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Succulents

Let’s face it: We still have three months to go before we can get back into the garden. Certainly, during May, we will do some cleaning up and various other chores around the flower bed and lawns. Yes, in late March, some of us will be sowing seeds and nurturing them ever so slowly to make them healthy for when they go outdoors.

Even with this outlook, there are still some fun gardening things that we can do in the house. Whenever we talk about flower arranging, we are talking about using a few, or many stems of blossoms to brighten a room, cheer a friend or celebrate a birthday. It is such fun. But there is another type of arranging, one that can bring joy for months on end. Have you ever thought of arranging houseplants? The possibilities are endless. Of course, we are all familiar with the florist's dish garden, an arrangement of tropical foliage plants in a basket or ceramic container. We love them, and love to see them grow. And when they have outgrown the container they came in, there is a lot of joy in transplanting them into individual pots and watching them grow. And many of us have made plant arrangements in containers for our porches and patios.

There are so many types of plants that the possibilities are endless. Think cacti and succulents. Think tropical plants, or adding a miniature rose plant for continuing color. But the fun does not end with the plants you are using, it just grows and grows as you search the house or garage or yard sales for an odd container that might fit your home décor, your whims.

Let’s explore some of the possibilities I mentioned a few moments ago. Of course, succulents are all the rage these days, and they make for great indoor gardens. They come in many sizes and configurations. Needless to say, plants that come in rosette form are the most popular. Their background colors are gray-green to bright green, and you will find accents from red to orange to yellow. But don’t stay with just them. The succulent group includes plants such as aloe, burro’s tails, hens and chicks, jade and the panda plant.

Ferns, and there are many varieties that remain small and feathery, work well. I do believe that the second most popular table gardens are made of cactus. Imagine a garden made of rex begonias, crowns of thorns, fancy leaf geraniums.

Finding the right container is how you really express your creativity. Think of the effect you will get if you find a 20- or 24-inch flared copper bowl, perhaps 4 inches deep, and fill it with plants. Just think, setting six or eight types of plants. It’s easy, too: Just fill the bowl two-thirds of the way with cactus or general potting soil. Knock your plants out of the pots and arrange them to your liking. Be sure that the plants are well-watered and the soil moist before you plant. Once everything is in position, top everything off with a layer of decorative gravel; you’ll find this in a tropical fish store. This is a simple production that will give you months and even years of enjoyment.

Think of a white, flower-decorated, footed ceramic bowl, say 10 inches across, filled with a fancy, cut-leaf begonia, an asparagus fern and any plant you can find with silvery gray leaves. Stunning! And they will all thrive on your dining room table because they are all low-light.

I like simplicity. Find a wooden box, I like it to be 4 by 12 inches in size and stained light walnut. What a perfect home for three beautiful African violets. This can be a beautiful conversation piece on a coffee table. In this case, I would leave my plants in their pots and stuff a little Spanish moss around them. Why? Watering will be less messy. Just take them out of the container and over to the sink, water, drain and return. It also makes replacements easier should a plant go bad.

More next week.

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Carmen Cosentino operates Cosentino's Florist with his daughter, Jessica. He was elected to the National Floriculture Hall of Fame in 1998, and in 2008, received the Tommy Bright award for lifetime achievements in floral education. He can be reached at cosenti@aol.com or (315) 253-5316.

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