Janneke Luursema’s Indoor Garden Oasis

Words by
Sally Wilson
| August 2, 2016

“I fill the house with plants to make up for all the brick and mortar of the city,” Amsterdam-based photographer Janneke Luursema tells me. Better known as @still_______ to her 39K Instagram followers, Janneke presents scenes of interior domestic life, draped in plants and held still momentarily by the plaintive Dutch light. Even when reduced to small tiles on a mobile phone, Janneke’s work clearly conveys the calmness derived from life lived within an indoors oasis.

Please tell us a little about your life with plants.
My life with plants is relatively new. I remember thinking only a few years ago when I visited my sister’s plant-filled home: ‘I can’t keep a plant alive, I guess all my nurturing goes into the kids’. And look at my place now: houseplants everywhere. How fast things can change. I love my thriving little indoor jungle. That said, I’m not an expert at all, I just watch closely how they are doing. And adjust the care when needed.

Can you please describe where you live, your home and what you love about your city?
I live in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, near the city centre in a two floor apartment built somewhere around 1910. It has a lot of little rooms. My three kids all have their own space and I have a space I like to call my home office, studio, atelier, whatever, the important thing is a have a private space where I can close the door and work on my own projects. Bliss.

I fill the house with plants to make up for all the brick and mortar of the city. My eldest son shares my love of plants, and the rest of the family don’t care, as long as they still can walk around freely without bumping into the greenery.

I love the energy and the endless possibilities of this city.”

There are so many things to see and to do, countless micro-adventures to enjoy. Amsterdam is relatively small, and I can go anywhere by bike. It only takes a few minutes to the city centre to enjoy all the cultural stuff, but also just a few minute to visit the allotment garden at the edge of the city, where I own a little garden with a tiny house. In the gardening season I’m there as much as possible, enjoying nature and everything that grows in the garden.

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How would you describe your work?
In my work I observe plant life and the connection between people and nature. I explore the art of arranging things, the intimacy of the still life and I focus on the concept of home. In broader terms, to me, photography is about light and catching the poetry of life as I see it.

What does your work desk look like?
Currently full of sketchbooks, notebooks, magazines, books, paint, prints, pencils, pens and a laptop. But to close my day, I clean up. When I go to sleep I want to see nothing on my desk. It gives me peace of mind.

What does a typical day involve for you?
Shooting, processing, editing, writing, planning, evaluating what I do and why I do it. I tend to overthink a lot. I’m practicing to more let go, just do it, not overanalyze the whole thing. Enjoying the process.

What draws you to plants?
The variety of sizes, shapes, structures, colors, shades of green. They live. Their constant change, their beauty, the beauty of nature in general. The mystery of life.

Living in the city, I crave greenery. My own little green oasis makes me feel good. Relaxed, at peace, quiet.”

In my work, I always try to show the beauty of nature. Often the quiet beauty, stillness, and the beauty of the ordinary.

When did you first start collecting plants and creating an indoor garden?
Looking back, I realise I started to collect plants shortly after my boyfriend and I decided not to make any more babies. Isn’t that something?

What are some of the favourite plants in your collection?
The older the better, I like it when they have outspoken characteristics. The Monstera deliciosa was one of my first plants, so it has a special place in my heart. It grows like crazy, and it is very exciting for me to see the new leaves unfold. I’m still waiting for a leaf with a hole though. I love cacti, succulents in general, ferns, begonias, palms, rubber plants, airplants… To tell you the truth, I like all plants and especially how good they look together.

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Do you have any tips or philosophies to share about keeping an indoors garden?
I’m not an expert on plants, I just do my best for them, and most are doing fine. Sometimes a plant dies and it is a mystery why, sometimes one dies because I go on vacation.

I only have experience with the light and temperature in my part of the world. The Monstera, the rubber plants, the Zanzibar Gem and the Sansevieria are doing great. These are fairly ‘easy’ plants, but all plants like light, even the so called low light ones. That’s something to consider when you get plants in your home and you want them to thrive.

Look for the plant that likes the conditions in your home. As a general rule: the more light, the more water a plant needs. Find the balance.”

Furthermore, I noticed most plants don’t like to be moved around. If they’re happy, leave them where they are. That’s a difficult one for me, because I like to rearrange. I love to group them, enhancing the beauty in each. Playing with shapes, structures, colours. And vintage pots.

What are some of your favourite gardens and places to visit in Amsterdam?
Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam is a place I visit regularly. A lot of plants in this botanical garden I also have in my own home. When I’m visiting, I always take note of the conditions ‘my houseplants’ live in. Can they tolerate a little darkness, do they want high humidity, these sorts of questions. And they are so big over there! Lovely. I’m a fan of glasshouses. It’s the light, but also the play between man and nature.

For photography lovers: FOAM (photography museum) is a nice to spend some time.

And the IJ-Hallen: a giant flea market located in an old industrial building. It’s a great place to find vintage pots for my plants.

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How do you like to spend your weekends and free-time?
As often as possible I escape the turbulence of the city and go to the isle of Texel. There, I soak up quietness on the endless beaches. Collecting shells and feathers and driftwood. When there’s not enough time to go there, I like to be in my garden house, where I love to paint, and work in the garden of course.

I do not know a lot about gardening, I just let nature do her thing and try not to let it get too wild.”

What are you looking forward to?
The unfurling of new leaves on my Monstera. And I always like the change of the seasons. In Amsterdam, summer is here, which I love, and in a few months, I’ll be delighted when fall arrives. And so on. That said, I’m trying to live in the moment. Enjoying the right here, right now.

You can see more of Janneke’s work on her website and follow her on Instagram.

All images courtesy of Janneke Luursema.

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