Atelier Green Factory
If your Philodendron is looking forlorn, your English Ivy faint or your Peace Lily is about to give up the ghost, don't despair as The Green Factory has the perfect solution for city dwellers like you!
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PARIS, France — If your Philodendron is looking forlorn, your English Ivy faint or your Peace Lily is about to give up the ghost, in short, if you have miserably failed at indoor gardening, despair not; Noam Levy has just the thing for you.

Noam created The Green Factory “for the city dweller who has a deep need for contact with nature but lacks the time necessary.” In his small boutique near the Canal St Martin in Paris’s trendy 10th district, Noam sells closed, self-sufficient terrariums and other bucolic vegetal compositions under glass. Also known as “sweat jars” or “bottle gardens”, these mini eco-systems require little or no watering or pruning, just light. Photosynthesis and the water cycle take care of the rest by recycling the oxygen produced by the plants within the closed environment. As Noam says:

It’s another way of decorating with plants.

Each creation is unique and made by hand by Noam and his team in the workshop behind his boutique. Although bottle gardens have existed forever, Noam’s innovative take was to place a miniature tree in the centre of each composition to lend scale and structure. The trees range from a Polyscias in the “Forest” series, a Ficus in the “Prairie”, to a “Fittonia” in the “Trekki” series. Smaller plants, white and black gravel, bright green moss, some pebbles and his own mix of planting soil make up the rest of each composition.

Atelier Green Factory
Atelier Green Factory

The result is a fresh plant arrangement somewhere between a beautiful but ephemeral flower bouquet and a purely decorative item. As for maintenance, a warm environment – between 15 and 27 degrees is ideal, good light – but no direct sunlight, a bit of water once a year so when the moss feels dry and that is it. An occasional pruning of leaves touching the sides of the jar may be necessary, but it is minimal care.

Noam developed a passion for plants as a city kid growing up in a Parisian apartment with only a balcony for his gardening experiences. Following studies in English at the Sorbonne, he traveled extensively to places including India, Australia, Thailand, Brazil and Israel, each time collecting exotic species of plants and bringing them back to Paris to try to cultivate them.

Atelier Green Factory

It was during a seven-month stay on a kibbutz in Israel that Noam learnt the essentials of gardening, starting with how to work the soil. “We started from scratch, with a dry patch of land that we had to clear and drain. We dug irrigation ditches, planted grass, cultivated and pruned trees.”

Back in France he created The Green Factory in 2009 with the original concept of selling depolluting plants. When that failed to take off, he began proposing exotic plants from tropical climes. The clients loved them, but they were fragile and required a lot of care.

Noam finally found inspiration in an old American gardening book that showed pictures of bottle plants. He began experimenting with different arrangements, finally settling on about 30 different compositions. In addition to the finished products, he sells kits containing the different elements necessary to build your own terrarium.

Atelier Green Factory

On a recent rainy winter morning, Noam showed a visitor how this works. On a table in his workshop he first selected a medium-sized jar, then put in a few handfuls of pouzzolane, or volcanic rock, for drainage. This he followed with fine gravel and his own mix of planting soil. He selected a Ficus from the plants lined up behind him and placed it in the center of the soil, then added a Fittonia. “This makes a star couple, two plants that live harmoniously together,” he noted. Using a small hose he carefully watered the base of the plants, approximately 40ml. This is the only water the composition will need for six months to a year, possibly longer. Finally he added some clumps of moss around the edges and a few polished stones for decoration. He left the glass container open, saying the plants needed 24 hours to grow accustomed to their new environment.

This particular arrangement, a “Prairie Medium” will sell for about €100, but Noam has smaller creations starting at about €35. The success of The Green Factory has been largely by word of mouth. Noam now works with a staff of seven assistants from different backgrounds; Julien is an architect, Anne a marketing specialist, and François-Xavier is pursuing studies in digital communications. “I hire people not for their gardening expertise but because they are touched by plants,” he concludes.

Starting this month, The Green Factory will have its own corner store in Le Bon Marché, the chic department store on the Left Bank. It is the ultimate accolade for Noam – and a long way from a tiny apartment balcony.

Atelier Green Factory