indoor plants

Table Top Pots – Perfect for Holiday Gifts

The Nativity Scene was re-organized daily by Katie! 1991

The Nativity Scene was re-organized daily by Katie age 3 1/2

When our children were small and the budget was tight we made all our Christmas gifts, cards and even tags. I would start many weeks ahead of time, the sewing machine working late into the night as I made matching flannel shirts for my husband and son (then 2 1/2 years old) and a Beatrix Potter duvet cover for our daughter.

My husband and son back in 1994 with their matching shirts

My husband and son back in 1993 with their matching shirts

 

 

The kitchen would be filled with spicy aromas as I steamed home-made Christmas puddings to be wrapped in red cellophane and cooked up dozens of mince pies. Cards were crafted from folded fabric one year, lino-cut block another.

Always the comedian - Paul hangs his own ornament on the tree. 1994

Always the comedian – Paul hangs his own ornament on the tree. 1994

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even the Christmas stockings, nativity scene and large wall hanging-style advent calendar were stitched with love. In hindsight I wonder how I ever did it all!

Twenty or so years have gone past – life got busier, budgets eased and we were able to give ‘bigger’ gifts. It was so much fun to be able to go to the store and select something special for friends and family. Home-made Christmas decorations mingled with shiny new baubles and trinkets discovered at specialty stores.

The children are now adults, our daughter  married  with a home of her own and we seem to have come full circle. I still enjoy the festive atmosphere at the shopping mall – in small doses! But I much prefer to be at home, carols playing, log fire burning and filling the home once again with the smells of Christmas. A few beautiful, specially chosen gifts share space under the tree with homemade items.

Each piece made with love by my husband Andy

Each piece made with love by my husband Andy

Special ornaments are still purchased and exchanged on Christmas eve but  we also wait to see what beautiful designs my husband has handturned on his woodworking lathe, each piece crafted with  love and sure to be treasured for a lifetime.

Today it’s less about budget than about choice. We understand the value of giving the gift of time.

So to help you create a special gift I’ve got a few design ideas for quick table top containers for inside and outside the home. Once you’ve assembled the materials they take only minutes to put together.

1. The Miniature Christmas Tree

A 10" diameter outdoor container - color all year

A 10″ diameter outdoor container – color all year

Materials

Frost resistant container approx 10″ x 10″ with drainage hole

Potting soil

1 x 4″ Alberta spruce or other conifer

1 x 4″ berried wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)

1 x 4″ bugleweed (Ajuga repens)

2 x 4″ golden creeping Jenny (Lysimachia n. ‘Aurea’)

 

Putting it together

Add potting soil directly to pot – no crocks at the bottom

Add plants and tuck soil into gaps

Water until it drains through hole at base

Optional – finish with a pretty red bow

Where to keep it

Outdoors in sun or shade for winter, part sun in summer

 

2. The Woodland Pot

7" diamater woodland pot for a covered porch

7″ diamater woodland pot for a covered porch

Materials

7 or 8″ diameter birch bark pot with liner but no drainage hole

Charcoal (buy in small bags from a nursery)

Potting soil

1 x 4″ Alberta spruce or other conifer

1 x 4″ flowering hellebore e.g. Jacob

1 x 4″ berried wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)

1 x 4″ Emerald Gaiety euonymus (Euonymus .f ‘Emerald Gaiety’)

Moss to finish

Optional; wired bow and glittered stems

 

Putting it all together

Add 1/2″ charcoal to base of pot.

Carefully add potting soil

Plant up as shown adding soil into gaps

Add decorative items

Finish by adding moss to hide soil

Water just enough just to moisten the soil. The charcoal will absorb some excess and stop smells. Do not overwater

Where to keep it

Outside on a covered porch where it will not receive direct rain. (Can be brought inside for a few hours)

3. A Fresh Look

A Fresh Look - try a cyclamen over a poinsettia

A Fresh Look – try a cyclamen over a poinsettia

Materials

7-8″ diameter burgundy metal container with liner and no drainage hole

Charcoal

Potting soil

1 x 4″ Normandy pine

1 x 4″ Pepperonia plant

1 x 4″ button plant

1 x 4″ cyclamen

1 x 2″ ivy

Moss

Optional; wired bow and berry accents

Putting it all together

Assemble as per woodland container BUT keep cyclamen in plastic pot

Water as for the woodland container but remove the cyclamen and set it on a saucer of water then allow to drain before replacing it in container.

