Maybe you are reading this from your holiday home? From a comfy daybed near the pool… Or from a sunny terrace near the ocean… Or maybe you’re at home, working while everyone else is enjoying the summer holidays? Wherever you are, in today’s post I’d like to share some tips on how to extend that holiday feeling. What kind of souvenir can you bring home, that will remind you about that secluded beach or dreamy view for a long time to come? A green souvenir!

LZF's garden with Swirl and Escape pendant lamps hanging above the table

When you think of conventional holiday souvenirs, typical shops come to mind, where they sell miniatures of the local touristic highlight, fridge magnets and traditional postcards. Whether that’s your style or not, looking a bit further for local artisans, craftsmen or design shops can be more exciting and you may end up with a nice story to tell on top of your souvenir. Visiting supermarkets or local gourmet shops is another great idea: shop for products with cool packaging, local specialties, or beautiful bottles with wine, oil and lemonade that make great gifts or can turn a casual evening into a tasting event. If you are on a budget, stones, feathers, a bottle of sand or shells can make a fun souvenir too.

But if you are looking for something that can grow at home, purify the air, and remind you of your holiday for years to come: opt for a green souvenir. A green souvenir? Yes! A cutting from a local plant that you can start propagating during your stay and continue once at home, or a plant from a plant shop, garden center or nursery.

If you’re not convinced yet, let us put it simple: a green souvenir ticks a few boxes of our eco-friendly list: it’s (often) local, easy to carry, practical and rather inexpensive.

What to look for when you are traveling and wish to bring home something green?

There are some rules to check when getting a green souvenir. First of all, it’s important to take in account the countries you are traveling to and from. Some countries have very strict rules for importing or exporting live plants or cuttings. Always make sure to check the local authorities to make sure you are not risking violation of the law.

Once you find out and are good to go: your options for a green souvenir also depend on the size of your suitcase and way of transportation. Adopting a large Ficus abroad is easier when you’re on a road trip and driving your own car, than when you are thousands of kilometers away from home and need to take several flights.

A girl visiting a plant nursery

A safe option to find some nice greenery is to go plant shopping at a local plant shop or visit a garden center or nursery. The advantage is that they can inform you about the name of the plant, explain more about the kind of light it needs and what kind of attention it requires at home. They can also tell you more about how to take the plant home and wrap it accordingly to prepare it for its trip home.

How do you find a plant shop when you are visiting a new city or country? Ask around! The folks at that cool restaurant with those nice plants on the table might be willing to tell you where they get their plants. Or maybe the barista at the coffeeshop around the corner from your hotel knows where to go. Or hit “plant shop” or “plants” and the name of your holiday area in a search engine. Chances are you’ll find a shop or nursery close by.

If there are no plant shops around, or you just happen to be in the right place with wild plants that grow on the side of the road: get a wild cutting! Again, the kind of cutting you can find, completely depends on the nature in your holiday area, but look for easygoing plants, like Opuntia cacti, small succulents like Agave or Graptoveria, Tradescantia, a fig tree cutting, spider plants, palm tree seeds, or wild ferns. When you find some: make sure to take them with caution: beware of cactus spines and nettle.

Make a clean cut with a knife or some scissors of take it off with your bare hands. Don’t store your new plant cuttings in the back of your car for your entire holiday or they will cook. Take them out of the car when you get to your holiday home and put them in a layer of soil or a glass of water and start the propagation process straight away. When it’s time to leave and go home, wrap the cutting in some moist tissue paper and put it in a small container, like an empty cereal box or (open) water bottle, to avoid crushing. If you put the cutting in a closed plastic bag, it can sweat and die before you come home, so you may want to avoid that.

If you bought your green souvenir in a shop, you can bring them on the plane as hand luggage, but again: check the local authorities and airline to make sure you’re allowed to do that. Once you get home, put the cutting in water for it to grow strong roots, or pot it in appropriate soil and let it grow. Remember the local artisans mentioned above? If you sourced some nice ceramics during your holidays you can plant your new green housemate in it!

Ceramic potts holding several cacti

Rules for picking a green souvenir:

There are a few unwritten rules when it comes to picking green souvenirs outdoors:

Never pick plants from people’s gardens or balconies. Imagine how these people care for their plants throughout the year, just for it to be demolished or taken away by a tourist. However, if you see a plant that you love in someone’s garden, why not ask the owner about it. Some gardeners love to share parts of their plants with others and you may end up with a cutting or two!
Never steal plants from Botanical gardens. While you may be tempted to have some of their beautiful species at home, it’s not a good idea and generally prohibited to take any seed, cutting, flower or leaf. Most botanical gardens have a scientific purpose and taking or destroying their plants, shrubs and trees is condemnable.
– Use common sense. If you take a cutting from a wild plant, make sure to only take the part that you want and need. Don’t cut off half a plant if the only thing you need for propagation is a small twig and some leaves. Make sure to leave the place as neat as when you discovered it.
Make sure the cuttings are free of pests and disease. Check if there are no bugs in the soil or under the leaves.
Never pick protected species. As easy as that: never do it.
– If you are not sure about your potential new plant: ask the locals and research online.

But most of all: enjoy your holiday and the time spent away from your work and routine, by making new memories. And once you get home: appreciate taking care of your green souvenirs for years to come!

Greenhouse inside of an apartment in Valencia

Author: Judith de Graaff is a writer and plant lover with lots of ideas to share. Lover of design, DIY, travel or photography, you’ll find her at Joelix and Urban Jungle Bloggers.