Updated: Aug 26
By Ivano Aspesi
“Retrato de Dora Maar” (1941)
‘We understand nature by resisting it’- Gaston Bachelard
I’ve always been fascinated by plants. In fact, it’s become an obsession that has taken me on a long journey of academic studies. As a native of the Caribbean, I wanted to understand the baroque, indomitable nature of this region, much like Adam searching for paradise.
The Caribbean has had a great influence on how I perceive the world, right down to the plants I have at home. Our family home was in the tropics, and besides its fascinating architectural qualities, it had a wonderful garden that I can vividly recall to this day. The garden and surrounding area had such a vast and colourful array of plants and birds that my sister and I would get lost for hours among the fruit trees, hummingbirds, coves, orchids, roses and bamboos. I can only compare the feeling of observing this coexistence of flora and fauna to the first time I saw a Picasso painting: I understood nothing but little by little, it began to take shape, and I discovered meanings behind it.
Exploring our garden during my childhood in Venezuela led me to search for similar paradises, and much to my delight, I found them in other areas of the country and the region. Caribbean gardens were exuberant, happy, colourful places that would forever leave their mark on me.
Fate eventually brought me to another continent with many other things to discover, including the flora and fauna. I found myself observing nature with the same eagerness and surprise that life in the tropics had taught me and realised the power of co-existing in harmony with nature.
Feeling a great nostalgia for the world I left behind, I wanted to create an intimate tropical paradise at home. I tasked myself with finding species of plants from the Caribbean region. It was no easy task, and I felt much like Sisyphus dragging the stone. I was reminded of Camus’ famous saying: ‘there is no punishment more terrible than uselessness and hopelessness’. But I eventually found what I was looking for, and my home is now rich with tropical plants. When I look at them, I am reminded of the mornings in Venezuela drinking coffee, my parents’ embrace, the sounds of the sea and the garden where I grew up.
Anyone can create a paradise at home. If you’re looking for tropical plants to add a bit colour and life to your spaces, here are a few you can consider:
BROMELIA Scientific name: Bromeliaceae
Photo source: www.biodiversitylibrary.org
This plant is native to Brazil and grows on tree branches. It’s a popular houseplant in the West.
RED ANTURIO Scientific name: Anthurium
Photo source: www.panteek.com.
This plant blooms throughout the year so it’s always beautiful to look at. Place in indirect natural light and keep the soil moist. Spray water on its leaves to keep them healthy and shiny.
ADAM RIB Scientific name: Monstera deliciosa
Photo source: www.bygarmi.com
This tropical plant comes from the araceae family in central and southern America.
BAMBOO Scientific name: Bambusoideae
Photo source: www.gettyimages.es
This increasingly popular tropical plant, also known as the ‘vegetable metal’ is of oriental origin and comes in countless varieties.
CACTUS Scientific name: Cactaceae
Photo source: www.elenanitojardinero.blogspot.com
The cactus family of plants is native to the American continent and lives in the desert. Cactuses can handle high temperatures and dryness well, but to thrive they need light irrigation and should be placed somewhere where there’s plenty of natural light.
Photo source: www.panteek.com
This lively, effervescent plant has no seeds, and it’s reproduced with spores using a specific method. CAMADOREA Scientific name: Chamaedorea Elegans
Photo source: es.wikipedia.org
This miniature palm tree comes from Mexico and Guatemala. Its ideal location is a place with partial light.
SUEGRA'S TONGUE Scientific name: Dracaena trifasciata
Photo source: www.supload.wikimedia.org
This plant is popular for surviving extreme weather conditions, so much so that it doesn’t require water in winter.
Remember, the little things in your home can be a great source of joy. As Alexander von Humbolt said: ‘A man must seek happiness and inner peace in objects that cannot be taken from him’.
Thanks to all of you.