Where to keep it

Indoors in a cool location.

 

An invitation

Join me for one of my Holiday Container Workshops on December 6th  and make memories as well as a unique container. The log fire will be burning, Holiday music playing softly in the background, warm, homemade English mincepies and a glass of bubbly to enjoy and a few hours to step away from the busyness of the season.

There are two workshops to choose from but spaces are filling up quickly. For more details and to register click HERE.

Here are just a few photos from one of the workshops last year.

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Enjoy this season of giving by giving a little of yourself.

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It’s All a Load of MOO POO

Annie MooPoo

Here’s how to get healthier houseplants, happier veggies, abundant container gardens and a jump start on seed sowing; it all comes down to Moo Poo tea by Haven Brand products.

What is it?

You know all the slippery yucky stuff in the cow fields that you try hard to avoid stepping in? There you go – except this is dried in the sun for several months and doesn’t smell – promise! It is sold in little teabags so is much more convenient than liquid compost tea sometimes available at nurseries. I mean you can’t put that in a Christmas stocking can you? Oh and it comes from happy cows that have grazed on native grasses.

What does it do?

 

Photo taken early July -

Photo taken early July – by September everything was HUGE!

It conditions the soil so that plan roots can absorb nutrients. This in turn promotes healthier root growth and stronger plants. It can also be used as a foliar spray for a quick nutrient boost

So what are the benefits over other fertilizers?

  1. It is entirely organic – no chemicals or synthetic chemicals are added at any point in the process
  2. The price! A three-pack of Moo Poo is $12.95 which makes over 20 gallons
  3. It doesn’t damage the soil unlike a number of chemicals that kill beneficial microbes and fungi needed for plant growth
  4. You see the results quickly because it releases nutrients quickly
  5. Easy to use – just stick it in a bucket and add water. No complicated measuring

What plants can it be used on?

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  1. Vegetables as a foliar spray or use it for watering. I do this once every two weeks as a boost. I also used it to help salvage what I could from last years embarrassing crop!
  2. Containers. For the past few years I have been asked to create container gardens for magazine photo shoots and MooPoo has been a lifesaver! This year I received a delivery of shrubs which ended up getting left in a UPS truck over a weekend despite assurances this wouldn’t happen. They were in pretty bad shape when the arrived. The only thing I could do was re-pot them and begin a bi-weekly watering and foliar spray regime with MooPoo. Not only did they survive they thrived and looked stunning for their close ups (The article will be published in Country Gardens magazine next year)
  3. Indoor plants. Now this really would be a test if I managed to keep plants alive indoors using MooPoo! That would mean remembering to use it, however, and I am notorious for completely ignoring  indoor plants. Others assure me it works like a charm though
  4. Seed transplants. You know how fickle those newly transplanted seedlings can be? Well I used MooPoo on them last year and every one of them survived….which explains why I provided the neighborhood with veggie starts
  5. Bulbs. Soak your spring bulbs and garlic in MooPoo overnight before planting and just see how fast those little shoots emerge!

Still don’t believe me?

My good friend and co-author Christina Salwitz put this video together for rancher and owner Haven Brand Annie Haven. Those of us who contributed are  gardeners, horticulturalists and garden writers. Many of us are also designers. We Moo Poo in our own gardens and recommend it to others.

Ready to buy?

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Order here –  get some for you, some for friends and some for those Christmas stockings!

Happy MooPoo-ing

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Container Creations – inspiration for Spring!

