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Seb’s Urban Slumber – Bedroom Jungles Mean Better Sleeps

It’s National Bed Month here in the UK, so we take a look at how adding a few plants to your boudoir can lead to a better night’s sleep

March is a busy old month on the world-event calendar, home to both Women’s History Month and National Bed Month. It goes without saying that Seb’s Urban Jungle raises a watering can to all the amazing ladies out there, but in today’s blog, we’d like to focus on sleepy time.   

While the amount of shut-eye humans need varies depending on loads of factors, most adults hope for a solid 7-9 hours a night. Although, we sure know a few people who can hit an impressive 10-12 and above – you know who you are, friends. That means, on average, we spend almost a whopping third of our lives dozing, so it’s no wonder the Sleep Council created National Sleep Month to promote the importance of a comfy bed in getting good night’s kip – word!

But to secure that all-important 7-9 hours (or longer), tired souls need more than just a cosy spot to lay down their weary head. A combo of routine, pleasant environment, and minimized light & sound also helps big time – and so do plants. Experts have long known that our green buddies are great for both physical and mental health in a range of ways, and a handful of recent studies found they can lead to bigger Zeds too.    

One study even looked at the benefits of greenery to the poor mortals living in isolated environments, such as astronauts or deep-sea explorers. The researchers found that caring for houseplants, on top of interacting with them right before hitting the hay, can improve the quality of slumber. I think we can all agree this could prove mighty useful not only to the Aldrins and Cousteaus of the world but also to anyone still trapped in lockdown – at the moment, sooo many people sadly aren’t getting their full forty winks.    

For optimal results, we’d recommend keeping plants in your bedroom, especially close to where all that napping action goes on, plus elsewhere in the home. Be sure to interact with them on a regular basis too. Clean up debris, admire them, stroke their leaves, take in their scent, give them a drink – that sort of thing. And there’s zero shame in having a little natter with your leafy housemates over a cuppa. We all do it…right?

*Cough*

Just please don’t feed your plants tea or coffee – terrible idea!

A lot of different plants can help boost your snoozles, but those with green leaves and colourful flowers are probably the best way to go. Oh, and if they’re a treat on the nose as well as the eyes, even better!

We stock plenty of plants that’ll work as the ideal sleep aid, so if you’re in the market for a top kip, have a browse and pop a few in your basket. We’ve also got a nice selection of cool planters and other accessories to complement your picks – our I WILL SURVIVE mini-pot would be an especially apt buy right now. And to give your boudoir and rest the ongoing attention they really deserve, why not sign up for our monthly subscription? With this, you’ll receive at least one beautiful houseplant each month, alongside a perfectly fitting pot or basket. Happy days!

That’s it for today – if we ramble any longer, we’ll put you to sleep without the need for houseplants at all. Wishing everyone a pleasant trip to Bedfordshire tonight.

Words by Steven Allison

Let’s Get Something Straight – These Plants Aren’t!

Some plants are queerer than others, so we look at some flowery greenery defining LGBT+ culture over the centuries

In our opinion, every month is LGBT+ Month. But February, home to LGBT+ History Month, is easily the queerest of them all! Across a kaleidoscopic 28 (or 29) days, the world comes together to promote equality, diversity and inclusion by celebrating LGBT+ people, their history, lives and experiences. To stay fresh, every year has a unique theme, and in 2021, it was ‘Body, Mind, Spirit.’ 

Looking after this here jungle sure keeps our bodies, minds and spirits in shape, so for us, plants and all things queer were inextricably linked through fabulous February. To mark the end of this year’s LGBT+ History Month (how is it March 2021 already?), we wanted to share a few of the flowering plants with roots somewhere over the rainbow. After all, flowers have long been symbolic within the queer community. In his masterpiece Sodom and Gomorrah, French novelist Proust even likened relations between men to the fertilization of flowers

Anyhoo, without further ado, let’s get stuck into some of that flower power. Starting with the oldest, we have…

Violets

The romance between gays and flowers could stretch as far back as Sappho (c. 630 – c. 570). The ancient Greek poet – rumoured to have loved the ladies – lived on the isle of Lesbos, which is where we get the term lesbian. Interestingly, everyone from Lesbos is a Lesbian (with a big-L), and the appropriation of the word lesbian (with a little-l) is reportedly a super thorny issue on the island. 

