Living Ornaments for Your Home
THE great outdoors is ornamented with living, growing plants. Even the desert, seemingly devoid of anything green and growing, responds to the infrequent rain with a blaze of desert flowers and plants. It is not surprising, then, that many persons, appreciating living ornaments, enjoy adding the special touch of foliage or flowering plants to their homes. Others, perhaps less inclined to care for the needs of living plants, choose arrangements of dried plant materials, such as pine cones, seedpods and ornamental grasses.
You may have noticed that display rooms in furniture stores often include living plants to enhance their furniture settings. Should you decide to have living ornaments for your own home, you will want to consider first the needs of your particular plant, and then the setting in which it will look best.
Appropriate in Any Room
There is a splendid variety of plants from which to choose. And there is hardly a room in your home that cannot be benefited by a well-chosen specimen.
A tall palm, rubber plant, or split-leaf philodendron placed in an entryway or foyer will welcome your guests with impressive dignity. Even if your entrance hall is rather dark, these plants do well if given good light for a few days at regular intervals. If you feel that a large plant is out of place in such a small area, try placing a handsome little peperomia or maranta on a small table or on a wall-hung shelf. A mirror behind it not only highlights the plant, but can also make the foyer itself appear more spacious.
A kitchen window can become a real beauty spot with a collection of African violets blooming continuously. They do well in this warm, humid atmosphere even if your window receives very little light. A small herb garden can also be appropriate.
As a centerpiece for the dining table, you need not have an expensive floral arrangement. A few small plants of varying shades of green attractively arranged in a low dish or bowl make an eye-pleasing ornament.
Usually bedrooms are cooler, and as far as plants are concerned that is just fine. Most houseplants, with the exception of some tropical beauties, do their best in a room that is a bit cooler. While a stately palm or imposing philodendron monstera would likely look out of place in a small bedroom, lovely trailing vines such as English ivy, pothos or creeping fig lend a tranquil note. Blooming plants look especially attractive placed beneath a table lamp where the illumination shows up the beauty of their blossoms, while at the same time providing light needed for good growth.
Some persons like to have even the bathroom decorated with living ornaments. Plants thrive in the moisture of this room. Begonias do well in the humid atmosphere if bright light can be provided. Asparagus fern is another good choice if there is enough space. Of course, you would want to alternate your plants so that none would be left too long in a poorly lighted spot.
Choosing the right living ornament for your living room is not difficult. Your present decorating scheme can indicate an appropriate plant choice. Massive Mediterranean furniture may suggest a large plant with shiny leaves, while the delicate curves of the French Provincial style may be more compatible with a small flowering ornament. For a modern room consider a spiky flaming-sword bromeliad, and for an Early American setting perhaps an airy Boston fern.
There is, however, no “wrong choice” so far as décor is concerned. Generally plants fit in well wherever you put them. Yet plants are individualistic. Vines have a softening effect, alleviating the angular lines of modern furniture. Ferns bring with them a cool, tranquil atmosphere. Palms are more formal. Bright-leaved coleus holds its own in even the most colorful surroundings.
Unusual living ornaments can be created with a little imagination. An interesting vine tree can be formed by training a vine around a piece of driftwood. Or you might use an upright branch. Nail a crosspiece to the base of your branch, stand it upright in a pot and add soil. Plant several cuttings of vines and arrange them as they grow.
You can take advantage of the natural growth pattern of certain plants for special living ornaments. Baby’s tears tend to drape over the sides of its pot. Why not set two or three pots in graduated sizes atop one another for a cascade of greenery? Other such tiered arrangements can be made by piling up clay pots and saucers filled with trailing plants, such as sedum or spider plant.
