Thursday, November 26, 2009

Houseplants And Softening Design Lines

By Kent Higgins

Here are some ideas for using vines and hanging plants in indoor planters and gardens of all sizes and types.

For an airy, open screen or room divider, find a grille, or similarly patterned felt material, frame it, and set a planter garden at the base. The garden may be sunken, or simply a shallow galvanized tray with a layer of pebbles to set the pots on. Unless there is enough natural light from a nearby window, install fluorescent fixtures at the top. On ornate grille patterns train plain-leaved plants like scindapsus, cissus, philodendron; for simple geometric designs, fatshedera, nephthytis; if there is sunlight, the fiery manettia.

To divide a small room into two functional areas - for cooking and eating, dressing and sleeping - train a single vine on an open trellis made of plastic clothesline strung in fan shape from plant to ceiling. Use stem-twining or tendril-climbing foliage vines - cissus, serjania - that are content with artificial light, or hoyas if there is sunlight.

Separate living and dining areas, without sacrificing spaciousness, with a raised planter half-wall topped by a garden of colorful foliage and flowering plants. Finished with the same wood paneling, the planter becomes a continuation of the wall; built of brick, or covered with brick-patterned plastic, it receives emphasis and becomes a center of interest. Provide good light from fluorescent fixtures overhead.

Use upright plants in the background or middle foreground. For accent, let a variegated scindapsus or philodendron climb a piece of bark or tree trunk. Let flowering trailers like aeschynanthus or episcias spill over the front.

For milder climates, or summer in cool areas, install twin planter gardens inside and outside a glassed-in entry or foyer, creating continuity between indoors and out. Outdoor evergreens could carry the effect through winter. Group upright plants tastefully, and use a ground cover like ivy to tie the two gardens together.

Add drama and interest to a small entrance hall with a triangular sunken planter - an opening in the floor with a container supported in it - and clinging vines like ficus or nepeta climbing the wall or a piece of driftwood.

Soften a kitchen ceiling line and make it seem higher with shallow, artificially lighted planter boxes on top of the cupboards. Use dangling plants like commelina, chlorophytum, peperomia.

Extra storage cabinets divide kitchen and dining areas, and do it more decoratively with a planter sunk in each end of the counter. Train foliage vines - or morning glories, if there's sun - up trellises at the ends and across the top to unify and frame the effect.

To enclose an entrance and keep drafts out of the living room, set up a Fiberglas panel surrounded by a continuous garden of neon pothos on the floor. Light from the door or nearby windows is sufficient for foliage climbers like monstera, philodendron, syngonium. With good light and sunlight, try clerodendrum or Cobaea scandens.

Make a miniature landscape in any empty nook, like the shelf of a corner cupboard; or build a terrarium-type box to hold it. With fluorescent light and a tray to hold moist peat moss or vermiculite, you can grow all kinds of dainty creepers and climbers like selaginella, piles, cymbalaria.

For indoor planters and gardens located where they receive more than a modicum of sunlight. If the plants will receive little or no natural daylight and sunlight, you can use fluorescent tubes as a substitute.

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