When Blossom Books, one of my favourite Dutch publishers (yes, besides plants I also really like books), told me that they were going to publish a plant book, I got excited immediately. This plant book has been out for a couple of months now and I spoke to the author; Mandy Bollegraf.
Where does your love for plants come from?
My love for nature/greenery has always been there. But when I started posting pictures of my houseplants on Instagram 4/5 years ago and when I quickly got more and more questions about plants, I started showing interest in everything surrounding houseplants. Now that I live in my current apartment, for 3 years now, with big south-facing windows, my passion for plants has skyrocketed.
Why do you love plants?
I like them mostly because they’re so incredibly interesting! I think it’s fascinating to see how plants evolve during the years and how they surprise me time and time again.
What was your first plant?
Ooh, that was a cactus in my student room and it’s actually still alive! Not very old though, about 8 years I think. I sometimes speak with people that have plants in their homes of 20+ years!
How many plants do you have?
Oh gosh, I stopped counting two years ago. I think I have about 145.
Don’t you think it’s a bit much to take care off?
No, it’s ok really. Most of them don’t need that much care. But when I’m busy, it can be tricky sometimes. But then again, it’s good to do some plant care. Like a mandatory moment of rest, just me and my plants. Very mindful! I think it’s important and nice to do something with my hands.
What is your favourite plant?
Oh, that’s difficult! That’s like choosing your favourite child and that’s not really nice right! Every plant has something special. But plants that I got as gifts have a special place in my heart (like my first big plant, a monstera, that I got from my parents one day and that now reaches the sealing. I need to propagate it because it gets too big otherwise) or the agave I brought from Marokko (got it from the owner of the biggest cacti nursery in Afrika). Which is technically not allowed, but luckily it wasn’t discovered in my luggage.
Which plant would you like to add to your collection?
At the moment I don’t have a wishlist. I like to be surprised at the shop. That makes finding an extraordinary plant éxtra special.
Is there a plant you’d never buy?
I’ve got no idea actually! Maybe a plant that is so poisonous that it’s even dangerous if you’re not touching it (because most plant juices are poisonous). And I’d skip plants that don’t look good, they might have a disease or bugs and that could be dangerous for my other green plants at home. That’s why checking plants before you buy them is so important.
Where do you like to shop for your plants?
I’ve got some garden centres here in the area that always have cool plants for way less money than more well-known garden centres. I get most of my plants there, but also in cute plant stores or at botanical gardens. That’s where you usually find the special ones.
Do you visit botanical gardens often?
I love to visit them, I am always looking for green places. If I travel, I will always check if there is a botanical garden in the area. And sometimes I even planned a trip because of a special garden. Last year I went to Belgium because I wanted to see the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken (near Brussels). They are only opened to the general public three weeks a year. And then I also went to a botanical garden in Meise, another one in the area of Brussels. Both are really special, but the one in Laeken is one that I’ll never forget. I also made a detour in Italy ones because I had to see the botanical garden in Padova, that is the oldest one in the world.
Which advice would you give a beginning plant parent?
Just do it, don’t be afraid about not having a green thumb, because you can grow them. Especially when you have my book, haha! And the best beginners plant is a sansevieria in my opinion since it’s so easy to take care off.
How did your book Plantastic came to be?
The publisher, Blossom Books, approached me with the question if I’d like to make a book out of the tips & tricks and pictures I share on my Instagram and blog. A dream come true, so I said yes!
How was it to write a book?
A lot of work mostly! Besides the text, I also shot all the pictures. It was definitely an adventure, such a big job. It has taught me a lot and it was a lot of fun to even further deepen my knowledge of the world of plants. And I’m really happy with the result.
What makes Plantastic stand out from other plant books?
Plantastic is suitable for the beginning plant lover and starts at the beginning. For instance, I tell you how to tackle the garden centre and give you 5 steps on how to go from there to start your urban jungle, from propagating to plant problems and general care rules. Of course, there are also plant portraits, but I go the extra mile and add fun little facts about the plant. That’s why Plantastic is also interesting for plant lovers that have been at it for a while. I try to answer all of your questions and convince you that you need plants in your home.
Finally, I asked Mandy some quick-fire questions…
Calathea or Maranta?
Ficus or Begonia?
Monstera or Alocasia
Philodendron or Pothos?
Cactus or succulent?
Haha, well every cactus is a succulent, but not every succulent is a cactus. So if I say succulent, I don’t have to choose.
Sansevieria or spiderplant?
Peace lily or ZZ plant?
Neither, not a fan of this duo.
Dieffenbachia or bananaplant?
String of pearls or string of hearts?
Ooh, that’s a tough one. String of hearts I guess.
Peperomia or Pilea
No urban jungle without a Pilea Peperomioides!