They honed that craftsmanship with plants at home, where,
though initially lukewarm about the house, they literally saw the light
when winter first came. With the trees around them bare, the light
flooded in through the windows. “It just streams in at the end of the
day,” says Stiglin, “especially when the leaves are down.” Suddenly, all
those fallen lichen-covered branches, old birch logs, leafy bouquets,
artistic stones, seedpods, and twigs they collected from the forest
are illuminated. The stone fireplace and wood floors gain a shine and
become part of a dialogue.
Twigs and branches are all well and good, but Whitman and Sti-
glin still needed indoor plants to complete the image. The two shop-
keepers do not have the luxury of spare time, so they required easy-
care specimens that would bask in a less-than-perfect indoors. Despite
its delightful aesthetic, the house’s interior suffers from the same lit-
any of botanical challenges as most homes: fluctuating temperatures
(they have a wood stove), occasional lapses in watering, and light that
is charming but not strong when it’s needed most.
The peperomia and ferns possess the simplicity that works with
the couple’s sensibilities and settle comfortably into the sorts of containers they collected on excursions to Japan and other far-flung places.
Most of the plants don’t claim a lot of space for themselves. Instead,
they nestle into niches, working with the whole to create
a textural interplay. They blur the lines between man-made and wilding as they blend with twigs, bark, lichen,
and pine boughs. When man and nature live together in
this way, there’s an intimacy that occurs. Whitman and
Stiglin’s lives are dedicated to forging that close relationship and demonstrating to everyone just how to strengthen the bond. “It’s the difference between a person in a crowd and a friend,” says Whitman. “If
I have a dialogue with nature, I’ll know it better, especially if we bring
it into the most intimate environment — our home.”
peperomias don’t have flashy flowers but are whimsically idiosyncratic,
especially potted in faux-log containers (above). Whitman and Stiglin mix live
plants with birch branches and magnolia buds in lieu of a flower arrangement.
Plants thrive in the humidity of the bathroom (facing page, top to bottom):
A maidenhair fern, a potted peperomia (on tripod), and a button fern.