The nurseries are filling with the colors and scents of spring, the birds are singing and I find every excuse to be outside working in my garden rather than sitting at a computer. It’s a time of anticipation – what 2015 new releases will growers ask me to trial this season? What color combinations shall I try in my containers this year?

Containers are such an easy way to experiment. If something works especially well perhaps I’ll use those colors/plants in my landscape? If I decide to have a more refined color palette in 2014 I don’t have to redesign my entire garden, just a pot or two. So it’s a good time to review my containers from the last couple of years and take note of what I liked and what was a disaster  – and yes there are always a few that I don’t share!

Color Schemes – some like it HOT

Sizzle Factor!

Sizzle Factor!

This orange pot has become one of my favorites. It is unapologetically bold and as such calls out for juicy foliage and fiery colors. The combo above was from 2012 and I love the way the dahlia and canna compete for ‘thriller’ status with those Mango Popsicle dwarf red hot pokers exploding like fireworks from a variegated abelia.

 Version 2 introduced succulents

Version 2 introduced succulents

Same pot, different look – this was 2012. I liked the contrast with the succulent and conifer, both sharing the soft blue-green tones but overall this wasn’t as balanced as the original design. No matter how I tried it seemed top heavy on the right side.

– some like it cool

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I just love these two cube containers and their fun colors. In 2012 I planted them as a pair and kept to the colors of lime, black and white – very simple yet effective.

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For our daughters wedding last year I did something a bit different and added coral tones as this was part of her color scheme.

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We used the pair to flank the entrance to the vegetable garden; well we had to dress it up somehow!!

A tropical punch

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The best part about waiting until early June to plant my containers is that I can raid the indoor plant section at my favorite nursery and include great tropical foliage such as this wildly variegated croton . As you’d expect I love the focus on foliage with the couple of wild splashes of color from the flowers.

Get creative and make the most of brightly colored foliage

Get creative and make the most of brightly colored foliage

In super shady places I can rely on the tropicals to give me the most color – Kong coleus and bromeliads look fabulous.

A softer look

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Maybe you’re more of a pink person? Here’s a way to update the look – add black and white for a dramatic punch. Notice the feathery Ghost Japanese painted fern that is adding  height to the combination – an unexpected addition to the  plant selection.

And finally….

Fun - succulents planted in fire pit

Fun – succulents planted in fire pit

When you run out of containers try this! Our succulent fire pit was a big hit in 2013 so I plan on doing something similar this year although I’ve moved it to a different location.

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The succulent hanging basket was a last minute addition when my traditional basket failed! I’m definitely going to do this again and love the combination of fleshy succulents with feathery lotus vine. All drought tolerant and low maintenance too. Plus the deer couldn’t reach them!

If you live in the Seattle area why don’t you join me for one of my Spring Container Workshops next month? They are always lots of fun but there are only a few spots left so don’t delay!

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For the Poinsettia-Phobic

It’s not that I don’t like poinsettias – I do. They are festive, easy to care for (since they don’t need much attention), come in a variety of colors and are available in many sizes. But before you pick one up in a shiny gold wrapper I dare you to be different this year. Here are a few quick ideas you can put together for the perfect gift that won’t look out of place in February. Most offer seasonal color besides poinsettia but for the traditionalists I’ve even included a combination for you that includes one in a mixed design.

INDOOR DESIGNS

Monochromatic and Elegant

Silver and white featuring a cyclamen

Silver and white featuring a cyclamen

You can never go wrong with white. The cyclamen was the inspiration for this design, as much for its attractive marbled foliage as the pristine flowers. I decided to create an indoor arrangement in an embossed metal container. the bronze color and non-seasonal design makes this a great year-round choice. The striking deep green and white African mask (Alocasia ‘Polly’) added height and drama while the maidenhair fern brought a delicate touch.

Look for interesting foliage plants such as the fuzzy grey XX

Look for interesting foliage plants such as the fuzzy grey panda plant

 

 

Still hunting for interesting foliage I selected the fuzzy grey succulent called a panda plant (Kalanchoe tomentosa) to tuck at the edge as well as a green and white ivy to trail over the sides. Green moss covers any bare soil and a few glittery stems and silver ribbon adds a touch of bling.

