indestructibleNow that winter seems to have finally arrived, the Iowa gardener is forced indoors. How does the avid gardener get their quota of poking around in the dirt and watching green things grow? Houseplants of course! It may not be quite the same as a perennial border or a vegetable patch of edibles, but houseplants can get you through the darkest months and have their own charms and rewards any time of the year.

The Indestructible Houseplant by Tovah Martin will set you on the path to a lifelong happy obsession with indoor plants. Martin lists dozens of tough, easy-to-grow houseplants by family, giving lots of tips and growing advice and pointers to the best varieties. Each plant family has a simple-to-consult growing basics charts, but the real value of this book is Martin’s charming, fun-to-read detailed descriptions. The acknowledged current leader in houseplant cultivation, Martin is not afraid to admit to failures or less-than-spectacular results (although I doubt those happen to her very often!)

The photographs in the book are spectacular and prove that “indestructible” is not synonymous with plain or boring. Most of the plants are grown strictly for their foliage (often very colorful foliage such as with the bromliads and begonias) but there are several flowering varieties – geraniums, kalanchoes, African violets – as well. Most of the plants are easy to find (check the local nurseries – we have several excellent ones in the area and winter is when they have the best variety of houseplants); some are common outdoor container plants (such as geraniums and ferns) that enjoy a summer vacation outdoors, decorating your porch in the summer and your living room in the winter (I’ve done this with geraniums and begonias for several years – it’s a great way to keep your favorites and also save a few dollars in the spring)

Martin finishes the book with good, practical advice on how to care for and display your houseplants. I love the variety of containers she uses – colanders, trays, cast off metal dishes, unique and beautiful pots – all of which enhance but do not overwhelm the plants. She even discusses how she trained her cat Einstein to stay away from plants (he shows up in several of the photos). This book is the best combination of eye-candy, inspiration and practical advice. Highly recommended!

 

air plantsAir plants, also known as tillandsias, are having their moment. Popular for their spiky shape and extremely low-maintenance needs, they are now widely available in garden centers, small boutiques, upscale food markets, and national retail stores dedicated to home furnishing and design.

Air Plants , by Zenaida Sengo who is the interior coordinator at the popular San Francisco-based Flora Grubb Gardens, shows how simple and rewarding it is to grow, craft, and design with these modern beauties. Decorating with air plants is made easy with stunning photographs that showcase ideas for using them mounted on walls, suspended from the ceiling, as living bows and jewelry, as screens, and in unique containers, like leather pouches, dishes, and baskets. Six step-by-step projects include a wood mount, a wall hook, lasso-and-hook wiring, a ceramic-frame garden, and three unique terrariums. This lushly designed guide is perfect for anyone with the desire to grow on air. (description from publisher)

Did you know about air plants?! Sounds kinda sci-fi, doesn’t it! Also known as an epiphyte, air plants get their nutrients from the surrounding air and thus do not need roots. Cool! They kind of remind me of a miniature, land-dwelling octopus or Thing from the Addams Family. Now here did I learn about these awesome plants? From Terrarium Craft: Create 50 Magical, Miniature Worlds by Amy Bryant Aiello, Kate Bryant, & Kate Baldwin!

I always thought that Terrariums were very difficult to upkeep and required intense calculations to maintain their delicate ecosystems, but Terrarium Craft has since convinced me that Terrariums are my new super laid-back, always stylish best friends. In fact, according to Amy, Kate & Kate, I don’t even have to put living plants in my terrariums if I don’t want to–I could use pretty sands, rocks, crystals, and dried flowers to make super lovely displays. However, they make even the plant terrariums seem easy by using moss balls, air plants, succulents and other easy care plants and arranging them with sweet figurines, geodes, books and costume jewelry to create little whimsical, fairytale-like scenes. I want to live in their terrariums, but, until I find a shrinking raygun, I will just check out Terrarium Craft from the library and make one of my own. It will totally have a geode and an air plant and will be based on that classic Ringo Starr hit, Octopus’s Garden.

new-terrariumFight off some of that spring fever by cultivating a bit of green on a tabletop. From elegant, antique Wardian cases (named for Englishman Nathaniel Ward who created and popularized glass boxes for plants in the 1840s) to simple vases, Tovah Martin brings us the charming world of terrariums in The New Terrarium. You won’t find even a hint of crunchy-granola-1970s terrariums here (when these enclosed plant worlds were last popular) but you will find modern, playful interpretations of all kinds.

Martin firmly belives that any container, so long as it’s clear glass and has an opening large enough to accomodate plants, is just fine for a terrarium. As a result, there are fish bowls and aquariums, large flower vases, candy jars, Mason jars, even a covered cake stand on display here. There are also many beautiful examples of glass cloches (also called bell jars) that were once used to protect tender young vegetable plants in the garden, now in service to protect and highlight a beloved indoor plant.

Plant choices range from the exotic – such as orchids – to the more ordinary – African violets which are at their height this time of year and easy to find, or ferns. In fact, almost any plant – so long as it’s small enough – will thrive in the humid, controlled environment of a terrarium. The exceptions are plants that prefer dry conditions (cactus, succulents, herbs) You can even fill your terrarium with non-plant material – a favorite seashell or a miniature garden gnome. Martin lists favorite plants and how to grow them and gives on instructions on how to plant and care for your mini-garden. Populated with beautiful pictures, you’ll soon be on your way to bringing some of the outdoors in.