Gungahlin should borrow "house jungle" trend from Melbourne to improve its look

Gungahlin should borrow "house jungle" trend from Melbourne to improve its look

Reader, are you one of the increasing number of Canberrans living a gardenless life in an apartment or a teensy town house? Does this make you aware of a void in your heart?

Scientists insist that we have all evolved to feel biophilia, an innate love of the green and leafy natural world. Without greenery we mope. So have you thought of filling, or are you perhaps already filling that void with a green indoors, with a "house jungle"?

The "house jungle" trend is popular in America but it could be coming to the capital.

The "house jungle" trend is popular in America but it could be coming to the capital.Credit:Washington Post

Back to the jungle in just a moment via my explanation that I have just spent a few days staying with a young family in their small home in a characterful neighbourhood of Marvellous Melbourne.

Ah, Melbourne! What a tonic of a metropolis it is! What a thrilling bustle there was in the Federation Square area and by the river.


The poet Carl Sandburg famously described his city, Chicago, as "city of the broad shoulders" and whenever I visit Melbourne it, too, strikes me as a broad shouldered city. It is burly and strong, yet somehow as well agile, fast and nimble. So Melbourne is a kind of Billy Slater, or better still (for Melbourne has its endearing bogan side and is figuratively tattooed) a Dusty Martin of a city.

Perhaps slightly-built Canberra (not big enough and brave enough, yet, for body contact sports) is a kind of Nathan Lyon of a city, spindly (and not at all athletic-looking) and yet brainy.

But back to the jungle.

The admirable Boston Globe Ideas online magazine, in love with our ever-changing, ever-adapting English language, pricked up its ears when it came across the new(ish) expression, a new noun, "house jungle".

The Ideas piece begins "Until recently, the only way to say someone had a lot of houseplants would be to say they had a lot of houseplants. But for people hoping to live exotic lives in compact spaces, there are corresponding terms for an especially green indoors. For instance, 'house jungle.' "

It turns out that to festoon one's compact indoor spaces with extreme greenery is a worldwide, US led trend. And (how like Melbourne to be abreast of a worldwide trend!) the compact home of the young people I stayed with contained just such a jungle.

One is used to a home having an occasional indoor plant, but the Melbourne youngsters' home was so much like true jungle that one half expected to meet Tarzan and Jane emerging from its shrubberies, to find brightly-coloured macaws flitting through it.

The Boston Globe Ideas piece offers links that take you to a bigger, broader analysis of where this great trend is coming from, and especially to a recent Washington Post piece Millennials are filling their homes - and the void in their hearts - with houseplants.

We might once have called the use of indoor plants just a kind of "decorating". But the Post writer diagnoses that what we are seeing now with these dense "house jungles" of so many indoor plants per compact home is a response to "a deeper sadness among young American adults". She says they're sad (perhaps subconsciously) because they are required to live city lives so estranged from Nature. But there are other, very 2017ish factors at play as well, she thinks. One of them is Instagram and the desire to make one's much-photographed apartment look greenly glamorous to others.

I am dwelling on all this because there is much recent discussion of the awful outward appearances of Canberra's bare and gardenless new suburbs.

Jorian Gardner's recent piece about the visual horrors of gardenless Gungahlin (so many apartments and town houses) got many thinking and talking about what is to become of Canberra's suburbia. But one wonders if, within those gardenless suburbs whose looks leave Canberra's Jorians and Ians so ashen-faced, there are exotic house jungles growing now, filling pioneering Canberrans' biophiliac voids.

It also occurs to me, educated by that Melbourne house jungle and by the educational US pieces mentioned above, that Floriade's otherwise inexplicable popularity may be explained by this same syndrome.

For decades I have misguidedly scoffed at Floriade. But then I live in old and leafy Canberra and have my own garden in which to meet my biophiliac needs. It may be that the hordes that descend on Floriade are overwhelmingly apartment folk, townhouse dwellers, for whom Floriade, a public garden, an outdoor jungle (albeit a very orderly one in which Tarzan and Jane would mope) is serving an essential, void-filling bio-therapeutic purpose.

Are Floriade's clients increasingly likely to go home to their own indoor house jungles? If so then let one indoor jungle-dwelling Baltimore couple (they have a one-bedroom apartment) interviewed by the Post be their role model. Pay attention, Gungahlin.

"There are 180 plants here," the reporter gasps.

"This means that every Sunday, there is a four-hour grooming ritual. There are yellowed leaves to pluck away and toss. Bugs to keep an eye out for. The great existential mysteries of light and air and sun to consider [and enjoy]."

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