In her lyric poetry, most of which is now lost or falling to pieces, Sappho often referenced flowers. Among these were violets and other purple blooms, which her gay female subjects may have worn in garlands as a coded message. The violet remains a queer symbol to this day, appearing on the rainbow flag and frequently popping up in fiction – think Mrs Violet Venable, portrayed by Katharine Hepburn in Tennessee Williams’ 1959 Southern Gothic mystery Suddenly Last Summer

Green Carnations 

The green carnation – which is dyed and doesn’t occur naturally – was one of the first LGBT+ symbols to emerge in Victorian England, and it was Oscar Wilde who brought wearing these flowers into queer vogue. In 1892, the playwright invited his friends along to the opening of Lady Windermere’s Fan, asking the oblivious bunch to pin a green carnation to their lapels. 

Wearing the flower soon became a down-low way for gay men to identify each other, but thanks to Robert Hitchens’ scandalous 1894 novel The Green Carnation, this is one story without a happy ending. The author depicted characters based on Wilde and his lover Lord Alfred Douglas, and although the book was presented as fiction, it wasn’t long before the wrong people cottoned on. This played a major part in Wilde’s 1895 arrest and the gross indecency trial that followed, and the whole ugly mess forced the green carnation underground for a long time. 

Pansies 

If you’re a gay guy, I’ll bet a bouquet of these beauties some idiot or other has called you a pansy in the past. This cruel floral jibe is one of many used in the early 20th Century, and it’s where the ‘Pansy Craze’ got its name. If you’ve never heard of it, the Pansy Craze was the prohibition-era phenomenon that really pushed LGBT+ nightlife out of the closet and into the mainstream. 

During the roaring 20s (the “golden queera,” if you will) and the early 30s, the LGBT+ community managed to establish a strong presence. Drag queens and other queer performers appeared on stages across the globe, especially in New York’s Greenwich Village, Harlem and Times Square. These ‘Pansy Performers’ entertained all sorts – including straight people in search of an illicit drink – but the party wilted when the end of prohibition dropped the curtain on speakeasy culture. 

Lavender

Lavender has been associated with queer people since around the same time as the pansy. It could refer to the colour or the flower – the former of which combines the stereotypically masculine blue and feminine pink. The term first indicated an effeminate style or homosexual tendencies, with gay men mocked for having a “dash” or “streak” of lavender in them. Swedish-American writer Carl Sandburg is partly to blame for this after using the latter to describe a suspiciously close friendship between Abe Lincoln and another man. 

Then came the ‘Lavender Scare,’ a Mccarthy-era effort to purge gay people from the US Government, and the ‘Lavender Menace,’ a term given to the involvement of lesbians in the National Organization for Women. But like the word queer, the community has since reclaimed lavender, and it is now widely seen as a positive reference to LGBT+ culture.

At Seb’s Urban Jungle, we dig these floral symbols. LGBT+ people haven’t always had full control over their use, but that’s changing. The queers are just as resilient as flowers. You trample their symbology…they’ll breathe life back into it. You throw shade at them…oh petal, you’ll soon see your cruelty blossom into something much brighter! Even though LGBT+ History Month just saw its finale yesterday, I say: go gay up your home with some of these plants and raise a watering can to the queer community – and maybe a cheeky Cosmo too. 

Words by Steven Allison

P.S. I love Yew – How Plants Reproduce

This Valentine’s Day, we dig into sweet, sweet lurve…between our green pals

They say Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, but I’m not so sure. A day where some cutie gives you two types of Roses (red & chocolate) and whips up a candlelit dinner…erm, I think that gets my vote! Whether or not you’re lucky enough to have a budding romance or even a fully-grown one, take your mind off real love for a while and instead think about affairs of the botanical kind.

So, how do plants get it on? I’ll tell you but be warned…things are about to get a little raunchy up in here. You see, just like humans, plants can be sexual. They can also be asexual. And these are the two methods by which different species reproduce.

Sexual reproduction

The sexual method isn’t totally unlike the way people procreate. When the male and female reproductive cells (the pollen and the ovule) combine, the genes from both work together to create new life.

This mixture of genes gives plants a couple of advantages over their asexually-reproduced counterparts. First, they’re more adaptable to varying environmental conditions. Second, they’re better at staying nice and healthy.

Sexual reproduction happens inside the flower, which perhaps you’ll now understand is why some adults teach kids to call the vagina a flower. After all, the vagina is where sperm and eggs – like pollen and ovule – come together. Am I making you blush yet? Sorry!

