Sunday, May 1, 2011

creating a green oasis

I have fully embraced one of my 35 at 35 actions: creating a green oasis in my living space. I kicked into high gear with it after the holidays and I'm still going strong.

Since I moved out on my own I've experimented on and off with different houseplants. I quickly settled on the idea that pothos was the plant for me - I can let them dry way out and give them a really big drink and they more or less flourish. Along the way I learned I don't have the touch for snakeplants and the rest of what is sold in the plant mart at Ikea. I almost gave up on plants when I killed my fifth snakeplant. Really? They are said to be among the easiest plants to keep alive. I've since figured out I was planting them in too large of a pot and overwatering. Back to life as a pothos girl.

I think the motivation to expand my plantings came while I visited Savannah this past October. The city's foliage is gorgeous - mysterious and romantic, stately and wild - and it felt like a "character" to me in this storied town. I wanted to cultivate more living green in my home when I returned. I decided holding off on this project until after Christmas would be a great motivator for me. Fresh plants for a new year. This also gave me a bit of time to figure out container styles for my new friends. I've become more interested in decorating with white over the past year, so I decided to use vintage/thrifted milkglass and white ceramic pedestal vases for this project. I've loved finding them at the Goodwill and vintage/antique shops around town.

This project also brought me to a local nursery greenhouse in the middle of Minnesota's long and snowy winter. I spent a few weekends strolling the aisles, soaking up the warmth and light and textures of the space. So grateful for that.

Here's where I started in January - with baby's tears and a lemon-button fern. I've found success with the baby's tears, but the nursery experts helped me determine I don't have a "fern-loving" home.

I knew there was a reason I squirreled away these pebbles in a kitchen cabinet a few years ago. I grew tired of decorating with them, but they've come in handy for creating drainage in my vintage planters.

I've read quite a bit about creating terrariums and learned African violet mix is the soil to use when creating an enclosed garden. I've yet to make a terrarium (I'd like to, though), but I am finding success with the violet potting soil. It's more loose, which seems to be helpful for a recovering overwaterer like myself. It's easier for me to tell when the soil is dry and the soil dries out faster than others, so I can give into my urge to water.

This plant vignette lives on my kitchen peninsula counter. Near two windows. The fern started here, but died because there wasn't enough light and it was probably too cold during the winter months. The baby's tears (need weekly watering), pothos (monthly watering), succulents (bi-weekly watering) seem to like it here, though. The milkglass dish holds my newest plant obsession: air plants. I purchased five small plants from an etsy seller in February. Love them! Easy care - require no soil, just one to two showers a week under your sink faucet. I plan to add some larger plants to the mix this summer.

In March I picked up some wheatgrass seeds so I could see grass growing amid an outdoor landscape that was still covered with snow. I planted two rounds of container grass, most recently for Easter. It lasts for a few weeks, then seems to topple over and dry out. It spouts in just a few days in a thin layer of moist soil, and surprisingly, not much light. I do have to give it a "trim" to keep it shorter. In addition to the rectangular white planter, I now have it growing in the vintage cups in the second photo, too - next to the sedum-type plant that has been in bloom for 2+ months.

In April I picked up a small blooming orchid at Trader Joe's. First time for me with an orchid. I asked my mom about them and she's never had luck. So far I've followed the instructions on the tag (water when the top layer of moss is dry) and it's still living. I water with a basic liquid fertilizer mixed in the water. I hope that might prompt it to bloom again. It has one little bloom still hanging on. I read that once all the blooms fall, you should trim it back to the notch behind the lowest past bloom to get it going again. We'll see. The leaves are pleasant, too - remind me of magnolia leaves (which fell frequently from trees and hit my in the head - ouch! - in Savannah).

The vintage egg cup in the first photo (sorry for the scattered reference) is the perfect home for a small pony-tail palm. I love these plants. I have a much larger planting of three pony-tail bulbs in my bedroom that I picked up a few weeks ago. They tell you when they need water as their bulb shrinks in size - not very often, it turns out. I like their spikey and drapey texture.

And another shot of a tiny air plant. This project makes me so happy.


  1. I love your plants! I'm getting the hang of keeping plants of my own after having a few of them die on me (several were from Ikea as well!). No idea what any of them are though, aside from two aloe plants and a Christmas cactus!

    I think one of my next Etsy purchases will be the air plants from ToHold. They are so intriguing.

  2. I love that you are collecting special dishes for each of your plants! That might help me form just the relationship I need with a plant to actually keep it living.

    My dad has a habit of bringing me plants. I have killed all of them over time - except for a giant aloe plant that lives atop my television.

    I have also managed to keep a spider plant alive since 2009. It was a graduation gift from my friend's little girls. It is very forgiving.

    And, I completely think you should try the terrarium. I can't wait to see your results.

  3. Jill, I just love the green wall of a vignette of art and plants placed in the white milk glass––beautiful! Interesting post, I’m looking forward to seeing your magical touch with the terrarium.