November 2007
Interiorscaping: Using Living Décor in the Off-Season By Katie Hagen

As the outdoor gardening season slowly winds down, your customers may think they have to hang up their trowels and pruning shears until next spring. Not so. Show your loyal green thumbs a way to use plants as indoor décor. Get customers thinking beyond a predictable fichus tree in the corner and a vase of mums. Try setting up a demo living room on the sales floor to showcase some of these ideas.

The Grass is Greener Inside

The most striking displays are often the most unexpected. Most of us probably keep the small drawers in our side and end tables closed. But do we really keep anything useful in there? Open one up and bring a little piece of the front yard inside. Fill a shallow drawer — don’t forget to line it first — with a patch of wheatgrass, trimming the blades even with the height of the sides of the drawer. Add some height to the display by inserting cut chrysanthemums into the grass. Florist’s tubes will help keep them upright and watered. This display is so inviting, your customers won’t be able to keep their hands out of it.

Pompom Orbs

Keep a conversation pit interesting with a cluster of pompom orbs. Trim the stems of fresh-cut poms to 3-4 inches, and insert them into assorted sizes of floral foam balls until all the foam is hidden. Use the same color flower on each orb for a dramatic, monochromatic presentation. Dot them around a room or let them bubble out of a wide-mouthed urn.

Moss Bowl

Ditch the common candle-and-dish combo for a little green action. Reappropriate that interesting dish to hold a smooth piece of moss instead. Spritz it often to retain the moisture. This tactile décor is sure to draw more interest than any coffee-table book.

Under the Table

Liven up an expansive table with a new twist on a centerpiece. Instead of setting a plant on top of the table, let it “grow” out of the table. Cut a circular hole in the center of the table and insert a bucket with a lip wide enough to catch the table. Let the foliage disguise the lip. This recessed pot can house an ever-changing parade of table plants.

A Living Screen

Ivy doesn’t have to be relegated to the sides of old buildings or your mother-in-law’s wallpaper. Bring the climber indoors to create a living screen. Turn fashion into function to separate dining and living areas or lend some privacy to a reading nook. Place a deep and fairly wide trough on the floor and insert a trellis or several decorative poles into the peat. Then insert pots of fichus or philodendron into the compost and train the plant to climb up the poles. The same technique can be used on a smaller scale with potted plants. Bend a sturdy wire into a form and insert it into a pot of your favorite climber. The hoop is the classic example, but venture beyond to create unique, organic designs with the wire.

Behind Glass

Some of the first indoor gardening was made possible by enclosed glass structures that kept the plants inside moist and protected. Now the possibilities seem endless when choosing a container to house a terrarium. Glass or plastic, open or closed, life-sized or miniature, the principles are the same. It must have transparent sides and a restricted neck or opening that can be covered. Assembly is simple. Lay down a foundation of gravel and compost before planting about six specimens. Your terrarium probably won’t need to be watered more than once after you insert a stopper or lid.

Variations on the theme include the bottle garden, plant window and fish tank garden.

Growing Down

Let gravity work its magic when it comes to trailing plants. Fill each level of a tall corner shelf unit with a different trailing plant. The combined textures and greens of the foliage will create a beautiful verdant column.

Achieve the same effect with attached hanging baskets, a tiered plant stand or a wall sconce.

Strength in Numbers

Clustering three or five pots is a more familiar use of plants as home décor, but forget the terra cotta this time. Refresh this traditional technique by using interesting and unexpected vessels — a hollow torso or bust, rubber gardening boot, vintage watering or paint can, wooden toolbox, wicker storage basket or an old glass bottle. Virtually any receptacle will work as long as it can be lined or waterproofed.

Don’t have authentic vintage treasures but like the weathered look? Create your own by coating a pot with a combination of yogurt and pieces of moss. Let the mixture dry and voilà!, a new pot now looks like it’s spent years on a porch. Placement is the second part of this equation. Pick a locale that’s more exciting than a tabletop or mantle. Dot a potted plant on every other step of a wide staircase, let them huddle together on the floor, or fill the top and bottom levels of a console table.

The Planter

Nothing says there’s a “one plant, one pot” rule. A planter is probably the most popular way to bring traditional gardening indoors. Pick an interesting container — an open trunk, wagon or metal tub — large enough to hold several indoor plants. Stand the individual pots on a layer of peat, sand, gravel or pebbles and surround each pot with enough peat to disguise the plastic or clay. This creates a more natural garden look than using multiple pots.

A Melting Pot

Simplify the planter by removing the plants from their pots and planting them directly in one large bowl. Several foliage plants and one or two flowering plants make a balanced combination. Arrange the plants with the tallest in the back, compact, bushy plants in the middle and a trailing plant at the front.

A mixed bowl makes a good gift, but will eventually need to be broken up when the flowers fade. Repot each plant individually before the roots become too intertwined.

Mixed Media

The pot-et-fleur combines the best of the plant and flower worlds. Create a planter or mixed bowl and sink a glass or metal florist tube into the peat between the plants. Fill the tube with water and arrange and rearrange cut flowers for an ever-changing display.

Share the Green

Have a special occasion coming up that calls for guest gifts? Think DIY meets miniature. Combine any shape or color of pot with a small plant for an easy host gift. Tie a ribbon or a few strands of raffia around the pot, include a tag with a custom greeting and plant-care tips, and this is a guaranteed winner. Who doesn’t want a little living reminder of your wonderful event?

The Bigger the Better

To really make a splash, put all your eggs in one basket — a really big basket. An oversized planter and an indoor tree can be the green anchor in a room. Select a planter that’s painted in a bright color or graphic design to up the room’s “wow” factor.

Katie Hagen

Katie Hagen is a freelance writer based in Minneapolis. She can be reached at [email protected].


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