We had a chance to sit down with Jonathan Lefrançois, a self-employed graphic designer from Montréal, a passionate owner of over 170 houseplants of all kinds and sizes, and a MARPHYL Marine Phytoplankton Ambassador. We spoke about what inspired his love for indoor plants and how his indoor jungle benefits his creativity. Jonathan also shared some tips for plants enthusiasts who are just starting.
What do you do for a living and what are your hobbies and passions?
I am self-employed as a graphic designer @pulpandpixel, specializing in brand identity, print, and packaging (my favourite). I lead a pretty simple life and enjoy cooking, seeing my friends, hanging out with my cat, jigsaw puzzles, and getting away to a cabin in the woods when time permits.
Where does your love for plants come from?
I grew up being exposed to farming through my grandparents on both sides of the family, but not so much to indoor plants. I recall my grandparents on my mother’s side having some indoor plants, but I seriously got into those on my own about 2 years ago. A friend of mine showed me how some succulents propagate from leaves and I was mind blown. After that there was no turning back. I started collecting cuttings and babies from everyone who would give me any, and I now have about 170 plants at home. Most are small since they started as babies or cuttings, but they’re all slowly but surely growing.
Where do you learn how to take care of your plants?
I owe most of what I have learned from the people I follow online as well plant hobbyist groups. Thanks to the online community, you can post a question and get a response almost instantly from people sharing the same passion as yourself. It is a very generous community—with time, knowledge, and even plant sharing. I’ve been picking up more and more books, too, because I enjoy reading on paper as opposed to always on a screen.
Being a graphic designer is a creatively demanding job. Then, you have a fantastic Instagram account that focuses on plants. Where do you get energy and inspiration for doing it all on such a high level?
First of all, thank you! I am glad people are inspired by some of the things I post. My personal Instagram changed a lot in the last year, now focusing primarily on plants. Before that, I had a bit of everything, focusing more on myself and what I was doing, a lot of the cat (he has his own account now), food—the usual. I really enjoy photographing plants, so it is especially fun to curate a gallery online that I can share with others who enjoy them, too. Because I am self-employed, I can somewhat work on my own schedule, and I often need to remind myself to take a break. Even if that break is spent photographing plants or going to browse the local plant shop, my brain very much appreciates the time away from work. So in a way, this is a healthy distraction from my work, yet it is still a creative outlet for me.
How does your cat react to the constantly growing amount of plants?
I adopted a senior cat when I moved back to Montreal almost 3 years ago. For me, there is no question that adopting is the only way to acquire a pet, and I will only consider older animals. If they are in a shelter, chances are they were abandoned for some reason or other and they deserve to have a nice life in a loving home. Older pets have such interesting personalities and are generally more easy going than babies. My cat is almost 12 and spends most of his days sleeping. I make sure I only have plants in areas he can’t reach and if a plant dangles or is somewhere he can access, I make sure it is non-toxic to animals. The only thing we’ve experienced so far is him walking along the railing upstairs and falling down into the plants. He was startled and ran under the bed unharmed (thankfully), and the worst part was some broken pots. Hopefully he doesn’t try that again!
If you could go back in time, is there any advise you wish you could give yourself when you were just starting with your plants?
There isn’t anything really I could have done differently other than pace myself more. Acquiring a lot of plants in a short period of time can become overwhelming when you don’t really know what you are doing. Even after a couple of years, I still don’t entirely know what I am doing, but I am more confident in my skills—preventing, diagnosing, treating. Before you’ve experienced it yourself, it’s hard to know the early signs of pests or disease. And having to deal with those is definitely a challenge when you’re learning. I recommend getting up close with each plant when you plan on watering them. I always take that time to take each pot in my hands, rotate it and look at the leaves, the stems, and try to catch any problems early.
Another thing I would suggest is to look for local plant hobbyist groups online. You can get so much information there and trade with other plant owners. More than half of my collection was acquired for free, by trading or from getting plant cuttings from others. The costs add up quickly if you buy everything outright, and you really don’t need to!
Are there any social media accounts themed around growing plants and home jungles that you could recommend to others?
I love @houseplantclub because they always share such great quality photos. I don’t really care for many of the accounts who only repost other people’s content, but they do a really good job and always credit everyone properly.
Some other Canadians I really enjoy following include the ones listed below. I’ve made some real friends from this online community, and that is much appreciated.
What’s next for you? Which new projects should we be looking froward to?
I am finally moving my design studio into its own space in Montreal’s Mile End so I am very excited for that. I was especially drawn to the large front windows which I will naturally fill up with plants.
I often have little creative projects on the side but I never know too far in advance! Perhaps some sort of plant-related designs for merchandise (I already have a few of those).
Do you have a question for Jonathan? Or maybe you want to suggest a person or a topic for our next blog post? Leave a comment below!
Arantza and Benjamin, founders of MARPHYL Marine Phytoplankton
Images by Jonathan Lefrançois, used with permission.