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Pre-Spring Plants with Saipua

Annie Carrswold

I’ve had an Instagram crush on floral artist, farmer, teacher and photographer Sarah Ryhanen for a while now. The pictures she posts of World’s End, the upstate farm where she cultivates flowers for her Red Hook, Brooklyn–based floral business, Saipua, and her haunting arrangements—favored by brands like Chloé and Cartier, as well as couples at their weddings—are enchanting: Spindly stemmed ranunculus (my favorite) are bathed in pale-pink light, and curly-horned sheep squint in the snow. It’s enough to inspire lifestyle envy, but what’s great about Sarah (and her social media) is that if you actually read her photo captions and blog posts, she reveals real-life details, like the fact that her dog has taken to nibbling on the sheep’s ears (Hey, Twitter, how do you handle that?) and that she hasn’t made her farmhouse as comfortable as she’d like because she overspent making things look nice for everyone else.

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Beautiful begonias

In other words, she keeps it real, which is why I felt comfortable calling her for some pretty basic botanical advice. Namely: how to brighten up a post–polar vortex apartment and (ahem, keeping it real) mood with some sustainable indoor greenery, when spring still feels far away. Also, I admitted, I’m not wildly talented when it comes to plant maintenance, but I think I can do better than just little succulents in terrariums.


HERE ARE HER TIPS

Begonias Are the Best

“My favorite kind of houseplant is a begonia,” said Sarah. “They’re very sophisticated, I like to think. It’s not necessarily a flashy plant. When you actually sit down and take a look at them, the leaf structure is like a little work of art.” Sarah added that of the thousands of varieties, she favors nonflowering begonias, particularly a subset called rex begonias, which have wild-colored leaves. “There’s a specific one called the Cowardly Lion,” she said. “Maybe partially I love it because of the name. It’s just a really beautiful plant that has kind of mottled green and amber leaves.”

Sometimes, she said, plant-owners act like neurotic parents and drown their plants. With begonias, we should chill. “They like to get really thirsty, then get a nice drench of water,” said Sarah. She waters hers just once a week, always on the same day, so it becomes a happily meditative ritual. Begonia bonus: They do well in both direct and indirect sunlight.

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Succulents Are Easy

Although the ubiquitous little terrariums of jade plants taking over Brooklyn and the blogosphere seem ripe for ridicule on Portlandia, Sarah reminded me that succulents—of which jade is just one of many kinds—are great for the botanically challenged. “They’re very forgiving on a watering schedule,” said Sarah, plus, there’s great variety among them. Hearty aloe and agave are two of her standbys. When she wants something a little more exotic, she goes for a kalanchoe varietal like Copper Spoons, which has leaves that are minty-green on top and adorably brown and fuzzy underneath.

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Simple potted succulents

A Quick, Fresh Fix

“I think a really beautiful plant this time of year is flowering jasmine,” said Sarah. “It’s very fragrant. It’s a happy plant.” This I can attest to. I found one at my local hardware store for less than ten dollars, and the fresh, clean scent of its little white flowers reminds me of visiting the local florist with my mom as a kid, its refrigerators dripping with condensation. A happy plant, indeed.

Keep It Simple, Style-Wise

“I put all my plants in aged terra-cotta,” said Sarah. “I like that they’re all in the same kind of container, because it doesn’t look too busy.” Plus, that lets the plants do the talking. Sarah said that when she’s grouping pots together, she likes to keep shades of green in the same family. So if she has a group of succulents with cooler, more bluish shades of green leaves (like that Copper Spoons kalanchoe), she might throw in a black-leaf begonia “instead of a green-leaf begonia, which is kind of Kermit green.”

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Where to Find Them

On Sunday, March 30, Sarah and the Saipua crew will be holding their second annual flower sale at their space in Red Hook, Brooklyn. She is sourcing plants from her favorite wholesalers, so there are sure to be lots of exotic blooms, begonias, succulents, and more. Plus, all the proceeds benefit World’s End, so we may continue to live vicariously through her botanical adventures.

If you can’t make it to the Saipua sale, here’s a handful of Sarah’s favorite plant sources around the country:

Sprout Home, Brooklyn, NY; Terrain, Glen Mills, PA; Logee’s, Danielson, CT; Flora Grubb, San Francisco, CA

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Saipua on Instagram

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