Even though individual plants can make a room more attractive, the trend today is toward grouping plants for an even greater decorative effect. Several dissimilar plants arranged together for height, depth and focal interest are more ornamental than four or five plants of the same kind set in a row. A container, such as a wickerwork basket, large enough to hold four medium-sized potted plants, may be lined with plastic film or foil to allow for watering. In it you may put a selection such as snake plant for height, white blossoming anthurium for focal interest, and ivy, or perhaps green and white wandering Jew to trail over the front and side for depth.
A planter used as a room divider is both decorative and useful. You may grow your choice of plants directly from the soil of the planter, in which case be sure to choose items with similar needs of light and moisture. Or, to facilitate a change of scenery now and then, you may leave each plant in its individual pot and simply sink the pots into the planter soil.
Miniature Landscapes and Terraria
Miniature landscapes require a thoughtful selection of plants, but the results can be rewarding. For example, a miniature beach can brighten your home. To create such a landscape you need a metal-lined rectangular tray, about eight inches deep, filled with sand. Slope the sand toward the back of the tray and then place in the sand a couple of dwarf palms. A potted pineapple plant, grown from the top of the next fresh pineapple you buy, would make a good focal point. Now scatter around a few small pots of various types of echeveria and a few tufts of variegated oat grass for a shoreline. Add a few colorful beach pebbles, two or three seashells, and your beach scene is completed.
An indoor cactus garden is easy to care for and a pleasure to behold. With so many varieties to choose from, it is not hard to arrange a desert in miniature. Cacti come in many sizes and many forms. Choose taller plants such as cereus, Old Man of Mexico or silver torch as a central point of interest. Tiny cacti, such as the spiny pincushion or the smoother sand dollar and stone-and-window plant, are a pleasing contrast.
Some cacti will bloom, but to ensure this, leave each individual plant in a pot that appears much too small for it, and simply bury the pot in the sand of your miniature desert. After you have arranged your selections in a sand-filled tray, place it in your sunniest window. Water once a week or less and enjoy the scenery.
A terrarium is a beautiful ornament. This old-fashioned garden-under-glass has much to offer a lover of greenery with too little time to care for plants. Almost any large glass container can be converted into a terrarium. A discarded aquarium or goldfish bowl will do. Choose slow-growing plants that have the same light and moisture requirements. Good drainage is necessary, so first place a layer of small stones and charcoal in the bottom of your container. A good layer of potting soil comes next. Small-leaved ferns, fittonia, peperomia, ivy, wax plant, impatiens, maranta, almost any small plant will do well in the microenvironment of a terrarium. Little care is involved once your terrarium is set up, but do avoid setting a covered terrarium in direct sunlight.
Dried Plant Materials
Dried plant materials are often highly esteemed as ornaments. Seedpods, leaves, lichen, berries, cattails, all can become decorative items for your home. An alert collector of such items will find useful material almost everywhere: in fields, gardens, woods, even his own yard.
Cones of pine, fir and spruce trees can be used to make lovely ornaments. They are abundant in forested areas. A single large cone, sprayed perhaps with gilt paint, and glued to a base of weathered wood makes a fine desk ornament. A basket of well-formed cones sprayed with clear lacquer to preserve their natural color makes an attractive display for table or fireplace mantle. Add a few bright dried berry clusters or rose hips for color.
Dried ornamental grasses make lovely bouquets for winter. The silky white plumes of tall dried pampas grass can fill an empty corner with a dignified display. Spiky thistles are often dried and sprayed to complement the color scheme of a given room. Perhaps the simplest decoration of all in this category is a display of bright autumn leaves.
Ornamental gourds are a natural for fall tables. Bright in color, pleasing in form, they come in a variety that is almost without limit. Multicolored ornamental corn also makes a fine harvest table display.
There is no doubt that the Creator has clothed the earth with myriads of living, growing plants. Adding some of these ornaments to our homes can help us to appreciate his loving interest in the earth and its future. Of course, you need to remember that there are more important things in life than ornamenting your home with plants. (Matt. 6:33) To the extent that you have the time, however, you might enjoy the decorative effects of living ornaments.