• Avant Gardener Profile: Fred Lahache

    Clara Mary Joy

    Meet Fred, photographer and keen plant enthusiast, with the belief that plants punctuate a space. Literally. Join us as he invites us into his home in the 10th Arrondissement, and discusses how plants punctuate his personal space. Exploring their growth, the spaces in which they expand, and how that suggests an affinity or interest in a particular place in his apartment over another.

    In your own words you can introduce and describe what you do professionally.

    I am a photographer, the daddy of a fantastic baby boy, and to my friends a keen plant enthusiast, so thank you for coming to photograph my collection! I am a self-taught photographer; photography is both my profession and my personal artistic practice. In both, I like to combine documentary style imagery and composition, with more graphic details. I look for simple stories, and try to isolate certain details.

    Where do you call home?

    Paris 10th.

    Have you always had an affinity towards or love for plants?

    I was born and grew up in an urban environment, but we lived very close to the banks of the Loire, which had an enormous effect on me as a child and I remain very attached to [that landscape]. My parents had a few plants (no more than anyone else), but I always acknowledged and appreciated the time and care it took to look after them; I found this a very meditating and calming practice. So I would say that green, most certainly, in the respect of nature, has always been in my heart. That said, I have never had as many plants as in this apartment. My apartment has a lot, which has allowed me to experiment with many different species. I would like to have more, but there are pots really everywhere.

    Do you have a routine to take care of your plants?

    Yes, I water both the indoor and outdoor plants once a week on the weekends, but in summer I also water them mid-week. I also use homemade fertiliser. And I schedule particular plant duties in my diary, such as the time to repot a particular plant, the season to cut another, to wash some leaves of dust, and cover others for the winter...

    What is the most important lesson you have learned during the trials and tribulations of raising plants?

    Better too little water than too much water.

    Where do you look for advice on your plants?

    By chatting with friends, florists, botanists, gardeners, and of course our friend Google.
    An indoor space filled with a big stack of books next to a fireplace, a wall shelf full of books and a collection of different kinds of potted plants surrounded the place while a big window was opened.
    Fred in a blue T-shirt, repotting the plant in the sink and there’s a silver container next to the pot.
    A collection of home decorations - vases, dead coral, glassware on the fireplace next to a plant.
    Different kinds of potted plants are located on the opened window shelf.
    Fred’s pair of hands are busy repotting plants in the sink while there are some gardening tools on the table, including a trowel and a pair of secateurs.
    How do you feel your plants fit into, complement or challenge your home space?

    They punctuate the space. Literally. Their growth, and the spaces in which they expand, suggests an affinity or interest in a particular place in my apartment over another. They choose where they live. This adds to their needs in terms of light, exposure and humidity, it's not easy to do exactly what you want with your plants! There are so many plants I wish I had but I don't have the room here to welcome them, they wouldn’t have the best quality of life.

    Where do you find inspiration for your plants?

    Often, during garden visits, it is very inspiring and you can leave with a plant. Unfortunately it often happens that the apartment space is much less appropriate than the setting in which we admired them, and we were too optimistic. But sometimes it works!

    How do you see your plant evolution in the future?

    In the apartment I live in now, they are essential. If I had to live in a smaller and especially darker space, it would be very painful to have to do without. Evolution is entirely dependent on this ultimately.

    What do you do with your plants when you go on a trip?

    A few years ago, I bought an astronomical amount of sprinkler caps, you know, that you screw into the end of water bottles. So during departures longer than a week and in summer, I spend 2 days installing all of this, adjusting and fixing all the pipes for them to survive. Otherwise we always have a neighbour or friend who can kindly come and water, but I’m hesitant to ask anyone as there are so many to take care of!

    Which plant will you buy next?

    I don’t think I have any space left…

    Do plants have an effect on your mental and physical well-being?

    Yes totally. It’s a very meditative moment for me, which I try not to do in a rush. I am very organised and I try to schedule a convenient time to look after my plants. It’s often accompanied by music, and I take the time to think about a lot of things. It is an introspective and generous activity that does me a lot of good. And apart from taking care of them, just looking at them as you walk through the apartment or gazing at them while I entertain friends, sends me back good vibes.
    Stacks of books leaning on the wall while a pot of plant sits on the top of it and another pot nearby.
    A collection of terracotta potted plants is on the table while a wall shelf is filled with jars, books and other different stuff.
    A collection of terracotta potted plants is on the window shelf under the sunlight while a few pots are on the wall shelf.
    Fred holding a big potted rubber fig in front of him while he stood in the corner of the space with white walls behind.
    What is your idea of perfect happiness?


    How do your plants influence your mood and state of mind?

    I gaze at my plants every time I am near them, so it’s hard to say. But if, for example, a new growth appears that I had not noticed or after returning from vacation, this is one of my greatest joys. Conversely, a sick plant really upsets me, you can't imagine.

    What do you think is the most overrated virtue?

    Curiosity can be? Because it's a duty in fact, I don't find it necessary to congratulate people for having the quality of being curious… It's fundamental for humans, and I feel that it's a necessity to stay curious. I don’t understand why some people choose to remain closed minded.

    What is the talent that you would most like to have?

    The front moonwalk. If I achieve this one day, I will become the master of the world for sure.
    The shadow of potted plants on the window shelf under the sunlight projected on the curtain.
    A side-angle photograph of stacks of books with two potted plants.
    Fred’s pair of hands take the soil out of the pot in the sink and there is a pot of plants next to it.
    A collection of CDs and magazines on the glass table on a colour-faded carpet next to a bamboo or wooden chair.
    What have you learned from your plants?

    That error is human.

    Which living person do you admire the most?

    I am a huge fan of Christine Ockrent, I dream of shooting her. Larry David is also an idol, but for more trivial reasons. Sacha Baron Cohen also comes to mind, for the power of his convictions that are often forgotten behind the antics he stages to convey them.

    What are the words or phrases that you use the most frequently?

    So I end way too many sentences with "quoi", and I certainly say too much "putain". And the characteristic that I will often be reminded of is a face that is much less expressive than what I think I display even at the best of times! I often seem sad or upset when everything is going well… but there’s nothing I can do about it.

    What do you value most about your friends?

    Listening, humour, culture, and their shoulder when I need it.
    A photograph of Fred with his houseplant collections, a potted ficus elastica bineke, a potted Australian umbrella tree, Epipremnum marble queen, begonia maculata and a terrarium.