Peace on Earth…

December 24th, 2009 § 3 comments § permalink

Wishing you all things Merry and Bright !

Happy Holidays !

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*Bright red cranberries and candles make a lovely, quick and natural centerpiece for the holiday table. To make one like mine, (I snapped the top photo last night while wrapping presents):  fill a shallow glass bowl, (midway to the top), with water. Add fresh cranberries to cover the surface, and float a few candles here and there. The cranberries can be rinsed and re-used later, (you can also scatter them outside for hungry birds…). Please be sure to keep an eye on candles, and never leave them in an unattended room. Have a warm, safe holiday !

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All photos copyright 2009, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without express, written permission. Inspired by something you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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Bringing Nature’s Beauty Indoors: Terrariums Part Two…

December 19th, 2009 § 16 comments § permalink

A tiny Phalaenopsis orchid , (‘The White Moth’) , displayed in an open terrarium lined with pea stone/charcoal mix, and filled with a bed of bark, sphagnum and sheet moss…

Last week in ‘Terrariums Part One‘, I went over basic instructions demonstrating how terrariums are constructed, and introducing terrarium-newcomers to the beautiful, fascinating world of miniature conservatories. Starting with a simple terrarium, such as the native plant design I featured last week, is a good idea if you have never experimented with terrariums before, or if you are working with young children. However if you have already had some success with basic terrariums and houseplants, and you want to experiment with more unusual tropical plants or something a bit more challenging, you may be ready to move on to some less-typical interpretations of this indoor display method. Whether you go with a classic or a more modern design, keep in mind that a homemade terrarium is both an economical and memorable gift, and there is still plenty of time to come up with something truly special before Christmas…

Open bowl-style terrarium and a blown-glass bulb amid pink polka dot plant, (Hypoestes phyllostachya), purple velvet plant, (Gynura aurantiaca), and golden hair grass (Deschampsia flexuosa ‘Tatra gold’) All plants featured here are from: The Old School House Plantery

Begin by letting your imagination run wild. There are as many kinds of terrariums as there are people creating them. Terrariums may be open or closed, short and wide or tall and narrow. They may be made of solid glass, acrylic or plastic, or they can be combined with other materials, such as wood or steel. Some tiny greenhouses are smaller than lemons; others take up entire rooms. I have seen absolutely stunning, miniature conservatories made from recycled or even antique glass containers, and I have been amazed by more modern, architectural terrariums constructed from sheets of clear acrylic. Some designers like to add tiny collectibles, such as doll furniture or figurines to their designs. Other creative adornments might include itty-bitty flower pots, toy cars, prisms or glass balls. It is endless. The plants contained within terrariums also vary wildly. Naturally, your choices are limited by a wide variety of situational conditions and circumstances; including plant availability, budget, design, mature specimen size in relation to container, as well as ease of maintenance. There are also cultural requirements to consider; a few of which include humidity preferences, drainage and soil structure and chemistry.

Many plants will thrive within a moist, humid terrarium environment. In fact some, including many of my favorite orchids, actually perform better in my dry, winter home when contained within glass. The tiny moth orchid, (Phalaeonopsis), pictured at the top of this post, ($9 at Home Depot), is happily growing in a mixture of bark and sphagnum moss. Drainage is provided by a mix of pea stone and charcoal at the bottom of the container. Phalaeonopsis thrive in warm, moist conditions. Elevated humidity is provided by a tall, wide glass vase, (found at Target for $12), which holds water and reduces evaporation.

On the other hand many plants, including most alpines, cacti, succulents and herbs, tend to wither and rot in low light and dampness. But given the right container and growing conditions, some of these plants may be grown in glass planters as well. Of course, more exacting personalities might argue that wide-mouthed, glass pedestal bowls do not technically qualify as a terrariums. I encourage you to expand on these old-fashioned definitions, and to explore the concept of the modern terrarium. Although succulents are not good candidates for closed conservatories, they do make fantastic additions to open glass bowls – particularly the urn-shaped vessels intended for candy and fruit display….

