ISSUE 14  |  Less Is More

Required Reading: The Plant Recipe Book

April 08, 2014 5:30 PM

BY Janet Hall

Baylor Chapman is a master at creating living plant arrangements. She professes that mini-container gardens rival cut arrangements not only in beauty, but also in their longevity and ability to be repurposed. And, her creations prove it. Now, she share the secrets and the ingredients of her captivating container gardens in The Plant Recipe Book. 

A feast of information and images, The Plant Recipe Book offers 100 of Chapman’s recipes for creating living arrangements at home. Each recipe contains a plant and material ingredient list and easy to follow step-by-step assembly instructions illustrated with stunning images. Accessible to the brown and green thumb alike, the recipes range from a single plant (“on its own”) to special occasion arrangements that require a bit more time and several ingredients.

Don’t dismiss the simple recipes. Chapman has a way of making the simple sublime and shows you how (the Tulip Recipe 1: On its Own is a perfect example–Mom, this is a Mother’s Day spoiler alert). The recipe collection is fronted by an incredibly useful Getting Started section, that includes essentials for the container garden toolbox and information on soil and amendments.

For garden tourists and Bay area residents, Chapman’s work can be seen at her San Francisco Studio, Lila B. Design.

Photographs by Paige Green, excerpted from The Plant Recipe Book.

Above: A stunning succulent container garden demystified in Aloe Recipe 2: With Company.  

In all of Chapman’s recipes, a key ingredient is the container. A short chapter devoted to choosing your container dispels the notion that plants belong in traditional pots, and offers creative ideas for sourcing vessels like picture frames and kitchenware. 

Above: Accessible herbs team up in Thyme Recipe 2: With Company that might just be the best gift for the cook in your life. Thyme, mint, rosemary, nasturtiums, oregano, lemon basil, and two types of sage create an aromatic and textured garden set in a rustic wooden box.  

Above: Stunning in its simplicity, the Moss Recipe 1: On its Own is a great solution for adding greenery to a dark room, since moss doesn’t love light the way most plants do. Not a plant DIYer? Chapman’s Moss Tower is available to purchase seasonally at Lila B.

Moss is the secret weapon in Chapman’s garden pantry. “Moss can be used to cover up a bald spot, a patch of soil, or as a vase,” says Chapman. “It can be ferny and wild or round and bulbous. It is pliable, green and gorgeous.” 

Above: The Staghorn fern with its antler-like leaves pairs with a begonia and a wandering jew in the Staghorn Fern Recipe 1: With Company.

I asked Chapman for a tip for the aspiring container gardener. “Don’t be afraid to make weird combinations,” she says. “Living arrangements don’t have to be created to last forever. Combine them for a month, a week, or even to adorn your dining table for one special night. There’s nothing wrong with pulling it all apart and replanting each plant in single pots or even in your garden.”

Above: Chapman’s favorite recipe? The Sansevieria Recipe 3: Special Occasion. “It combines the rock-solid Sansevieria with some of my favorites: begonias and fluffy garden roses,” says Chapman. “The copper bowl was a true find as it had been turned in for scrap metal.” 

Above: The last plant featured in the book (the recipes are organized alphabetically by plant name), the zebra plant, or Haworthia, is Chapman’s recommendation for a full-proof gift plant. It is easy growing, easygoing, and easy to transport.

Above: The Plant Recipe Book by Baylor Chapman retails for $24.95. It is available through Amazon, Books Inc., and other book sellers. 

Working with flowers? The Flower Recipe Book is a must-read. And, gather more ideas in Gardenista’s archive of Container Gardening posts.