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Tovah Martin

Perfect Plant Mates

by Kathryn Boughton

Tovah Martin has a missionary’s zeal when it comes to promoting houseplants. “It’s not just me,” she confessed. “It’s not enough for me to be an addict. The rest of world has to be, too.”

Martin, whose love affair with flowers began with a Brownie project, believes flowers are therapeutic. “My theory is there’s a gardener in everyone. I want to make it so people will not say ‘I’ve got a brown thumb.’ That’s not acceptable. It’s all about finding the right plant match for you, about getting a plant that will work in your home with your environment.”

Martin, author of some dozen books about gardening, has just written The Indestructible Houseplant in which she explores 200 houseplants and the kinds of homes where they might thrive. “We all have our personality traits and our homes are different,” she observed. “Lots of people want to live with plants and this is my way to match them up with the perfect plant mate.”

“I feel a lot of us are nurturers,” she said. “In the houseplant realm, which is a very unique niche, people over-nurture them.”

So Martin put the plants through their paces to see what they could endure. “I neglected them, I put them in corners—I wasn’t outright cruel, but I did put them through a lot of stress testing. And so did Einstein, my furry companion. He swatted them and did bounce testing—sure enough, they don’t bounce. But I found a lot of plants can take a lot more than we think they can. My bottom line is you have no excuse. There is a plant out there for you.”

For Martin, there is more than one perfect plant mate. Indeed, she recently realized she is a plant hoarder. “I never realized before what the exact problem was,” she said. “I kind of put it under greed. I get tired of counting (my plants) at 200. I don’t have a huge house, but I use every window to the maximum. It’s all calibrated as to who gets the front row and who gets the bleacher seats.”

Does she have a favorite? “Every day there is a different favorite,” she said. “It goes by the minute. I couldn’t possibly live without some succulents. That includes about 50 of my plants—50 that couldn’t go.”

In addition to the books she has written, Martin contributes to many national and regional publications including Country Garden, Traditional Home, Martha Stewart Living, House Beautiful and many more. In 2012, she served as writer-in-residence for Victoria magazine. Her blog can be found at and plant lovers can follow her on Facebook at Plantswise by Tovah Martin

“I’m so lucky,” she said. “I spend time with some of the country’s greatest gardeners and I learn, learn, learn.”

She will sign copies of her books during the annual Hotchkiss Library Authors’ Book Signing in Sharon July 31, from 6-8 PM.