Why I built a special room in my house just for plants

‘It’s restorative to the soul sitting amongst all the plants,’ says Bernard Carroll.

NZ Gardener

‘It’s restorative to the soul sitting amongst all the plants,’ says Bernard Carroll.

“My passion for houseplants started in the 1970s when I was a hard-up university student, when my future mother-in-law (who also loved plants) and I used to go to the botanical gardens in Palmerston North, and take cuttings from the plants there which we would propagate and grow (I think I can own up to that after 45 years).

“I still have the descendant of a begonia plant from that time.

“My collection grew, and accompanied me us through many house moves. In our move from Palmerston North to Christchurch for my first job, we had a Morris 1100, and we had to take the back seat out to make room for the plants.

“As my income improved, I would buy some more.

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“On our last move from Christchurch to Richmond, Nelson, we had to hire a separate removal truck to take all my plants (I also have a large number of outdoor pot plants, including many bonsai).

“In our current home in Richmond, which we designed and built, we have a special garden room, which was planned with big windows and a wet-room tiled floor so water spills don’t matter.

“This room has large sliding doors to our living room, so it is used as part of our living space, where we can sit with our coffees and reflect on the day, or sit on the sofa in our living room, looking in to the garden room.

“My current collection is still expanding. If I prune something, I seem compelled to propagate the prunings. I hate to throw anything away – I prefer to give away, or sell the extra plants.


Social media sowed the seeds for a revival in indoor plants.

“I now have a wide range of plants: African violets, orchids, ferns, philodendrons, begonias, rubber plants, cacti, succulents, calatheas, bromeliads, palms, anthuriums, poinsettia, oxali, dracaenas and peace lilies.

“They take surprisingly little attention. I have an expanding hose built into the room, and I can water them from that. They usually need watering approximately weekly, but some need special attention water wise.

“I sometimes give them slow release fertiliser granules, but at the moment, I am using a soluble fertiliser every two to three weeks.

“Because of the large number of plants and the fish tank in the room, the air is kept warm and humid and great for plant growth. I might add that the rest of the house isn’t exempt – there are plants popped into all sorts of places.

“The plants complement the large tropical fish tank in the garden room, and we enjoy sitting in there for a coffee break with our three cats. It is restorative to the soul sitting amongst all the plants, and it gives us great pleasure, peace and tranquillity.”

Bernard Carroll was a finalist in NZ Gardener’s 2020 Houseplant Heroes competition. The winner and two runners-up received Yates products and Kings Plant Barn vouchers.