House Plants, as themselves sentient beings, need TLC. But for those unable to provide care, the Plant Asylums in Utrecht is providing shelter to plants that are discarded or brought into the shelter.
Plant Asylum sets out to nurture the plants back to health – have them bloom and grow again – until they are ready to be “rehoused” with a new owner. Plants are adopted without a price tag, although donations at Plant Asylum are welcomed.
Founded three years ago by Femke van der Rijst, who at the time was discovering lots of plants left on the street, Plant Asylum also serves to educate people on the needs of the plants, making sure that the plants are adopted to a suitable person.
Femke van der Rijst says: “For people who don’t know how to start, or say or think they don’t have green thumbs, I think it starts with knowledge. And when you buy a plant at a garden centre, that it at least says its name, so you can look it up on the internet and you at least know how much light it needs, and water. Pay close attention to your plant; don’t drown it in water. Often when there’s something wrong with their plant, people think: It needs more water, that’s not always the case.”
Plant Asylum was originally housed in Femke van der Rijst’s living room. After a year of operating from her apartment, Plant Asylum moved to the neighborhood centre, De Leeuw, where Femke van der Rijst was able to reach more people and to house even more plants.
It was there where Femke van der Rijst enlisted the support of fellow plant guardian, Esther van Keulen, who had at one time adopted a plant from Plant Asylum.
The pair – who now run Plant Asylum together at its bigger and current location, Lou Oudenoord 330 – have become experts in plants by listening to the plants needs, and learning about the plants through researching and reading.
Now Plant Asylum is more visible within the community, Femke van der Rijst and Esther van Keulen are finding that people are coming to bring plants themselves, for “all sorts of reasons”.
In an interview with Explore Utrecht, Femke van der Rijst said: “If people come over to adopt a plant, we first ask them what they know about plants, and where they want to put the plant. We try to kind of gauge if that person is a good fit. You shouldn’t let someone without a green thumb adopt a plant that needs a lot of care. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but to increase the chance of success, for the plant but also for the person adopting it, we do find it important that you know something about your plant.
“There are no price cards on the plants, people give a voluntary donation. And then we use that to pay the rent and other costs.”
Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief @rosamedea