Decorate with Living Plants

Make your own mixed basket to decorate a shelf.
 No one ever said plants had to stay on a windowsill. I like to move mine around when they're looking especially colorful. There are lots of places that can use the softening of a plant or two. I like to combine them in containers--a gold basket combines with the colors of Miltassia shelob 'Tolkien' and a decorative-leaved Begonia.

Find containers that go with both your decor and the plant, although it's easiest to collect containers in neutral colors.

I found a stone-like planter that fits a Paphiopedilum and a Begonia. It's thick-walled and heavy like the stone it's meant to resemble, its texture contributing something extra to an indoor planter.
Brighten up a corner by rotating out blooming plants.
An orchid--or any plant for that matter--in bloom, can carry the day, but I think all plants can benefit from a coordinating pal or two. Fancy-leaved Begonias are great companions for just about anything.

For the majority of the time I keep plants near a window or under the lights. But it certainly doesn't hurt them to spend a couple of days in another location. Put them to work one at a time, or in a group in an otherwise dreary location.

According to research reported in Science Daily, houseplants in general can help filter ozone concentrations.

I make sure I always have a plant in the room where I write. Just glancing over at it is therapeutic and inspirational.

Why not mix Oncidium with Poinsettia?
Prevention Magazine writes about research that has found that houseplants, even in a windowless room, have a calming effect.

While the orchids I have in pots aren't really that flamboyant, I've added a bit of sparkle and some holiday color just to add to the theme going on in the house.

A Colorful Orchid Winter: You Can Grow That

Just a month ago there were still Hydrangeas and Dahlias in vases in my house along with orchids and dried flowers.
There is no question you can overdo the Christmas cookies. A queasy stomach and too-tight clothing result from that kind of overindulgence. The downside to an overabundance of plants indoors during the winter in the Midwest?


Okay, so we are limited by our wallets, amount of light, and horizontal space. But buying too many plants won't make you sick like an entire plate of sugar cookies can. (Even if you start working up to it around Thanksgiving.)

Miltonia on Oct. 26
Miltonia on Nov. 1
Miltonia on December 2.
I came home from an orchid show in late October with a collection of plants that are still enchanting me. The Miltonia was the first to open, its pansy-like flowers boasting adorable fragrant faces. Today, its few remaining flowers are poised to drop, but a new flower stem is working its way up a set of fresh leaves.

Meanwhile, a cute little lady's slipper orchid tantalized me as it maintained a holding pattern as its flowers hovered above gorgeously-mottled foliage. It was the foliage that sold me on the $35 plant. After all, I reasoned, it won't be in bloom all the time.

But so far the lady's slipper orchid pretty much as been in bloom since I brought it home. Paphiopedilum 'Delightfully Wood' has a whole lot of exoticism going for it, with its deep burgundy pouch and striped leaves.
Paphiopedilum 'Delightfully Wood' 
Paphiopedilum 'Delightfully Wood' Nov. 24.

The pouch-like structure on lady's slipper orchids is an aid to pollination--a trap meant to lure insects to the spot where pollination takes place. A great place to learn the details and close-up views of the Paphiopelilum can be found at Microscopy UK.

What I also found out on this site is the reason for this orchid's common name. It seems Aphrodite had a surname--several apparently. One of them was Paphia. Combine that with the Greek word pedilon, which means "sandal," and refers to the characteristic pouch of the flower, and you have "Aphrodite's sandal."
The foliage of this orchid is one of its best features.

 It's easy to see how the name lady's slipper came about as a reference to orchids in the sub-family Cypripediodeae.

The colors of 'Delightfully Wood' go beautifully with Miltassia shelob Tolkien, which began to open just a couple of weeks ago. By the time the fourth orchid I bought opens up, the spidery delight will be in full bloom. I'll post on that later in the winter.

None of my new orchids scare me as orchids used to. Their reputation for being finicky and difficult to grow might be well-deserved for some of this tribe. But so far, none of the four that followed me home in late October has swooned or failed to thrive. Their flower buds have formed and blossomed, their leaves remain healthy, and in the nearly two months since they've taken up residence, they've added color and a touch of the exotic to an otherwise grey winter world.

Surround yourself with living plants. And don't be afraid to try orchids, or anything else you might consider exotic. There is an entire site devoted to growing just about anything. You Can Grow That! is a site overflowing with ideas and inspiration for those who don't stop growing just because it's cold outside.

Amaryllis Rebloom

Amaryllis 'Ruby Star' (
It's Amaryllis time once again. Or let's say it's time to think about them. A new one for me this year is 'Ruby Star' from Easy to Grow Bulbs. The description of the plant says it will flower in 40-60 days indoors, so perhaps it will flower for the holidays.

I potted 'Ruby Star' up on Nov. 12, so a generous guess would be that it would be blooming by late December/early January.

Pavlova Jan 18, 2012
I still have the others I purchased in 2011. When you order Amaryllis bulbs from suppliers, it's usually ready to bloom in a matter of weeks. If you hope to see it rebloom, it's a bit more complicated, and I'm still not certain I have a handle on the process.
Pavlova March 27, 2013

I take all of my plants out and gradually acclimate them to a spot outdoors - somewhere protected from the sun. The plants are usually in leaf and my goal is to keep the leaves growing until they fade to yellow. After that happens, I just kind of ignore them until they start to form leaves again, at which time I feed them with a water soluble fertilizer.

The first year I grew them was 2012, the first one to bloom was a double white called 'Pavlova', which opened in mid-January.

'Pavlova' January 24, 2014
I'd kept the pots of Amaryllis on the patio and they grew like crazy. But for some insane reason, I cut most of the roots off the bulbs before repotting them in October of that year. That's how I account for such a late season in 2013. Pavlova' didn't start blooming until late March.

But in January 2014, 'Pavlova' bloomed early again, this time January 24th.

But a gardener's winter is fraught with impatience. I have three orchids in bloom, but I want/need more. I have some cool begonias with beautifully-colored foliage, Ornithogalum growing 1/4 inch a day, and an adorable Primulina but I'm still craving color.

I think the winter of 2015 will be another year when Pavlova stalls until spring. She's doing absolutely nothing right now, which is what Amaryllis do before they get ready to start growing and producing a bloom. I suppose I'll have to be more patient.