Hilton Carter, America’s Plant Dad, Has a Simple Plan to Save Your Greenery
The Baltimore native chats about his new book and the city that inspired it
Hilton Carter may have made his name on Instagram, where his artful, greenery-drenched interiors have earned him more than a half-million followers, but he is no mere #plantstylist. Plants, to Carter, are not props — the word is an insult. Perhaps no one on Earth more desperately wants you to take care of that $19 fiddle-leaf fig, the one that’s currently getting slightly too much light. To understand that your bathroom fern is in desperate need of more moisture. To recognize that plants are not decoration but living, breathing organisms, with whose care you have been entrusted.
Carter’s new book, Wild Creations: Inspiring Projects to Create plus Plant Care Tips & Styling Ideas for Your Own Wild Interior (CICO Books) expands the purview of his previous books — plant bibles Wild at Home and Wild Interiors — with a new collection of DIY home projects for plant lovers without losing the central thread that connects so much of his work: Don’t kill your plants.
“I try to gently say that throughout the book — this is a living thing coming into your home,” Carter says. “And if you’re someone without a green thumb, here are some things that are important to think about.”
A good quarter of Wild Creations — otherwise concerned with the construction of plant-focused home projects like concrete planters and paint-by-numbers jungle murals — is devoted to communicating this sense of responsibility. The book he hasn’t written yet, he says, would be called Plant Rants, imploring plant owners to become plant carers.
Trained as a film director, Carter returned home to Baltimore from New Orleans in 2017, his career as a plant-centric thought leader already in flight. He’s been exceptionally busy since then, with a trio of best-selling books, a wedding, a recent move within Baltimore, a baby currently en route and a Target collaboration that brought glass-encased preserved moss, wall-mounted stoneware planters and live plants to the big-box retailer in May.
Wild Creations is the fruit of collaborations with his local community of artists. (Carter earned his bachelor’s degree at the Maryland Institute College of Art.) The book is in some ways his pandemic project, a product of massive amounts of time at home, and of an understanding that much of his audience was similarly boxed in. In it, readers can learn how to make mossy walls and succulent-filled terraria.
“I thought it would be really cool to reach out to local artists — everything kind of had to be local, given that we were in quarantine,” he says. “It was a no-brainer to share the work of people in my circle, or just artists that I know, whose work I love. I was happy to collaborate with them.”
The book concludes with a section that, true to Carter’s mission, focuses on plant health.
“I just thought it would be important to help guide all of the new plant people as they find their way into this community,” he says. “There was a moment when we were putting the book together when I really did feel some sort of way — first, we got the order here wrong. I really wanted the plant health part to come first, just so that everything is pushed in people’s brains right away.”
A plant “chandelier” is one of the book’s showiest projects — Instagram fodder for the #plantprop crowd.
“People might say, ‘I want to make this plant chandelier, and I’m going to put it in the middle of my dining room.’ But you have no light there. And it’s just, like, what? First you have to know where your plants should go, so they can thrive. You need to know what’s possible for your plant. And then you can have all this fun. Until then, you can’t. Only then can you go out to play. Only then do you get to build all of this cool stuff. Not before. Stop eating your broccoli before your dessert.”
Below, Carter shares his five favorite green-filled spots in Baltimore and DC …
Howard Peters Rawlings Conservatory
3100 Swann Dr., Baltimore
“I talk about this beautiful space in my book Wild Interiors because it’s definitely a must see if you’re in the area and want to find a moment to transport yourself to paradise.”
Alma Cocina Latina
1701 North Charles St., Baltimore
“It’s one of the most lush restaurants in town (Baltimore) that feels like a little escape into the wild.”
The Little Greenhouse
9845 Harford Rd., Parkville
“It’s a hidden gem. One of my favorite plant shops in Baltimore.”
501 E Pratt St., Baltimore
“OK, yes, there are plenty of sea creatures here, but the greenery in this place — wow!!! ”
1401 S St. NW, DC
“A beautiful space for any plant lover to purchase a new friend or learn a thing or two about plant parenting.”
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