The best indoor plant – ever…

I like plants – and planting – and growing stuff – but I prefer to keep my plants outside.

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People are often surprised that I am anti-indoor plants because I do love plants so much.  This summer I started an edible garden.  I also finished up my skinny side yard this year to optimize planting space.  Finally, I reorganized our existing side yard garden this fall – because I like doing stuff like that.  I can see why one would assume that I would have at least a few indoor plants.

Here’s the story.

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I have had indoor plants in the past.  It just didn’t work out for me.  I would forget to water them.  It was a pain to have to fertilize and repot.  Dusting leaves every week or so was too much maintenance for me.  Then, I read a book about simplifying life.  I took the author’s advice and got rid of my indoor plants.  I have since planned my outdoor gardens so that I can see outdoor plantings from every window.  I haven’t much missed having indoor plants – until last winter.

I have a great kitchen window – south facing, sunny, perfect conditions for growing something.  I thought about an herb garden – and might still do that this coming winter.    Instead though, I jumped on the terrarium bandwagon.  It was a blast from the past!  Terrariums were the thing during my childhood.  In fact, I remember creating a terrarium or two in my time – and making a macrame hanger to hang my terrarium from the ceiling – it was totally fun!

Ok, back to this century.  I found a bubbly glass container at West Elm that I considered perfect – tall, skinny, with a loose fitting lid.

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The plant I chose for my terrarium has worked out great.  It is a sedum with low water needs.  Plus, it is interesting, spiked, textured, and has white contrasting stripes.

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Recently I added a miniature animal for fun.  I probably have 100 or so miniatures from my childhood.  This little goose (or is it a swan?) was the very first miniature ever in my life.  I think he was a Valentine’s Day – or St. Patrick’s Day – surprise from my mom.  I am now wondering if I want to rotate my miniatures out of their storage box and through the terrarium – for a little variety – maybe weekly – I will keep you updated…

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Anyway, I haven’t watered this plant since I planted it – almost a year ago!  This is the best indoor plant – ever!  I am officially back in the land of indoor plant living – with my terrarium – it’s nice to be back.

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And – I like my indoor plant so much that I decided to give a mini version as Christmas gifts this year to family and friends.  It is a fun project for me, inexpensive, and easy to do.  I also really like that the gift is living, but low maintenance for the receiver.

My first task was to find a container that would work.  I initially chose this option with a wooden lid but discovered (after planting) that it was not optimal.  It was too small in diameter  and the wooden lid cast a shadow – the plant couldn’t really be seen.  I didn’t even snap a photo of the debacle because I was distracted and distraught that my initial effort didn’t work out (did you notice that I threw in a little Dr. Seuss with the debacle, distracted and distraught?).  I quickly unplanted and made a trip back to the store in search of something that would work – at 8pm – on Saturday night – in below freezing weather.

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The options were vast.  I finally decided on the style below – a little larger in diameter and significantly less expensive than my original choice.  So, the trip to the store in the dark, freezing weather was worth it.

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I wanted a loose fitting lid so the plants can get a little air.  I am not sure if it is a requirement – maybe, the plants create their own air?  I don’t know – my terrarium has a loose fitting lid and it has worked out nicely.  So, my goal here was to recreate that type of microsystem in the mini versions.  I removed the rubber ring that is intended to make the container air tight – to create a loose fitting lid.

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A layer of pretty pea gravel – for drainage and visual interest.  Some potting soil. Some plants from our local nursery.  I chose sedum for my gift terrariums as well since this particular type of plant has worked out so well for me in my own terrarium.

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Some more pea gravel as a top layer.  I like the striped look of the pea gravel and the potting soil here.

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I still want to add a miniature of some sort – similar to the goose miniature in my own terrarium – for a bit of whimsy.

I hope everybody likes their terrariums!

Gourds…

You likely haven’t noticed that the last several posts have something in common – the topics all start with the letter “G’ – garage doors, gabions & google, and garden organizing.  Well, I am going to continue the trend for one more post – gourds…

I love gourds as home decor!  In fact, I learned decorative painting specifically so I could paint gourds.  This Jack-O-Lantern was my first gourd painting project ever.

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My next Halloween gourd project was purple toads!

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I also have gourds hanging around the house that I didn’t paint myself.  My mom and I both got a witch gourd in Santa Fe many, many years ago (before I started painting gourds myself) – she started the gourd thing for me.

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My sister made this penguin for me.  Totally cute right?  She also grows gourds in her garden!  It seems that gourd obsession runs in the family…

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Finally, this frog gourd stays out all year.  He is perfectly painted (not by me).  He is inspiration.  I strive to paint like this some day!

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I also like to promote gourd appreciation in others.  I participate in a few holiday craft fairs each year – as a gourd ornament artist. I have all year to make ornaments, but for some reason I find myself procrastinating until October of each year.  This October is no different – I am spending every waking moment thinking about gourds, talking about gourds, painting gourds (and now writing about gourds).

Here are my current gourd ornaments in process.  The process is surprisingly simple.  I first fill in the imperfections with wood filler and sand it smooth.  Base coating starts it all off (basically I paint the background color).  White paint is next – eyes, penguin bellies, owl bellies, horse spots.

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The other blocks of colors are added – such as the black parts of the eyes, pink noses, chicken beaks, reptile heads, etc.

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Shading is next.  Shading is what creates dimension and depth – most noticeably around the eyes.

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The final painting step is details – a smile, eyelashes, simple highlights that outline a nose, layers of colored dots, and eye details that bring them alive!

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A little spray finish, maybe some wire ears (or antennas for the aliens), a string for hanging, and it’s ready for fellow gourd appreciators.

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Gourds are definitely a bit of an unusual media.  So, I get a lot of questions.  Here are some of the most frequently asked questions I get about gourds:

Why gourds?  I don’t know – maybe, because every gourd is unique – and the idea of a painted gourd as decor is unusual – I like unusual.

What is a gourd?  It is technically a hard shelled fruit.  Most gourds are not edible. Gourds have been used for ornamentation, musical instruments, and utensils (bowls, spoons, etc) for thousands of years.

Do you hollow out the gourd?  Nope.  The gourd farmer dries the gourd on the vine for several months (sometimes up to and over a year – depending on the size of the gourd).  There is no need to hollow out the gourd once dried.  In fact, if you shake most gourds you can hear the dried seeds still inside.

Where do you get your gourds?  I buy most of my gourds from a farmer in Arizona – I have to clean those myself.  The really small ones come from the Amish in Pennsylvania – those come cleaned already.

How fragile are gourds & how long will the painted gourd last?  The gourds aren’t fragile at all.  I don’t know how many times I have dropped a gourd – I don’t think I have ever broken one.  Dried gourds last a really, really long time – like decades if stored and treated properly – maybe, forever.

Go gourds!