Inside the flower, you’ll find both the male and female reproductive parts (the androecium and the gynoecium). The androecium is what contains the pollen, which eventually matures and bursts out to get to the stigma in the gynoecium. This is known as pollination, which I’ll assume you’ve heard of before today.

And there are two types. One is self-pollination, where the pollen lands on the stigma of the same flower or another flower on the same plant. The other is cross-pollination, where the pollen lands on the stigma of a flower on another plant belonging to the same species. Have I lost you?

As you likely know, flowers are bright and colourful things, and they often smell like poetry. There’s a reason for that, and it’s so they can attract “the birds and the bees.” Along with wind, water, and other insects, birds and bees carry pollen from plant to plant. Once these agents of pollination have done their blooming important job (save the bees!), we eventually get seeds that germinate into plants – plants that you might end up buying from our online store. Yay!

Unisexual & bisexual flowers

As with us humans, some flowers have an “it’s complicated” status on Facebook. Ok, fine…flowers don’t have social media profiles – at least, not ones they set up themselves (even if scientists did just teach spinach to send emails). But it is true their sexuality isn’t always as straightforward as we might imagine.

Some flowers – such as the cucumber – are unisexual. These contain EITHER the male or female reproductive parts, and it’s possible for a single plant to feature a mixture of both male and female unisexual flowers. I told you it can get complicated, and there’s more too.

Other flowers – including roses (how apt for this Valentine’s Day blog) – are bisexual. Like worms, these contain BOTH the male and female reproductive parts.

Asexual reproduction

It might please you to hear that the asexual method is a little less fruity. Actually, there are really two asexual methods.

Involving no flowers, the first is where plants go through what we call vegetative propagation, a process quicker than sexual reproduction and involving regeneration in various different ways – through leaves, stems, or roots.

The resulting plants – strawberry plants and ivy, to give but a couple of examples – are usually very sturdy. They’re also genetically identical to the parent plant because no mixing of reproductive cells occurs as it does in sexual reproduction.

The second asexual method is known as apomixis, which is where plants produce seeds without fertilization.

See, I wasn’t joking when I said the whole asexual thing was less fruity. On one hand, you could argue that removing sex from the equation dulls the process. On the other, can all the plants spraying their pollen at each other willy-nilly claim the gift of cloning? They certainly cannot, so I’ll let you decide which is the coolest method.



Well, there we have it. Your handy guide to plant fornication, courtesy of Seb’s Urban Jungle. If that puts you off your Valentine’s Netflix & Chill, my apologies. If it puts you in the mood, it’s a therapist you need, not our blog. Happy Valentine’s Day my green-fingered friends. Mwah!

Words by Steven Allison

Petrifying Plants For Halloween

Wanna see some of the spookiest plants & planters to haunt your home this All Hallows’ Eve?

I think all us plant mums and dads would agree that, when it comes to big green monsters, the holey Monstera Deliciosa is hardly the scariest around. Sure, it can grow tall and wide, and makes a wicked addition to any room, but is it going to petrify trick-or-treaters this Halloween? I’d bet a bag of gummy skeletons it won’t! 

Not to worry though, Seb’s Urban Jungle is here with a few hair-raising Halloween ideas for you. As you might have guessed, they all involve your plant babies – and a bit of spooky fancy-dress too. So, as the eeriest time of the year approaches faster than a Devil’s Ivy would grow in the fiery pits of Hell, let’s talk ways to strike terror into your neighbours’ kids:

Creepy Plant Pots 

The first idea we’ve got for you is creepy plant pots to plonk in your doorway or window. I’m sure you could easily track down something pre-made online, but they’ll likely set you back a small fortune – you don’t want to eat into that candy budget, do you? We thought as much, so grab a few basic terracotta pots, arm yourself with a handful of craft supplies, and you’re good to go. 

Feel free to get as dark as you like with your bone-chilling designs, from gory goblins and beastly bats to ghastly ghosts and bizarre black cats. If your creative wells are dry, here’s a spot of inspo. Why not even recreate one of the characters from your favourite frightful films? Here’s a Jack Skellington design courtesy of our friends over at Disney, instructions and all. 

But promise us one thing: when you’ve finished your petrifying pots, make sure you put your scariest, meanest looking plants in them. A creepy-crawly Spider Plant or a spiky Cactus should do the trick…or treat. 