Note; Like that African mask? Then you’ll love the combination on pages 108-109 ‘Tribal Dance’ in my book FINE FOLIAGE.

 

 

A non-traditional choice.

Magenta brings a new look

Magenta brings a new look

Do you like color but don’t want red? Be different! Here is an example of a design using the same plants as above but switching to a magenta cyclamen. I also planted this in an oval container rather than a round one. I placed the tallest plant  – the African mask – to one side and stair-stepped the plants down in an asymmetrical design. Fun!

A new twist on a favorite

It's ll about the leaves! This red poinsettia has pretty variegated foliage

It’s all about the leaves! This red poinsettia has pretty variegated foliage

This poinsettia takes up a lot of space even though it is only in a 4″ pot. That means a lot of green leaves – unless you find one with pretty variegated foliage like this. It immediately elevates it above the ‘normal’ poinsettias and adds an extra splash of color to the design. A lime green Monterey cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa ‘Goldcrest’) adds height and a citrus fragrance. Button fern and ivy trail over the edge while green moss disguises the pot edge. I selected a ribbon to match the cypress in this design and since the container was covered in a thin veneer of birch bark I gathered lichen encrusted twigs from the garden to tie in with a more natural theme.

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Creative spirits let loose!

All the designs above were created during my Holiday Container Workshops last weekend. Each lady (men were welcome but only ladies registered!) created a unique design using the color scheme, seasonal plant and container of their choice. Adding baubles and polka dot bows or curly willow and fir cones they could completely change the look to suit their personal tastes.

A fun event for friends to enjoy time together

A fun event for friends to enjoy time together

Tips for indoor containers

1. Add a waterproof liner to your container if it does not have one already;  heavy duty plastic will do

2. Add  1/2″ of charcoal to the bottom of the container before you add soil. This helps absorb excess water and reduces odors

3. Keep your seasonal plant (poinsettia, cyclamen, Christmas cactus) in its own pot and ‘plant it’ into the soil. It can then easily be replaced with something different in the new year

4. Watering; use an indoor watering can with a long spout and water each plant lightly from the top except the seasonal flowering plant. Lift this out, still in the nursery pot and set it on a saucer of water for 10-15′. (They are less likely to rot if you water these from the base)

OUTDOOR DESIGNS

A gorgeous display of seasonal outdoor containers at Sky Nursery, Shoreline, WA

A gorgeous display of seasonal outdoor containers at Sky Nursery, Shoreline, WA

Maybe you’d rather give an outdoor container than something for the home? I saw these lovely designs at Sky Nursery recently and I was tempted to buy one for myself! They are the perfect size to give as a gift and would look so pretty on a covered porch to greet visitors. They would also be quick and easy to plant up yourself.

Notice that those cyclamen that we used in the indoor combinations will also do just well on a covered porch when the temperatures remain above freezing. (The silver licorice plant also needs to be kept above freezing). Here are the basic ingredients used;

Oval metal container

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Qt. Dwarf, dark green conifer

4″ evergreen winter hardy fern

4″ green and white variegated evergreen grass (Carex sp.)

4″ silver Dusty Miller (Senecio cineraria)

4″‘ wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) which has the red berries

4″red cyclamen to repeat the color of the berries’

2 x 4″  white pansies

Qt White Jacob hellebore

Accents;  silver stems  add sparkle and highlight the white flowers while a soft gold bow  subtly repeats the yellow eye of the pansies

Birch and grapevine container

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Qt. Dwarf conifer

4″ silver icicles licorice plant (Helichrysum)

4″ green and white Emerald Gaiety wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunii ‘Emerald Gaiety’)

white cyclamen

white pansy

Accents;  a few flocked twigs and a gauzy burgundy bow – festive yet it doesn’t scream Christmas!