A modern interpretation of the classic terrarium: non-traditional, dramatic succulents contained within a delicate glass pedestal bowl. All featured plants : The Old School House Plantery

I created a lovely succulent bowl, similar to the one above, to give as a holiday gift this year. I liked it so much that I ended up making this one for myself. I selected a glass pedestal bowl intended for fruit display, ($9 at Target), and lined the bottom and sides with polished black stone, both for practical drainage and decorative drama. The center well was slowly filled with a good potting mix and plants. Designing a terrarium or glass planter is no different from any other garden design project. Color, texture, shape, structural density and form always come into play when designing with plants. I wanted to make this classic shaped bowl a bit modern. Many succulents have bold, geometric shapes, so they seemed like the perfect choice. I love the contrast of these thick-fleshed, colorful plants against the clear, delicate glass. For my vertical element I chose stately snake plant, (Sanseveria trifasiata ‘Laurentii’), and for the mounded, central feature, I chose one large and another small Mexian rose, (Echeveria ‘Pearl’). The trio of plants is softened by the trailing, delicate beauty of variegated elephant bush, (Portulacaria afra variegata). Perhaps stalwarts of terrarium design will brush this combination off as merely a conventional planting. But I think this modern terrarium-hybrid lies somewhere between, and defies hard-line definitions.

Of course, before you begin assembling your glass container plantings, there are a few things to keep in mind. Knowing something about your plant’s natural environment and cultural preference is the key to horticultural success under any circumstances. You can find this information by looking the plant up online or in an encyclopedia, (see library page for good reference books). If you provide a plant with what it wants and needs, odds are much better that it will reward you with lasting beauty and long life. But remember that half the fun of gardening, inside or out, is experimentation. This is an art as well as a science, so have fun and be creative. If your plantings start to look a bit lack-luster, you can always re-configure your arrangements and/or swap containers. I move plants around all the time!

I will be back with more terrarium resources, tips and ideas, as well as other indoor gardening projects soon. In the meantime, some great ideas for terrariums and indoor-plants may be found in Tova Martin’s fabulous new book The New Terrarium: Creating Beautiful Displays for Plants and Nature, and/or Diana Yakeley’s beautifully photographed title, Indoor Gardening. Together with a gift certificate from a local greenhouse, either of these books would make an unexpected, much appreciated gift for novice and expert gardeners alike.

All plants pictured are from : The Old School House Plantery

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Article and photographs ⓒ Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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Find a Beautiful Terrarium, Container and/or Supplies at Viva Terra or Terrain…

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Bringing Nature’s Beauty Indoors: Terrariums Part One…

December 11th, 2009 § 12 comments § permalink

A seasonal terrarium filled with North American forest plants…

I am very fortunate to live and work surrounded by gardens. Even in winter, nature is part of my everyday life. But not everyone is so lucky. Some of us have friends and family members working in city high rises, crowded into sterile offices or lifeless cubicles. As gardeners, I’d like to think that we can alter this situation, especially around the holidays, by bringing a little bit of nature into these people’s lives. A few years back a friend of mine gave a magical, mist-covered terrarium as a birthday gift to a mutual acquaintance. This gorgeous garden-behind-glass, filled with ferns and moss, inspired me to create one for a nature-lover I know; one sadly trapped inside a concrete jungle.

I have loved building mini-greenhouses ever since grade school, when they were a big fad with my friends. Although terrariums disappeared for awhile, I am happy to report that this indoor gardening trend has returned – and with a vengeance ! Terrariums are all the rage right now. The popular craft and decorating blog Design * Sponge has been running spots on glass covered terrarium ornaments and even haunted ‘terror-ariums’ for months, and suddenly it seems that tiny greenhouses are turning up everywhere from trendy restaurants and hotel lobbies to libraries and classrooms. With the surge in terrarium popularity, you might think that keeping plants beneath glass is a new idea. But small-scale, glass covered gardens have gone in and out of fashion for centuries. The Victorians were particularly elaborate, designing exquisite table-top greenhouses and free-standing conservatories in miniature, (usually fashioned from plate glass and forged iron). These days, we are seeing everything from itty-bitty, hanging glass-globe-gardens to enormous, sculptural terrariums; masterful works of art and horticultural science.