Doll Planters 

The next idea we’ve got for you is doll planters. Maybe you’ve been a parent to actual babies, and not just plant babies? Or perhaps you simply know how to raid a charity shop properly? Either way, if you can get your hands on some old dolls, nothing makes for better horror than green things growing from little plastic people! We’re shuddering just thinking about it. 

There are so many different (and equally seriously strange) things you can do with this one. Our personal favourite is going for the head. Check out these creepy little brainless weirdos by Alice Mason. But if you want to take it one sick step further, plant guts spilling from what looks like an incredibly realistic (and alive) baby might be a good way to go too.

Oh, this lot will certainly replace the giant, man-eating Venus Flytrap in our nightmares tonight. 

An Eyeball Garden 

The last idea we’ve got for you is an eyeball garden. With help from some paper, glue, and pencils, this’ll keep a beady eye (or ten) on those sugar addicts when they come knocking in the dark of night. This one reminds us of a truly freaky plant called the Doll’s Eye. You sure wouldn’t want to stumble upon this monstrosity on an evening stroll through your local graveyard. Nature can be pretty terrifying, wouldn’t you say? Make sure you cash in on that this Halloween!

,,,

We hope you liked these twisted botanical ideas. Feel free to browse our wide selection of plants and see if we’ve got anything that’ll make the perfect addition to your collection of horrors this October. Happy chopping…oops…shopping!

Words by Steven Allison

Winter Care

With colder and potentially freezing temperatures just around the corner, you might start worrying about your plant babies. As these concerns are very common especially for new plant parents I thought I would share my experience and knowledge on how to get through the winter with your plants. Most plants will have decreased amounts of growth during the next few months, so they won’t need as much care, but they will still need looking after. 

  • Decrease Watering – Your plant will not need as much water as during the growing season. The most common reason for plants not surviving the winter is overwatering. As there are fewer sun rays the water will evaporate less quickly and it may cause root rot. I personally prefer watering my plants from below, usually putting them in a bowl or basin filled with water for 20-30 minutes.
  • Increase light exposure – The strength and amount of sunlight is less during winter. Plants that are placed in a bright spot will most likely be fine with the natural decrease in light as the plant needs less light during these months. Plants that are kept in more shaded areas of the house might need some additional light during winter months. You can either find a brighter spot to place these plants, use mirrors or add some artificial growing lights. When placing plants nearer a window, make sure to not let any of the leaves touch the window as this could cause cold damage to the plant. The growing lights I use are E27 plant bulbs from B&Q. I move these around the darkest corners of the house and have them on for 4-6 hours a day.
  • Increase the temperature – Most plants will be happiest when the temperature is steady. Using the heating at set times can help to create a healthy continuous cycle of temperature for the plants. Keep in mind that using the heating frequently will lower the humidity and most plants love humid environments. 
  • Increase humidity – If any of your plants get leaves with dry crispy edges, chances are that the humidity levels are too low. You can buy a humidifier to use for a couple of hours a day or try some old-fashioned tricks. Placing small bowls of water on the heaters can help increase humidity levels. 

Keeping your plants happy during winter is not rocket science. It might take some getting used to, especially if you purchased and got to know your green friend during the growing season. Remember that most plants will be much happier with a little neglect than with being overwatered or cared for too much. If you have any questions, please get in touch. (hello@sebsurbanjungle.co.uk)

Less is more. 

Seb 

Plant of the month – Crispy Wave Fern

Picking our first plant of the month was a struggle because we love all our plants! This month’s winner, the Crispy Wave Fern is a tropical plant. It’s scientific name is Asplenium Antiquum although it’s more commonly known as Bird’s Nest Fern or Crispy Wave Fern. It’s a great plant for kitchens, bathrooms or anywhere that gets a little humid – they love moisture.

Native to the tropical forests of Southeast Asia and many Pacific islands, this fern is made up of curling, vibrant green fonds with wavy edges. The youngest leaves curl up from the centre of the crispy fonds, growing into beautiful, wavy leaves!

Water

This plant requires a well-drained potting mix and to be watered thoroughly when the top 2/3 inches of soil has dried. Mist daily.

Avoid watering the central rosette/leaves as this could cause root rot. Placing the pot in a bowl of room temperature water for 30 mins, letting the plant drink up the water it needs, is the best way to avoid root rot!

Light

Crispy Wave Fern is a shade-loving plant that will burn in direct sunlight. It can manage bright, filtered light but does best in partial shade.

This plant is non-toxic to dogs, cats or humans but don’t go letting them eat your pretty plants!