By Sharon Merkel-Prudhomme
Aren’t you getting tired of the cold drab winter? Cabin fever setting in? Yearning for Spring begins to kick in right about now, so why not bring in a little color with indoor gardening? Dish gardens are fun for all ages and a great indoor family activity. Small mini-plants are fun when grouping together for a table or centerpiece. Forcing bulbs is another fun, fast and easy project. Bulbs are interesting as some grow so incredibly fast offering color and fragrance.
When I was growing up, my dad would give an Amaryllis bulb to each of us at Christmas. These usually are found in boxes already set in a little pot of peat moss. We would attach a yardstick to the pot to check on the daily growth. What a surprise to come home from school to find 2 more inches had shot up! I was always convinced I would be able to see it move IF I could stay home! The height was amazing and the huge trumpet-shaped blossoms that opened lasted for days! The colors are vivid red, white, pink, variegated red & white. These are easily found in many hardware stores and garden centers. (if you can find one open in Winter) Found in abundance at Christmas, January starts to wind down till Spring inventory bounces back.
Paperwhites AKA Narcissus are beautiful little indoor fun flowers too. These are sold loose by the bulb or about 7 to a bag and one of the easiest to grow and maintain. I’ve always tried to give as gifts as a fun pick me up for friends. Online purchases can vary when ordering in bulk. I’ve searched locally from Neptune to Sea Girt and found some still available at Barlow’s, Sea Girt.
When planting in a shallow dish use pebbles, beach glass or glass “pebbles”. Set the bulbs in the shallow dish (always use an odd number for floral arrangements) top, point up and nestle the pebbles or glass around the bulbs to secure. Leave about 1/3 of the top exposed. Add water to just the bottom of the bulbs always maintaining the level. Place near a window to enjoy. As leaves and stalks pop up, roughly 7-10 days, turn the dish every couple of days to keep the stalks straight as they reach toward the sunlight light. Often you may need to stake to prevent a stem from bending or breaking. I’ve also seen Paper Whites grown in a tall clear glass vase which helps keep them upright. The fragrance of the star-shaped flowers will fill the room with happy warm Spring thoughts. As they bloom, you may extend the life by moving from direct sunlight to a cooler part of the house.
Creating a terrarium or mini-dish garden has become once again popular with a new twist. Fairy gardens are the big rage with dozens of cool miniature items from furniture, mini birdbaths, pavers, fairy’s, trolls and a wide variety of accessories. To create a realistic mini landscape check out your options of trees. Mini trees include: English Boxwood, False Cyprus, Parlor Palm, Norfolk Pine and Ellwood’s Blue Cyprus. Adding indoor bedding plants complete the woodsy look of a real garden. An example would be a mix of English Boxwood, Dwarf Mondo Grass and baby tears all of which will do just fine in bright or indirect light with regular watering.
Try to copy the natural look of an outdoor setting. The sky’s the limit and when looking for good creative entertainment for the family, what a great way to get the kids involved in picking out their mini plants and arranging. Be sure to check out all the fairy supplies at your local craft store too.
This activity is excellent for shut-ins and the elderly. Many of our seniors are no longer able to get down and dirty in their gardens and dearly miss the fun. Perking up their day and interests with a project that they can enjoy all year-long will pique interest and get them using hands that otherwise may sit idle. Perhaps make a mini-dish garden for a hostess, house-warming or birthday gift.
Have fun and we’d love to see your creations! Send us a picture of your DIY garden so we may share.