Creating a basic terrarium is very simple, and it’s a fun project for kids and adults alike. All you need to begin is a glass jar with a lid, a bag of pea gravel, sphagnum moss, potting soil, a spray-bottle filled with water, and a selection of rocks, bark, sticks and plants. Holiday conservatories, filled with birch bark, native moss, ferns and partridge berry look particularly lovely centered on a dining table or grouped together on a mantel. Terrarium design is limited only by your own imagination! For inspiration, I love Tovah Martin’s book, The New Terrarium, pictured below…

Tovah Martin BookThe New Terrarium: Creating Beautiful Displays for Plants and Nature

To build a simple terrarium like the one I made, (pictured at the top of this article), begin by locating a clear glass container with a lid. The smaller one pictured here is an Anchor Hocking 3 quart, glass kitchen canister. You can find these at most department and craft store, or order them through the various links below. If you are planting your first terrarium, or if you are working with school-aged children, I recommend starting with simple containers or jars. If you are making a holiday gift, or feeling more adventurous, then by all means get more creative with antique apothecary jars, glass cake domes, or specialty terrarium containers.

Now, just follow the simple steps below…

terrariums, gathered woodland materials

Step one: Purchase pea gravel or aquarium stone, sphagnum moss, (for native plants I also recommend peat moss), and good, dry potting soil, (you can get all of these things at a local home store like Home Depot). Collect decorative materials such as stones, bark, twigs, and pine cones from nature or purchase these types of items from a craft store. Select and buy small plants from a local greenhouse/florist or through online resources. Cover the table top with newspaper before you begin – this is a messy project !

terrarium stage one base

Step two: Fill the bottom of the glass container with about an inch of pea stone gravel. This is important for drainage, but you really only need a bit to cover the bottom. You can get more creative, as you gain experience…

terrariums stage 2 sphagnum sheet moss

Step Three: Add a layer of sphagnum moss, (sometimes called sheet moss), to hold in the soil and retain moisture. This is optional, but I find it helps the terrarium remain neat. You can also add horticultural charcoal to keep the jar fresh, but it isn’t necessary, (I skipped this for my holiday terrariums)…

terrarium stage 3

Step Four: Add potting soil,(and peat moss if you are planting acid-loving natives like ferns and moss). Make a mound so that the plants in the center will be visible from all sides…

terrarium stage 4

Step Five: Add bark bits here and there, and wet down the contents of the jar thoroughly with a water-filled spray mister, like the one shown above. Let the contents settle for a few minutes and then add your plants. For my native terrarium, I added club moss,(Lycopodium), partridge berry, (Mitchella), and a forest moss called Dicranella. I also scattered tiny pine cones and birch bark in the jar to make the woodsy scene more realistic. Mist your terrarium thoroughly after planting and cover with the glass lid. Check your plants over the next few days and water with your mister if they seem dry.

You are finished ! Terrariums need very little maintenance. They are the perfect project for new indoor-gardeners. All you need to do is check on them once a month or so, and add water if necessary. Once terrariums are established, they can go months without any attention at all. Humidity and condensation inside the jar will generally keep things alive and well.

Below I have pasted some jar photos to give you some container ideas. But if you have the time, let your creative mind be your guide. Once you begin, you may find yourself catching terrarium-mania. I know I have. In fact, I am headed to my local greenhouse tomorrow for some tropical inspiration. Next week I will share what I find for my larger table-top terrarium. You can go wild with all kinds of plants from African violets and orchids to exotic ferns and moss. I will be back with more terrarium plants, containers and ideas soon…

Container ideas and links…

Glass Cake Cover with Dome

This glass cake cover with a dome lid, ($39.99 from Target),  makes a beautiful terrarium…

Glass Cake Dome

This one from Anchor Hocking at Amazon has a more open lip. A Low ceiling like this means you will be limited to tiny plants, such as moss and miniature ferns…

1 gallon terrariumSmaller, 1 Gallon Sized Terrariums Make Lovely Gifts

Glass Apothocary JarApothecary jars make lovely terrariums. They are available in many sizes. You can seek them out in antique shops or buy them new.

