Snowbound thoughts: Part I, terrariums

The first snowdrop with more to follow

Well, most of the snow melted in yesterday’s rain, but more ice and snow are predicted for Sunday and again next week.  I’m beginning to understand why northern gardeners go stir crazy in winter.

However, as Cindy From My Corner of Katy (near Houston), wrote, “One step closer to spring, sweet Jesus.”

Isn’t that what we’re all thinking on this sixth day of February? January is gone, and twenty-two more days of February, all gray and foggy, loom ahead, but onward and upward we march.

My first terrarium since 1975

Instead of more obsessing on the weather, let’s talk instead of terrariums.  You read me right.  Terrariums. Doesn’t the word just take you back to the 1970s, elephant bells, and macrame?  Well, my friends, terrariums have grown out of their pimply teenage phase and moved on to a beautiful indoor elegance.  Tovah Martin, author of many books, including Tasha Tudor’s Garden, is coming to speak in Oklahoma on February 13-14, 2010, so, last week, I bought her latest book, The New Terrarium: Creating Beautiful Displays for Plants and Nature.  When I spoke to her on the phone yesterday, she said she wanted people to have “nature at their elbow” because it increases their intimacy with plants.

“A terrarium makes nature accessible to everybody,” she said.

Diva likes this one because the glass is more beautiful, and she likes the blue rocks inside. I like how the striped patterns on the glass echo the Dracaena deremensis 'Janet Craig Compacta' inside. I will probably have to repot this at some point, but I'm enjoying it now.

She has over 100 plants in her home, nineteen of them terrariums.  She had more, but she sold some.  She said that for those gardeners who have “a brown thumb indoors” terrariums require little care and reap large benefits.  Glass enclosures keep the temperature and humidity more constant, making it less likely you’ll kill the plants inside from neglect.  Just don’t water them too often or too much.  Also, choose plants which like humidity.  Tropicals fit the bill, as do many shade plants, but stay away from desert lovers.  They will succumb to too much moisture.

In part II of my interview, I’ll share more about Tovah’s thoughts on garden stewardship (her topic for her Oklahoma City presentation), but today, I wanted to highlight terrariums.  Before reading her book, I used to tease my friend, Elizabeth, of Gardening While Intoxicated and Garden Rant, about her indoor plant menagerie and her terrarium.  This winter, I’m an enthusiastic convert.

Faced with more snowfall, I just had to get my hands into warm soil, and I wanted to create something beautiful.  I found small plants at the nursery and placed them within their glass containers just as I would in the garden.  Different heights, different textures.  I added pebbles and a bird nest to complete the scene in the one at top, along with Sagina subulata ‘Aurea’, chartreuse green Irish moss.  I love this little plant, but the summer always incinerates it in my outdoor garden even in the shade.  We’ll see if it will thrive under the moderating effect of glass.

Cloche over an African violet

Then, there’s the African violet covered by a cloche making it a focal point on a buffet or table.  As Tovah said, “It’s about intimacy with nature . . . in sparkling glass, and all of the sudden it has value.”

“Little bits of treasure.  Encased in glass making them a phenomenal work of art.”

The great houseplant census of 2010

Mr. McGregor’s Daughter asked all of us to take a census of our houseplants.  Somehow, this census is supposed to save her relationship with all of her houseplants, or was that her husband?  I can’t remember.  She said anything alive counts, so here goes:

Barely breathing bulbs count.

The above are barely living tulips.  Don’t ask me why they look so bad.  I also have a very sad Norfolk pine which is hanging on, and being the merciful sort I am, I did not photograph it because it was too embarrassed.  Let’s move on to the amaryllis (really Hippeastrum) which finally decided to bloom after Christmas.  I had plans for it with the jolly, red decor, but sometimes plants don’t cooperate.

'Red Lion' graced us with its presence after Christmas.

The next picture is in here just because I love the vase which I purchased online.  I also have a blue one, but forgot to photograph it.   Antique stores are another great way to find bulb vases, once you’ve gone over the edge and are growing bulbs everywhere.

Just love this vase. A hyacinth bulb

My double pink hyacinth called the double Chestnut Flower (1880) is starting to bloom.  It is surrounded in the pot by white hyacinths which, I’m guessing, aren’t going to catch up to the pink one.  Oh well, something to look forward to I suppose.  I bought the double pink from Old House Gardens, and it does live up to the catalog’s glorious praises.  It is nicely scented and beautiful to gaze upon.  At the moment, watching it unfurl those double petals is about as good as houseplants get in my opinion.

Double pink hyacinth is so heavy she's being propped by a marker.

“That’s not fair,” cry the Christmas cacti, Schlumbergera et al. (one of them may be a Thanksgiving cactus).  All three are perched indignantly around the tub reminding me that they have now bloomed twice.  I do enjoy bathing with them, and after reading the new issue of Country Gardens magazine, I think we should add some African violets in vintage containers to the mix.  They could sit in the windows I think.

The red one
The bright pink monster I've had for years
The light pink one I saved from Wal Mart last year.

I’m really rather ashamed of how light pink is potted up.  Its original dark brown pot was knocked over by one of the cats, and HH threw it into this pot.  Because I’m a terrible indoor gardener, I’ve never re-potted it.  I think I’ll fix that this weekend.

If we're counting, this is four in one pot.

I found this little number at a local nursery last winter.  I felt bad because I didn’t have any indoor plants except the cacti, so I saw this little jungle number and brought it home.  It also resides in the bathroom which is the best place in my house because of the humidity.  The aforesaid kitten likes to hide between the leaves and eat this plant.  It hasn’t killed her yet, so I guess it isn’t poisonous.  Oh, and before you call PETA, I’ve tried to get it away from her.  I really have.

Isn't that pretty?

A few more bulbs (about ten in all), and that’s it.  However, against my better judgment, I’m considering a terrarium.  This afternoon I bought and I’m now reading Tovah Martin’s, The New Terrarium: Creating Beautiful Displays for Plants and Nature because she is coming to Oklahoma to speak in Tulsa (February 13, 2010) and Oklahoma City (February 14, 2010) as part of the OHS’s education series.  By the way, the talks are open to the public and free.

Martin almost has me convinced.  The terrariums look easy care, and if you want to live inside this house, you almost need to care for yourself, especially if you’re a houseplant.  Just ask the cacti.