So what are you waiting for? A quick trip to the nursery and a fun hour planting in the warmth of the kitchen and  you’ll have a beautiful gift for yourself or a friend.

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Great Gifts for Green Thumbs

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“Deck the halls with boughs of holly” is all well and good but between that, baking a gazillion snowman-shaped cookies and making merry at various parties there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of time left for finding the perfect gifts for friends and family. Well for the green thumbs on your list at least I’ve got you covered – read on!

 

 

For the gardener with a sense of humor

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How about a cow pie (UK = cow pat) in a bag? Moo-Poo tea is just that, albeit from happy cows after things have been made  clean, safe and odorless. I swear this stuff saved our veggie garden this year. Manure tea conditions the soil so plant roots can better absorb nutrients. This enables plants to develop strong root systems, bushier growth and vibrant blooms. And here’s a special deal to celebrate Authentic Haven Brand Natural Brew‘s making the “Top 10” Indie Awards this year;  for each 9 pack order placed by Dec 8, 2013 you will receive a free 3 pack, plus free S/H (no code needed). Order today! Also on Facebook

For the fashion conscious gardener

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I make no apologies for this selection even though I think I probably recommend it every year – West County waterproof gardening gloves. These are THE BEST gloves for winter gardening keeping my hands nice and toasty even if  the gloves get soaking wet (which they frequently do). In fact I bought my Mum a pair just to wear for shopping because they are so warm and I have been known to use mine for driving! Although these won’t work for delicate gardening tasks such as sowing seed they are perfect for the typical winter work of pruning, digging and weeding. I can’t recommend them highly enough.

For the interior designer – cum – gardener

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I cannot keep a houseplant alive. I don’t know what it is but I am seriously houseplant challenged. For those of you who do manage to nurture indoor plants for more than a week I have the perfect book for you. Indoor Plant Decor: The Design Stylebook for Houseplants by Kylee Baumle and Jenny Peterson will give you oodles of ideas for decorating your home in stylish new ways. It also promises that it makes “houseplants easy”…… I may be their ultimate challenge. Order here. Also on Facebook

For the florist in your life

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I absolutely LOVE these floral snips by Corona. I was given two pairs to give away at a seminar I was presenting. And I did. Now I don’t have any! Santa are you listening??? These have super comfy gel handles, an integral thorn stripper and floral wire cutter and are lightweight making them easy to use for an extended period of time. They are also great value at less than $12. Order here.

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Now anyone who loves flower design will be inspired by Debra Prinzing’s book Slow Flowers. This time I had more sense; I bought one for a gift AND one for myself! Debra’s book encourages us to use locally sourced flowers which are in season. If you dont believe there is anything available in the middle of winter, think again! Debra offers instructions for an artistic creation for every week of the year. In fact Slow Flowers challenged me to look in my own garden and see for myself the winter jasmine, hellebores and camellias, colorful stems and catkin adorned branches which were all there in December together with plenty of evergreens. You can get more inspiration from Debra’s blog where you can listen to podcasts and get even more scrumptious design ideas. Order Slow Flowers here

 

 

For the artistic gardener

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Hand blown glass ornaments are not all created equal. Those made by Barbara Sanderson at Glass Gardens NW are high quality that will have you exclaiming that they are even better in person than online! Imagine these on your tree or hanging in a window? Lots of other beautiful pieces in her online store too. Also on Facebook

For all gardeners!

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You can’t go wrong with this garden tool gift set. The English hand fork is my #1 tool. I use it to tease roots from root bound plants, to carefully remove plants from mixed containers without damaging roots and for weeding when I want to avoid cutting the root but rather pry the weed up intact. The matching trowel is the perfect partner. Gardeners of all ages and experience will thank you for this set.

 

More ideas?

Better Homes and Gardens has just published Great Budget Friendly Gifts for Gardeners (and they have included FINE FOLIAGE, written by Christina Salwitz and myself !)

Dear Santa; our Foliage Wish List – ideas for foliage-aholics everywhere

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