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Bringing The Outdoors In

Originally Posted: January 13, 2009

Cindy Lee Bergersen

A few potted plants can enhance your living space and make your house feel like a home. Photo by Pure Research

Nothing completes the picture of "home" like flowers and greenery indoors. Fresh cut flowers provide beautiful eye-catching focal points, while our potted green friends create a more relaxing ambiance, along with added health benefits too. Plants absorb carbon dioxide and release fresh oxygen - this equals "a breath of fresh air" in the house. However, as with every other aspect of home design, you have to make intelligent decisions rather than haphazard gestures. Case in point: A half-dozen (or more) teeny pots, with half dead plants is not a good look under any circumstance. Make sure it doesn't "happen" by accident.

If you are so lucky as to have a garden, you can cut and plop your picks directly into an attractive leak-proof vessel, just as the English do. It's best to cut right at the joint of the stem you want and the main stem or branch. Cut the stems again before putting them in water on an angle. Split the ends so the water travels upward easier. You'll keep your flowers fresher longer if you re-trim the stem ends every couple of days.

If you have abundant space and light, indoor trees are a wonder both for architectural
effect and sheer beauty and delight. Photo by Garden and Leisure

Those of you with black thumbs, lack of interest, or no dirt to call your own, are probably already friendly with your local florist. Some neighborhood markets feature dazzling displays of blooms and of course, the trimming suggestion applies here as well.

However you acquire Nature's Bounty, don't neglect to be mindful of which colors will work best to enhance the room where they will live. That said - it's hard to go wrong with white flowers. Surely, it goes without saying, that only healthy, well-tended and trimmed plants will enhance your rooms.

A very easy but very effective way to dress a table, console, or mantle, is to use big "elephant" leaves, large fern fronds, or sizable clusters of magnolia branches in large glass vases. These "greens" look great in modern or traditional settings. Another winner, space permitting, is to use cut branches from flowering trees such as dogwood and cherry, or shrubs such as forsythia. Make sure the container is big enough in scale to balance the size of your branches so that they don't look "top heavy." Though harder to track down, it's worth the effort because they "keep" longer and add a lot of "wow!" wherever used.

Growing beautiful plants indoors is tricky because the right setting isn't determined by aesthetics as much as available sunlight. There are however, species that do well in relatively low light areas, such as variegated philodendrons and dieffenbachia. A truly great choice is a beautiful plant called a Zizi. It needs so little light, it's rumored to be able to thrive in a closet - but don't quote me on that. All plants need some light. An in-depth conversation with the "Plant Experts" at your local nursery or plant resource is a very good idea to nail down the particulars of your "lighting situation" and will lead you to the best solutions.

If you have abundant space and light, indoor trees are a wonder both for architectural effect and sheer beauty and delight. Some flowering trees supply "scent opportunities" as well. I have evidence you can fool Mother Nature, some of the time. Years ago I lived in an old apartment house, complete with a steam pipe and a rattling radiator. There was plenty of heat in the winter, though the air was so parchingly dry, I needed two humidifiers in a 15 foot x 20 foot room. By happy accident, my lemon trees thought they were in a hot house and bloomed in February! Trees can be used to great effect to fill corners, act as transition screens from one area in a large room to another, or simply as focal points on their own.

Whether you choose vases of flowers, pots of plants, or the drama of the gifted tree, don't lose sight of the principles of balance and scale. A tiny waist high tree in a big corner looks silly, as does a hodge-podge of containers on every surface. Restraint and a plan will save the day. A big, tall space needs a big, tall tree. If what you find is too short but otherwise substantial looking, set it on a stool or bench to give you the height needed to fill the space.

A very easy but very effective way to dress a table is to use sizable clusters of
magnolia branches in a large vase. Photo by Rob D. Brodman

Think of a potted plant like you would a treasured object for display. If it's big and beautiful, make it the star of wherever you place it and minimize other objects on the same surface.

As you would do with a collection of objects, group several smaller pots together for greater impact. Groupings of odd numbers, three or five pots for example, of varying heights works best. A line of small matching pots along a windowsill or mantel can also be effective.

Think in terms of creating a composition. Make a vignette on a table using a lovely bouquet or plant in an interesting container with an intriguing picture and a lamp of appropriate scale. Make sure each of these items relates to the others. Don't hang the picture too high, or place the lamp too far away. Nestle things in like the best of friends.

Even if you don't cook, clay pots filled with herbs in a kitchen have charm. Line them along a window reveal if it's deep enough. Another good looking idea is to mount glass shelves in the window if it's sunny and you don't particularly love the view.

Spanish or green moss on top of the soil is a great way to give a more "dressed" look to your containers in any part of the house.

Fresh flowers, green cuttings, plants and indoor trees have a way of lifting one's spirits. Take advantage of the simple things in life and treat yourself to a lovelier, happier home.

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