Jamie, how did you get into plants?
I fell in love with tropical plants when I first visited Bali in my mid-twenties. Prior to that visit I had only appreciated nature from grand landscapes as one gets, for instance, from being on a mountain peak or seeing the ocean from afar. But in Bali my experience of nature was life-changing. I was awestruck by the beauty and variety of tropical plants - their colour, texture, variety, fragrance and sheer exotic splendour. This time nature was up close and I couldn’t help but accept its invitation to this magical world. Six years ago I moved into my current apartment which is a converted industrial space with a very large skylight. Because of its plentiful light, I started collecting plants and became a bit obsessed. This was back just before the houseplant trend started to explode. At the time, there were very few places to buy houseplants in London and there was no such thing as plant shops - only garden centres. I would have to go to Amsterdam in search of interesting houseplants. I started posting pictures of my beloved plants on Instagram and developed quite a following. Now, the love for houseplants is shared by so many people around the world and I have found myself with over 200K Instagram followers.
Tell us more about Jamie:
I was born and raised in Taipei, Taiwan. I got my Bachelor’s degree in Seattle, Washington and moved to London in 2008. I live with my two friends / business partners and our cat, La La (@lalasongcat). We have a vintage art and objects gallery in SE London (@bialondon). Our space is a converted hydraulic pumping station built in 1902. It’s all bricks and metal beams from the era and is spacious with an enormous skylight. It doubles as our art gallery, work space and warehouse all in one. Because of its plentiful light I started collecting plants and became a bit obsessed. The rest is history.
Tell us more about your Instagram feed:
My Instagram account used to be a personal one like everyone else’s. I posted pics of food and travel. When my obsession with houseplants began I started posting pictures of my plants simply because I couldn’t resist doing so as they were so gorgeous. My friends didn’t quite get it. When I started to get a bit of a following I switched the focus and created my Jamie’s Jungle account (@jamies_jungle) which is only about plants. Nowadays my Instagram feels like a part time job as I post every single day. On top of taking care of my plants, plus my job, it’s quite the endeavour. Having said that, my Instagram account has connected me with so many cool people around the world. Followers have sent me artworks, gifts, bulbs, etc. I talk with many plant Instagrammers from all over the world such as LA, NY, Singapore, Sydney, Sao Paulo and Buenos Aires and I so I feel like whenever I travel I have local friends.
Do you have a secret skill?
I have been classically trained as a pastry chef which I learned at the Cordon Bleu.
What is your favorite plant?
My most highly prized plant is my Chinese evergreen with variegation that looks a little like camouflage fabric in white, bright lime and dark green - Aglaonema dictum ’Tricolor’. I could not find any of these plants in Europe so in my desperation, I persuaded my mother to bring me a baby plant to the UK from Taiwan which involved an arduous process of obtaining a phytosanitary certificate to get it through customs. I love that plant… and my mother. It has really grown into a beauty after two years and is a star on IG.
Do you have a ‘green thumb’?
I attribute my success with plants to my large skylight which provides plenty of light in the house. I do spend a lot of time taking care of my plants but I’m not a plant nerd who customises potting mixes and feeds for each plant with grow lights and humidifiers. I only do the basics and take a relaxed approach.
Any plant care tips you can share?
My best plant care tip is: Don’t try to be a perfectionist right from the start. Like gardening, houseplant care is a lifelong learning process and there will be setbacks. You learn from the experiences of trial and error. The fun is in the process. It’s impossible to expect to have a collection of plants that will keep thriving forever. There’s no shame in giving up on a plant and getting a new one. Keeping houseplants is to better our lives, not to cause us stress and feel like a bad ‘plant parent’.
What is your weekly care routine?
Every morning when I wake up I take a quick survey of my plants with my coffee in hand. Generally I water my plants every two weeks which can take quite a few hours. In winter it can be every three weeks. In summer I do more such as feeding, repotting, etc. I am always changing the pots and the way they are displayed. This is what I enjoy most with houseplants.
P.S. Follow Jamie's plant parenthood journey, and swoon at his insanely beautiful space, on his Instagram.