KIMBERLY MAYER
I’d been browsing end tables in a vast and sparsely appointed CB2 showroom in La Jolla for some time before I realized that the potted trees scattered about were artificial. Fiddle Leaf Fig, Dracaena, Palm, Eucalyptus. What once cheapened a room, does it still? Not necessarily. Not here apparently. I’d been pondering this issue for a condo we are furnishing for rental in Solana Beach, California. What can you do plant-wise when you’re not there to care for it?
Like a skater on thin ice, I pressed my luck and slid over to the Arhaus showroom. Artificial trees there too. If you weren’t looking for them, you wouldn’t know. There, in a backroom among various items that had been marked down, I took the plunge on a 7’ palm tree. Up close, I could appreciate that the trunk was made of real fiber. The hairy fiber got me, and it came home with me.
And now I cannot imagine the living room without it. How did this happen?
As a child I used to press flowers and string daisies for wreaths to wear in my hair. I still find dried, preserved, and even wilted plants lovely. Silk flowers not so much. Silk flowers trigger an unpleasant memory for me. I was single, getting a divorce, and living alone in a railroad flat in a brownstone that had seen better days in Midtown Manhatten. A sublet apartment. A closet where I thought about hanging myself. On a dinner date with advertising executives in Greenwich CT our hostess pointed out silk flower arrangements gifted by her mad man husband, one for each child born to them. They, the arrangements, were displayed on bookcases, console tables, end tables and side tables in their elegant living room. All I could think was, as if every flower would be in bloom at once!
Sorrow for my own marriage engulfed me then. At the time it was like seeing the possibility of a life I’d lost. As if my marriage, might have come to this. As if that was what I wanted. It was not a happy period for me. I see all that in silk flowers.
Even now, artificial trees were something I had to warm up to. No, I had to push myself. From the disciplines of an architectural/interior design background to writing and Master Gardening, what am I doing now but appointing artificial trees in my interiors. Heaven help me.
Here’s what I’ve learned: The first thing I have to do is to stop calling them “artificial trees.” Stop saying artificial trees, artificial plants, artificial anything. They are faux botanicals. The next thing I learned is to place them where, if they were a real specimen, the light would be right and they might thrive. Give them credibility. Also, give them some distance. Let them hang back. People should be surprised, as I was in that CB2 showroom.
Call it magical thinking but as soon as you disclose something, you find you are not alone. Think of all the photo shoots in the world of design, and how essential we have come to feel plants are in our environments, our interiors. A photograph doesn’t know faux from real, so we’ve all been dupped a trillion times, I’m sure.
It’s a dirty little secret, and now you have it.