Anchor Hocking 3 Quart Apothocary Jar w:lid

A 3-Quart clear jar will make a nice sized terrarium. The top lid makes for easy maintenance…

Find more sophisticated and advanced terrarium ideas on the Indoor Eden page at left.

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Bringing Nature’s Beauty Indoors: Creating a Festive Mood at the Holiday Dinner Table with Candles and Natural Treasures…

November 25th, 2009 § 6 comments § permalink

Bittersweet and floating votive candles…

As we begin celebrating the holidays this season, our attentions turn toward the table, where we gather to celebrate and give thanks. Now that I have finished shopping for tomorrow’s Thanksgiving feast, I am beginning to play with some seasonal arrangements to greet my guests and illuminate the dining area. With so much stark inspiration in the forest surrounding my home, I tend to reflect nature’s minimalism by keeping my decorations simple.

As seasonal darkness returns, candles provide a warm welcome at dinnertime. This year I am drawn to beeswax pillars glowing behind glass, and floating votives flickering in bittersweet-laced water bowls. Placing candles behind glass, or floating them in water provides additional sparkle and reflection. Beyond the added luminosity, thick glass and water also add safety to candle displays, particularly when they are combined with natural and often combustible materials…

Pine cones and crabapples, safely piled around a glass-hurricane lantern…

Of course, we all know that open flames are very dangerous, especially in households with children and pets. Candles should never be left untended, even when protected by glass. But when handled with care in occupied rooms, candles enclosed in glass jars, water bowls or hurricane lanterns can provide a safe focal point for beautiful holiday centerpieces.

A few years ago I received several hurricane shades, (pictured above, and linked below), and beeswax candles as a holiday gift. What a great present for a gardener! I use these glass cylinders in many ways, throughout the seasons. The stockier jar-type containers with glass bottoms work great for holding water, stone or gravel in addition to votive candles or short pillars. I also like to wrap vines like bittersweet all around these jars. The taller glass hurricane shades provide higher flame protection, and I love using these on the terrace where they prevent candles from extinguishing in the wind. The taller, heavy glass shades also work well when piling up pine cones, berries, evergreen boughs or branches on the table, as the glass provides a barrier to open flame. Particularly rambunctious households may wish to replace real candles with battery-powered fakes for added peace of mind. Your table will benefit from the natural elements and illumination either way…

Hurricane Glass Shade

Glass Hurricane Shade, (11.5″), by Libbey Glass, $29.49

Libbey 9861112 11.5

Glass Hurricane clearClear Glass Hurricane from Target, $20.49

Glass Hurricane – Clear

When choosing candles, I usually prefer beeswax candles to other types because they tend to burn longer and cleaner, (without the black smoke), than paraffin candles. Although candle wax is often colored and scented, I like the natural, unscented kind best. Scented candles can be lovely for setting a mood when bathing or for adding fragrance to a room, but at the dinner table, I find them very distracting when I want to focus on the smells and tastes of a special meal.

More decorating ideas inspired by the garden will be coming soon. In the meantime, I hope you will continue to look toward the natural world for beautiful, recyclable materials as you begin decorating for the holidays this year…

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone – Safe Travels

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6" beeswax pillar candle

Beeswax Pillar Candle, 6″ tall, $24.00

Six Inch Tall Pure Beeswax Pillar Candle – Unscented

1 natural floating votive candleFloating votive candle for suspending in water-bowls…

Tapered Floater Votive Candle – Medium – 2

Hurricane Glass BowlHurricane Glass Bowl from Target, $29.99

Hurricane Glass Bowl

Beeswax votivesBeeswax votive candles,(image and product from Blue Corn naturals), 4 for $9.00

Raw Beeswax Votives: 4 Pack

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Article and photographs copyright 2009, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

Please do not take, use or reproduce my photographs or my words, for any purpose, without first contacting me for permission.

