"Indoor Plant Decor" -- Houseplants With Style

Cold weather bids us to take our gardening indoors lest we freeze our plump, pink cheeks. But as anyone who's ever received a houseplant will attest, the first question that usually comes to mind isn't, "How do I grow it?" Instead, it's, "What do I do with this dang thing?" Well, glorioski, finally there's a book that shows dozens of easy, affordable, and stylish ways to display houseplants in your home -- Indoor Plant Decor.

Indoor Plant Decor -- The Design Stylebook for Houseplants (St. Lynn's Press, $16.95) is written and largely photographed by two of Grumpy's dear friends, who have promised him nothing for his endorsement beyond your basic two weeks at the St. Regis Bora Bora (plus airfare and leis). Garden blogger Kylee Baumle hails from the frozen tundra of northwest Ohio, accessible in winter only by ham radio and ski plane. Jenny Peterson gets her groove on in the warmer climes of Funky Town -- also known as Austin, Texas -- where she runs J. Peterson Garden Design.

What's Your Style?

To get both beginning and veteran gardeners started, Kylee and Jenny identify eight different design styles you might want to try. Then they match plants with containers to make it happen. Styles include "Classic Elegance," "Cheap Chic" (women who never pay for dinner), "Peaceful Zen," "Vintage Vibe," "World Beat," "Traditional Mix," "Modern Eclectic," and "Haberdashery." Grumpy would have added chapters on "Plastic Paradise" and "Totally Toilet," but you can't have everything.

Great Ideas I Would Actually Try

Many garden books present ideas so extravagant (covering the entire facade of a cottage with clipped boxwood for Christmas) or so time-consuming (polishing and painting the insides of acorn caps) that they intimidate the average gardener. In Indoor Plant Decor, however, Kylee and Jenny offer really cool, step-by-step projects so easy and quick that even Hoda and Kathy Lee could succeed. Look at the Tabletop Water Garden above. All you basically need are a glass bowl, water, activated charcoal, pebbles, and some water plants. Done in 10 minutes! Looks great! Why didn't I think of that? ('Cause I'm too busy exploring Bora Bora. Oh, cabana boy! Another rum drink!)

Here's another project from the "Peaceful Zen" chapter that focuses on using earth elements and bold, single plants to create simple, serene, yet striking compositions. Above is a Kokedama (Japanese moss ball) composed of a nothing more than a staghorn fern, potting soil, sheet moss, and twine to hang it from a hook in the ceiling. (Grumpy drew the flowers in back using a porcupine quill dipped in pokeweed juice.)

Project #3 from the "Traditional Mix" chapter shows you how to make a nifty planter from a book you're tired of reading. All you need are the book, an X-ACTO knife, a ruler, potting soil, a plastic liner, some gravel, and a variety of slow-growing, easy-care succulents. Grumpy is going to use his copy of The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings that, together with F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, was rated by my seventh-grade English class as the two most boring books of all time.

Vintage Vibe

"Vintage Vibe" is one of my favorite chapters, because it focuses on making containers out of classic, old stuff you've had stashed away in a closet, attic, or garage, lest your neatnik, "only-my-things-are-important" spouse throw them away when you're not home. Pair these treasures with the right plants (each chapter comes with a list of plants to create the particular look) and suddenly your stuff becomes acceptable.

How about this? Using vintage silver teacups as pots for air plants (Tillandsia sp.) and succulents, plants that need very little water. Of course, as a poor garden writer, Grumpy doesn't have any silver, but those plastic measuring cups in his kitchen drawer sure could use some company!

Hits & Misses Despite this book's veritable plethora of nifty, unintimidating, and easily replicated ideas, Grumpy does have several quibbles. First, in the plant care section, those plants deemed suitable for beginners are included in the category, "Easy Breezy." C'mon -- everybody knows the correct expression is "Easy Peasy." Shame, Kylee and Jenny!

Quibble #2 is the lack of a planter designed to fit the cup-holder in the arm of my leather recliner parked in front of the big screen. This is a gross oversight.

Quibble #3 is this idea for making mini-planters from the corks of champagne and wine bottles.

Sure, it looks cool. But all of Grumpy's wine bottle have screw tops. Will plants grow in screw tops? We may never know.

Despite these shortcomings, Grumpy believes Indoor Plant Decor would make a marvelous Christmas gift for anyone looking for creative, affordable ideas for displaying houseplants. Most importantly, even though it's as pretty as a coffee table book, at just 7-3/8 inches square, it doesn't cover up the whole table.

This leaves Grumpy plenty of room to display his collection of antique glass insulators! Wahoo!

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