Get to Know the Globetrotting Greenhouse Enthusiasts
For the past year, photographers India and Magnus have traveled across Europe in search of greenhouses. The Sheffield-based houseplant enthusiasts document their travels as Haarkon and share tips for gardeners with budding green thumbs on their blog and Instagram account. The duo are featured in our new book Evergreen, which showcases the new culture of urban gardening—read our interview with Haarkon below and browse the book for more spoils from their travels.
When did your adventure as Haarkon start? What inspired you to start a blog?
We’ve always loved to drive and explore new places around the country. It’s only in the past year that we have started sharing the places that we visit through the Haarkon website and Instagram. We figured that if we like these places then there may be others that would like to know about them and follow in our footsteps; we try to capture the atmosphere and scale to give a sense of the place, but we are careful to share just enough so that people can experience the same sense of wonder and awe as we do when we find them.
How do you find the greenhouses that you visit?
Web searches and social media are very useful—Instagram is our main source of inspiration. Without these tools it would take a lot more time to find and plan each visit. Often the places don’t promote their greenhouses as a main feature of their property and so not much is to be said about them; we visit places not knowing what to expect and find, more often than not, that we are surprised by the scale and beauty of the glass structures. We couldn’t imagine having something so beautiful in our garden and not wanting to shout from the rooftops that it was there! Sometimes people contact us to recommend sites that we might find interesting or that they themselves have a collection that they’d like to share—we love that as it makes life much easier!
What are the main differences you see in greenhouses as you travel across countries and continents?
Our exploration has (so far!) taken us around the UK and a couple of places in Europe. Our plan is to take the time to visit as many as we can in places all over the world in our lifetime and share them with those who choose to follow us.
The main difference that we see is usually reflected in the time which the greenhouse was constructed. Although we appreciate the grandeur and importance of Victorian municipality-owned greenhouses, we absolutely love the more understated and more modern greenhouses, usually taking the form of polytunnels or basic box-shaped structures that house small private collections.
Are there any particularly memorable stories from the road that you would like to share?
The most memorable has to be from the first couple of greenhouses we visited in Oxford one Sunday morning. We'd arrived early and there seemed to be no other visitors around—it was so early, in fact, that we had to wait for the glasshouses to be opened. The glasshouses there seemed so big and each one led onto another that offered a different climate from the last. As we walked through the various rooms, we talked about how they’d created a host of different worlds that were suited to the varieties of plant life and how they could live next to one another. After that blissful morning, we were hooked and made sure that whenever we found ourselves in a new place, we’d look for the nearest greenhouse.
Do you have plants in the apartment that you share?
We have over 130 at the last count. If you’d like to see them, have a look at our Instagram. We also have various posts on our website which feature our plants; they can be found here, here, and here.
Do you have a favorite houseplant?
Our favorite has to be the first one we brought into our home. It was a small umbrella plant (Schefflera) that is now over seven-feet tall. It’s hit the ceiling, so we might have to move house—or buy the apartment upstairs and cut a hole in the roof!
What are your top tips for keeping a houseplant alive?
Be realistic. Make plant choices that are based on what kind of conditions your plants like to live in and make sure you can provide the proper conditions for them. If you have a dark house and choose plants that love light-filled sunny spots, then you’ll stress the plant and it won’t last very long!
We see if a plant likes it in our house; if it doesn’t, we move it around until it’s happy. Plants usually tell you very early on if they don’t have what they need and so you have to keep an eye on them and respond. There are lots of books on our shelves that we refer to if something seems out of sorts, but so far we have learned a lot! Having plants in your home is a really easy way to give it life and it’s incredibly rewarding when you know that they’re happy.
We have written a little bit more extensive article about looking after houseplants.