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the copyrighted property of Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden, and may not be used or reproduced without express written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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Bringing Nature’s Beauty Indoors: Decorating for the Holidays with Winterberry, Pine Cones, Bittersweet and Natural Garden Remnants…

November 20th, 2009 § 6 comments § permalink

NB winterberry upclose

Winterberry branches, in a modern glass vase, beside my painting studio door

One of my favorite ways to prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday is to decorate my home and studio with natural remnants from my garden. At the end of my day yesterday afternoon, I stopped along the bank of the Connecticut river and gathered some native bittersweet vine, (Celastrus scandens), for wreaths and table arrangements. Over the past couple of weeks, I have also been collecting pine cones, berry covered twigs and fruit tree branches from around my property. These autumn remnants will fill vases, urns and baskets around my home. Later I will add some berries and pine cones to my wreaths and door swags, setting aside a few extra decorations to give as gifts. When the holidays have passed, I will recycle my decorations by bringing the berry branches back outdoors to provide food for birds. The pine cones will remain indoors, where I will use them to start fires in my wood stove…

winterberry

Gathered winterberry branches, (Ilex verticillata),  from the garden

I started decorating this morning by filling vases with berry branches and baskets with pine cones. Just adding a little bit of color and texture from the garden really brightened the house and lifted my spirits. I thought I would share some photos of my dried table and floor arrangements as I get ready for the holidays. This weekend I plan to continue making simple, decorative baskets and wreaths – so there will be more ideas coming next week. The best part? All of these decorations came from my garden or nature; the only costs are time and energy – both well spent…

pinecones in a basket

Pine cones, dried and arranged in a basket on my kitchen table

NB bittersweet in aletha soule pitcher

Bittersweet, in an Aletha Soule gunmetal-glaze pitcher, on a table in my studio

NB crabapple vase

Crabapple branches in a Richard Foye raku vase in my bedroom

NB winterberry in vase

NB winterberry

Winterberry branch, (Ilex verticillata)

NB winterberry in urn

Winterberry, placed in an urn on the second floor landing of my studio

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Article and photographs copyright 2009, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

Please do not use or reproduce my photographs, for any reason, without permission

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced for any reason without express written permission. Inspired by something you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

***

Bringing Nature’s Beauty Indoors: Dried Flowers and Grasses Catch Light and Play with Shadows…

October 30th, 2009 § 1 comment § permalink

dried queen annes lace

Dried flower heads from a field of Queen Anne’s lace sparkle against frosted glass…

The last days of October have arrived and the natural world outside my door is slowly bleaching, bronzing and browning to a warm patina. Gorgeous distractions demand my attention at every corner. Still, there is much work to be done in the garden before winter arrives – so I wander about the flower beds daily, preparing for next season’s long slumber. As I gather up pots, toss spent annuals, and attend to various autumn gardening tasks, warm rays of sunlight illuminate ornamental grass and dried flowers, highlighting their texture and form. The stark and skeletal remains of Queen Anne’s Lace and the honey colored needles of Amsonia hubrichtii seem to call out for individual attention. As I work I often collect some of nature’s gifts for indoor display. Placed in delicate vases without water, these bits of frilly, feathery foliage will last for weeks on table and desk tops, where they sparkle in the late afternoon sun as I write. Larger souvenirs from my garden, (such as Hydrangea paniculata and Miscanthus sinensis), fill Aletha Soule’s vasesRichard Foye’s vessels and various old, terracotta urns placed near brightly lit windows and doors where they catch the long, golden light.

Now is the perfect time to collect ornamental grass and dried flowers by the armful. Gathered garden remnants can be hung upside down from attic beams and garage rafters to be used later for wreaths and table displays throughout the winter months…

Amsonia in Vase

Golden Amsonia hubrichtii sings in blue blown-glass…

Native Hair Grass

Deschampsia flexuosa, (Common hair grass), from the meadow catches light in my kitchen on a late afternoon. Raku vessel by Richard Foye.

Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight'

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ in an Aletha Soule gunmetal glaze pitcher…

Miscanthus sinensis strictus (Porcupine grass)

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Strictus’, (Porcupine grass), in a urn by the studio door…

R Foye Urn in studio

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Purpurascens’, (Flame grass), in a Richard Foye urn beside the patio door…

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Article and photographs copyright 2009, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without express written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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