Living in a city that is a thousand shades of grey takes a toll on our wellbeing. Green spaces - parks, tree-lined streets, gardens and indoor plants - are healthful retreats from our busy, work-obsessed lives. Yet, these oases are few and far between here in Istanbul.
It is indisputable that parks and urban gardens have a positive effect on the community in a number of different ways, allowing for communal and individual growth, development and discovery. Being in nature has a calming and regenerative effect on us; why else do we flock to the forests of the Black Sea coast and the beaches of the Aegean Sea at every chance we get of a three-day weekend or summer vacation?
Besides the nature that we enjoy outside, indoor gardening - or urban gardening - has gained much recognition for promoting better health inside the home. Houseplants do more than release oxygen and enhance your living space. Research has shown that keeping plants in your home can have a beneficial effect on your physical and mental health. One way that indoor plants can improve your physical health is in purifying the air by absorbing both carbon dioxide and other harmful gasses. According to NASA research, houseplants are able to remove 87 percent of air toxins in a 24-hour period. Houseplants also regulate the humidity in your home, which is especially important during dry winter months when we're constantly adjusting the thermostat. Cleaner air and higher humidity contribute to better health by reducing the chance of flu and colds or aiding you in recovery if you've caught something. Just one plant won't do it, though - you'll need one plant for every 10 square meters of your home to ensure a significant amount of detoxification and humidification.
Plant connoisseur Fem Güçlütürk is covered, literally; her flat is home to 600 plants. Fem is a lover of plants and the owner of Labofem, a jungle-like oasis and plant atelier, and one-of-a-kind in this city. When you set foot inside Labofem, a converted motorcycle garage hidden among apartment buildings and high rises, you might possibly be breathing the freshest air in the city.
Fem was inspired to begin her journey living and working with plants when she moved into a building neighboring her current business. The previous tenant left 20 or so plants on the terrace, and Fem became their new owner. In order to learn more about her new roommates, she ordered a book so large - The A to Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants - that it was stuck in customs for weeks. As she learned about her plants, she started collecting more, and when she was sued by her apartment building management because they found her 60 big pots to be a safety hazard (if or when we experience the next big earthquake), she sought a new space; a ground-floor level space. Suffice to say, her relationship with the apartment management has improved greatly.
Fem collected two diplomas; an organic society gardening certificate, and another business of education course on succulents and other plant species, and opened her shop nearly two years ago. As she studied what is like a "heritage of plants," she suddenly felt in love, and that love grew inside of her.
"I wanted to open a shop that encompassed gardening with knowledge but also, let's say, philosophy," Fem says, "I wanted to do it this way." She has surely succeeded in creating this type of environment, where plants are so much more than just decoration; they are truly living beings, and are respected and nurtured.
As a customer, Fem will want to know about your home environment, the sunlight and atmosphere, and will supply you with a card of information about your new plant's origin, story, and needs for nourishment. Former customers have even carried their plants back to Japan, Germany, and other faraway countries in her unique packaging designed in Holland. Some people will attest that they simply cannot grow plants, even after continued attempts. But Fem says, "Most people make the mistake of buying a plant from the nursery and never repotting it." Fem has six different ingredients for potting in her shop; soil, fertilizer, rocks, and so forth, as every plant requires a different foundation for growth.
Soil, sunlight and water are not necessarily the only essential properties to your plant's life, though. "It's not good to look at plants from only one side of the brain," Fem suggests. Owning and caring for plants is an observance of life. More than just purifying our air and providing healthy humidity, our plants create a relaxing environment, offer companionship, and just may embody the life of our very ancestors. As such, our green friends should be treated competently if you expect to reap their maximum benefits.
Fem offers workshops once a month in her shop, and is also a host of considerable knowledge if you want to stop by anytime. Check labofem.com for information, or visit Labofem, located between Meydan and Selçuklar Streets in Akatlar, near Akmerkez. Across town, botanical shop and cafe Müz invites both plant enthusiasts and plant amateurs in with open arms. This lush little shop, located on a popular café-lined street in Çukurcuma, grew into fruition a year ago when owner Gülriz Sansoy dreamed of a different kind of nursery.
"I wanted to create a place void of pressure, where people could feel comfortable to browse plants at their own pace and learn about them by asking me questions," she says. On any given day you can find Gülriz intently managing customers' needs by running up and down the stairs from the shop / cafe to the potting station.
The main space displays dozens of plants and pots separately, so you can chose your favorite of each. Most of the pots are made by the Müz team, who will also repot your selection while you wait. There is also a nice selection of succulents and glass containers that can hang from the ceiling or balance on the edge of a table.
The cafe element of the shop evolved out of her wanting to create a space where people could simply come to enjoy the scenery with a cup of coffee. On weekends, you'll observe patrons idly working on their laptops and sipping matcha green tea lattes into the evening.
Gülriz is planning to offer workshops as soon as next month, and is especially excited about building a workshop agenda that includes making your own pots, adding plants, and bringing home a masterpiece completely your own. Check out muz.se for information and visit the café at Hayriye Cad. No:18 in Çukurcuma. Whether you're looking to expand your plant collection, learn more about plant life, or simply get a breath of fresh air, you can visit these places and incorporate some plant life into your own.