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The Arctic Gardener

Anders Røyneberg. Agronomist, psychiatric nurse and sexologist based in Oslo, Norway. Author of the book Green Joy. Instagram: @arcticgardener

Imagine a hundred growing plants and two grown-up guys. Then picture a 44-square-metre one-bedroom apartment. This is where Arctic Gardener Anders Røyneberg lives together with his partner. But when it comes to plants, Anders isn’t in it for the aesthetics alone. To him, it’s a way of getting in touch with his roots.

Grünerløkka, also referred to as “Løkka” by the locals, is the urban heart of Oslo. Right around the corner from a popular hipster hotspot for coffee, between two large planters holding purple maple trees, there’s a green door. And the green continues, into a backyard bursting with fresh leaves. Some of it Norwegian flora, other greenery giving hints of a tropical forest. If there was ever any doubt, this must definitely be it: the home of Arctic Gardener Anders Røyneberg.

The stairway is no different. As we climb upwards, one storey after another, there are clusters of plants drinking in sunlight by every window. Finally, at the top, it proves unnecessary to catch our much-needed breath, for as the door opens and his urban jungle unfolds, there’s nothing to do but gasp.

“It’s quite small,” he says. And it is. But that’s not the first thing we notice. It’s the extent of the green plants. “I guess you could say I’m showing signs of addiction like those of a hoarder,” he laughs. A giant Monstera Deliciosa dominates the main room. There’s an open loft that’s flooded with hanging ferns and lush arrangements in every vacant corner. It’s a zoo, except prettier and free from animal abuse.

“I think the reason why I succeed with my plants is that I choose the hardy instead of the trendy.”

Roots

How does one end up with a hundred plants? What happened? “It all started with a heartbreak. That’s when my love of looking after plants really started to grow.” But raising plants as a form of therapy started long before his life’s trials and tribulations. Anders grew up in a small rural village an hour outside of Oslo. His father was a farmer and his mother, a nurse. It’s no surprise he became an agronomist, psychiatric nurse and sexologist himself. It’s an interesting combo, but it’s all connected with the art of making things grow – from mind and soul to tiny organisms.

“My down-to-earth upbringing left me wanting to see the world and seek new people by moving to the city. But it didn’t take long before I started longing for my roots. That’s when I decided to bring nature, a piece of where I come from, into my Oslo home.” He thinks a lot of people can relate to this. “For a long time, humankind has been drifting further away from nature. Now we’re in the process of taking it back. I think the budding trend of people having plants in their homes is a result of our nature deficiency and a symbol of the green shift we’re now experiencing.”

Reduce

His interior style is Nordic retro with a light-handed touch of Aztec. A fluorescent light in the shape of a cactus breaks with the otherwise calm tones of blue that repeat through every room in his loft apartment. “I don’t have a lot of things but I wouldn’t describe it as minimalistic. It’s just that I’d rather have those things be plants instead of filling the space with trinkets and useless décor.”

Devoting this much space to plants doesn’t come without sacrifice. “We had to replace drawers and excess seating with small tables, pedestals and open shelves. This way we can use the floor space more efficiently by displaying the plants at different heights. Speaking of displays, we also had to let the TV go. Instead, we see the plants as a form of extremely slow TV.” He laughs, and later admits to the lack of TV in his diet resulting in him wanting to watch TV when visiting better-equipped friends.

He turns to his monstrous Monstera, situated between a blue velour sofa and a 60s-vibe dining room set. “If you’re struggling to find a good reason to make room for a giant plant, my best tip is to use it as a room divider. That way it serves a purpose, in the same way a piece of furniture would. To me, that’s what plants and interiors have in common. Yes, they’re both beautiful. But they’re also functional.”

Care

Like a colour trend changing from one season to another, or a must-have sneaker quickly running by, there are also “it” plants. But are we supposed to care about trends when it comes to plants? “Globalisation is giving us access to a larger variety of species than ever before, so I think it’s natural that plants too are affected by trends. But if we look at the plants our grandparents used to have in their homes that are still popular today, they’re the ones that have the best chance of surviving under Nordic conditions. I think the reason why I succeed with my plants is that I choose the hardy instead of the trendy.”

Rainforest species and dark hues of green and purple have recently grown popular. “It’s a sustainable trend, especially for Nordic countries. The darker the leaves, the less light they need. And the thicker the texture, the more they can withstand. But there are ways of succeeding with finer foliage too. Mirrors can help reflect light towards poorly illuminated corners, or you can install a grow light to make the winter season bearable for your exotic friends.”

Produce

In a time of flight-shame movements and meatless Mondays, it’s all about reducing. But according to Anders, there’s one thing we should produce rather than reduce. “My partner Erik keeps finding traces of dirt everywhere and I think he secretly hates it. At the same time, growing and re-potting plants is my contribution to helping the environment. You can’t hate on that!”

Accumulating such a large amount of plants means he sometimes needs to let go of a few treasured green gems. “Whenever we’re giving away a plant, it’s always a big deal for me because I get so emotionally attached. That’s why they make such great gifts, especially if it’s a self-produced plant. Grow a seed, replant an offshoot or take a leaf or stem cutting from one of your own plants. When it’s strong enough to leave its nest, give it to someone you care for. In a way, the plant becomes an extension of the time and love you’ve given to make it grow.”