Angela Lucente, plantscape designer and sales manager for Foliage Services in Portland, has seen time and again how plants not only enhance the interior design of offices and other commercial spaces.
They also just make people happy.
"Most of us spend more time at the office than at home anymore, so bringing plants into the office makes it more comfortable," she said.
"One of the very best parts of my job in dealing with plant sales and client relations is the actual delivery and installation of the plants. People get so excited, and it's like a Christmas-morning reaction," Lucente added. "There are laughter and jokes that start when we bring in the plants, and it's contagious how happy people get."
The benefits of interior plantscaping are well documented. Citing research done at Harvard University, the Harvard Business Review reported in 2017 that plants could significantly improve employees' mental and physical well-being while reducing stress and anxiety. They can increase people's productivity, potentially by 15 percent. Plants also enhance the quality of air, which boosts cognitive function and leads to better decision making and greater creativity while reducing impulsive reactions.
"Our research suggests that investing in landscaping the office with plants will pay off through an increase in office workers' quality of life and productivity," lead researcher Marlon Nieuwenhuis told the Harvard Business Review.
Indoor atriums, vertical gardens and potted plants are growing in popularity across the country and keeping Foliage Services involved with projects ranging from small offices for creative professionals to large installations that include Portland International Airport.
"We brought large trees into PDX, and that was a really big project. The amount of equipment and crew we have to bring in is significant," Lucente said. "We have also done short-term rentals for the sets of TV shows like The Librarians. Those are always cool to do."
She noted that the company is working with several clients to switch out fresh-cut flowers in reception areas and replace them with more sustainable options. The move is partly driven by cost because cut flowers are more expensive, but Lucente believes more companies are making the change because there is greater awareness about the ecology involved.
As an example, companies are replacing cut flowers with orchids, bromeliads and other blooming plants in bowls that can be switched out and reused in different ways. "That is repurposing and a little more sustainable, and it keeps us busy, so we love it," Lucente said.
Another trend companies are requesting for their plantscaping, is plants like the fiddle leaf fig and philodendrons that are commonly found in people's homes.
"These are more natural-looking plants that you may have seen in your grandmother's house, and they are being used more than just professional-looking plants," Lucente said. "People are trying to make the office more like home. We see a lot of pool tables in workplaces, and plants are another aspect of creating that feeling."
With architects and interior designers playing a key role in plantscaping trends, the look of planters and other containers is following suit, so they don't clash with the surrounding décor.
"White has come back in such a huge way and is one of the biggest requests we get. It used to be black or logo colors, but now it's white," Lucente said. "It's a clean look, and it's modern. A lot of what happens in the plant industry happens because of designers and architects because they design the furniture and the interior."
The process of creating a plantscape design with clients is mostly collaborative, though Lucente had one different experience that has had a lasting impact. Restoration Hardware's owners wanted to incorporate plants that are typically indoors in its outdoor spaces. Lucente said she was convinced the plants were going to die because of cool temperatures and inadequate light. However, the owners brought in heaters and lighting, and the plants greatly enhance the space.
"I was proven wrong. They are doing so well, and we learned so much from that project," Lucente said. "They had a lot of different plants and materials, and they requested a lot from us, so that was a huge challenge, but it was humbling and rewarding because I learned that I don't know everything."
What Lucente does know without a doubt is that going into a business and talking with people to create a plantscape design is one of the most rewarding aspects of her work.
"People always ask if we can make it a jungle, and you can just see their mood lift. We see that benefit all the time," she said. "You feel like a hero, and I think our technicians feel that because they go there every single week and take care of these plants. They have a lot of accounts who light up when they come in."
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