Want to clean the air and add pops of color to your home? Just add plants, say area green thumbs and home-décor experts.
“Through the process of photosynthesis, plants absorb light and carbon dioxide,” said Shane Pliska, president at Planterra in West Bloomfield. “The byproduct of this complex process of chemical reactions is oxygen. Even in buildings with the most advanced air filtration systems, none manufacture oxygen — the vital ingredient for healthy, breathable air.”
Planterra specializes in interior landscape consulting, design, installation and ongoing horticultural care. Less than a year ago, the company opened a state-of-the-art retail space/conservatory on Drake Road between Maple and 14 Mile Road in West Bloomfield Township.
The 23,000-square-foot facility houses a large selection of exotic plants, orchids, tropical ornamental foliage and attractive pottery. Designed to offer a botanical, gardenlike experience, it’s also a retail space.
Pliska advises homeowners who want to add plants that are good for the environment to try those with the highest toxin-absorption rates, such as the peace lily, ficus and Boston fern.
“Plants humanize interior spaces,” added Carol Pliska, CEO of Planterra. “Live greenery connects interiors to nature in an artistic way.”
Jennifer Youngquest, marketing manager at (located in West Bloomfield and Royal Oak), agrees. “Plants add value to life,” Youngquest said. “They’re living art — softening hard lines, creating focal points of interest, adding texture and balance to almost any setting.”
Artist Chris Unwin of West Bloomfield knows all about nature’s artistic elements. “Orchids are one of my favorite things to paint,” said Unwin, an award-winning watercolorist, art teacher and art book publisher. “Orchids have great colors and beautiful shapes,” she added.
Area stores including Lowe’s locations in Bloomfield Township and Rochester Hills offer a variety of house and patio plants, including orchids.
“Plants can absorb airborne chemicals that are common in most homes,” said Colleen Carbott of Lowe’s Co. “Orchids are a popular option and a quick way to add a pop of color into your home.”
Unwin and her husband, Don, keep several orchid plants in their home. Because the flowers like the light in the kitchen, Unwin places them near a window by the couple’s everyday dining table. “They like an east exposure and not sunlight right on them,” she said.
When it’s time for watering, Unwin is adamant about never letting water pool in the bottom of the plants.
“I hold a cup of water over the plant and let the water run through it,” she explained. “They originally grow on trees, so you need to treat them a little differently than the typical plant.”
Spend some time in her husband's home office, and you’ll see dozens of photos of breathtaking orchids. Don Unwin, a personal injury lawyer, has won several awards in a variety of magazines and competitions for photography. By looking closely at his orchid images, one imagines almost insect- or creaturelike shapes within the petals.
“Plants lift the soul,” his wife said. “Who can imagine a house without plants?”
Besides orchids, Carbott also recommends rubber plants and dumb canes, commonly known as dieffenbachia, as easy-to-grow plants. Tabletop plants, such as the 6-inch anthurium, which requires little care and blooms almost continuously in good conditions, also are easy to grow.
“The anthurium helps to purify air,” said Carbott. “A ficus curly fig also helps to purify the air and is acclimated for lower light levels.”
Youngquest also recommends rubber plants. "They tolerate dim light and cool temperatures," she said. "Pothos, which tolerates lower light, also is a great, easy-to-grow plant, as well as bamboo palm, which pumps much-needed moisture into the indoor atmosphere, especially during winter months when heating systems dry the air."
Youngquest is especially fond of peace lilies and has several in her Farmington Hills home. "They have beautiful white spathes."
In the conservatory
Plant lover Shelley Roberts, outgoing CEO of The Community House, likes to bask in all things leafy and colorful in a conservatory she and her husband, Jeff, co-owner of Gorman’s Furniture, added to their Birmingham home about three years ago.
Roberts purchases her plants from various sources, including the , Planterra and English Gardens.
She even grows olives, lemons and limes in her conservatory and uses the citrus fruits to make pies. “I made a key lime pie just the other day,” she said. Come warm weather, she and her husband will replace some of the glass windows with screens so they can enjoy fresh breezes.
A conservatory is typically a glass and metal structure traditionally found in the garden of a large house, but it can also be built as an extension to the main structure of a house. Traditional 19th-century conservatories were large greenhouses used for growing tender and rare plants, and they sometimes included birds and rare animals.
“I like to have plants and color and light around me all year-round,” said Roberts. “I wanted the conservatory to make me feel like I feel when I walk through a greenhouse. It lifts my spirits,” she added.
Studies from Texas A&M University reveal that people exposed to natural environments can experience lower blood pressure and reduced muscle tension, producing recovery from stress within four to six minutes.
“Our conservatory (just off the home's dining room) is a great place to destress after a long day,” added Roberts, who often enjoys breakfast in the light-filled space.
Not ready to spring for an at-home conservatory? There are plenty of places in Metro Detroit that offer conservatory-style havens, including the Detroit Zoo’s Butterfly Garden, where the temperature is always a comfy 75 degrees.
Also, the inviting glass room at the Royal Park Hotel in Rochester features a special space that is perfect for hosting friends or family for just about any occasion.
“Ceremonies, dinners, fundraisers, brunches — people use it for all types of events,” said Sue Keels, the hotel’s sales and marketing manager. Here, the hotel can accommodate events from sit-down dinners to strolling suppers.
The story behind the hotel's conservatory is as intriguing as the site itself.
“When building the hotel, we wanted something European, so our architect (Victor Saroki & Associates of Birmingham) actually traveled to Belgium to look at examples of different types of conservatories,” Keels said. “It was all hand-crafted in Europe and is truly a classic garden conservatory.”
Keels invites visitors to duck in and take a peek at its extraordinary design.
Or you can always get your green fix at the Planterra conservatory.
“It’s beautiful, a gorgeous spot,” Roberts said.