This review originally appeared in the January/February 2020 issue of Northern Gardener magazine.
Knowing that Summer Rayne Oakes lives in a Brooklyn, N.Y., apartment with about 1,000 plants, I expected her first gardening book to be about houseplant care. While you can learn elements of plant care from this book, How to Make a Plant Love You: Cultivate Green Space in Your Home and Heart is much more than a how-to. Oakes delves into the why-to of gardening and caring for plants.
She grew up in a rural area and developed a fascination with the nearby plants and animals. She holds a degree in entomology, but work as a writer and fashion model took Oakes to the big city, where she began to collect and care for plants as a form of contemplation. As humans, she notes, “we want to be around plants; we know deep down that they make us feel at home.”
Oakes particularly addresses young plant lovers (she’s in her mid-30s), who have moved to urban areas in unprecedented numbers and are less likely to own homes or have outdoor gardens. Learning a plant’s history, its needs and developing rituals to care for it takes a gardener from a possessive “plant lust” to a giving “plant love,” she says. It also expands the caretakers creativity, resilience, artfulness and connection with others, Oakes says.
“Organizing my life around nature has, no pun intended, helped me feel grounded as the world around me has been uprooted,” she says.
The book is peppered with quotes from fellow plant-lovers and exercises to increase the reader’s awareness of plants and nature. If you are looking for tips on plant care, follow Oakes on Instagram, where she frequently offers videos on plant needs and care, or on her youtube channel, which chronicles her travels as well as the plants she is taking care of.
For super easy houseplants to start your plant journey with, check out our recent post on Five Easy Houseplants for Beginners.