Terrariums: Easy Care Live Plants in Little Landscapes–Easily Made, Great Gifts..

Terrarium–
1.
 “
a glass container, chiefly or wholly enclosed, for growing and displaying plants”

Once planted, if enclosed, there’s next-to-no upkeep.
Note: Click all terrarium pics to enlarge
I was given the airtight, octagon terrarium (above) decades ago after an illness. I loved it. It needed very little care. Its plastic octagonal bottom contained small plants and its octagonal top lifts off when they need water or cutting back. Ultimately one plant got too tall. I took it out and easily replaced it with a tiny fern purchased at a landscape nursery. It transplanted easily and stayed small, aided by the humid environment. What a perfect gift for young and old. I was hooked.
Fittonia and ficus pumila quercifolia. Click or double-click for up close with frog and bottles

Click or double-click for up-close view of fittonia, ficus pumila quercifolia, frog, and bottles.

30+ years later only one (tall) plant remains. It has grown well with fittonia (striped leaf) and ficus pumila quercifolia (miniature oak leaf fig) for many years. I just cut back some fittonia before taking this picture. Terrarium needs little care beyond receiving small amounts of water a few time a year and some cutting back with a small scissors. Fittonia  leaves are all less than an inch; ficus leaves even smaller.

Since then I’ve made countless terrariums in varied containers–including this little hinged-roof, leaded greenhouse (made by a retired NJ policeman I was told) and purchased at a local nursery. Not for beginners; it’s not airtight.
Greenhouse terrarium with hinged roof (click to enlarge)

Note: little clay pots suck moisture– need added water and watching so they don’t dry out.

Creating an environment with small plants–for relaxation, for friends, and for older people in care centers at holiday time is fun–becomes addictive. The greenhouse terrarium won many “BEST” awards at spring flower shows (with more flowering plants in little pots than shown above). Interestingly maintaining little plants in a terrarium requires less work than a non-terrarium single plant–and delights onlookers (and judges).
PURCHASING PLANTS for Enclosed Terrariums
Smallish, slow-growing plants that like high humidity are a must–when the goal is easy/minimum care for aging parents and older people. Once planted and watered, they have no other watering needs because they create their own environment if their lid/top/plastic wrap is on tight. Only when plants are grown in something big like a covered fish tank, can regular-size plants be used.
Once planted, a terrarium is good to go–no upkeep– except occasional water (plants will look droopy) and pruning. Covered terrariums can’t tolerate direct sunlight. Heat hitting the glass (or plastic) will immediately bake (and kill) the plants. ‘Nuf said.
You can purchase terrariums or….
                                                                       MAKE YOUR OWN
Any dish or glass-enclosed vessel is fair game as a planter. I found a great glass piece at TJ Maxx for $5 because its top was missing. I turned it into a terrarium by wrapping plastic wrap over the top opening to keep it airtight.

Supplies are simple. The soil is simple potting soil (no added fertilizer, the idea is to keep things small). If deciding to fertilize, 1/4-1/8 strength of recommended amount, once in spring, will do it. I often forget; the plants don’t seem to notice and the flowering ones still bloom.

While I don’t use moss, many people do as pictured in the carefully-selected links below and this Philadelphia Flower Show entry above left. I often add little rocks, wood, and glass or pottery objects. I also line the container’s bottom with charcoal (see links below ). Someone said “it keeps the soil sweet.” I don’t know precisely what that means but it works I guess. Container, charcoal, soil, plants, water, light (but no direct sun) and lid/top does it. How simple is that!

Before the holidays, before the time crunch, why not make or purchase a terrarium? Older people, especially, are enchanted by these little creations. Nature is restorative. Watching these manageable little gardens grow and bloom keeps everyone interested….. and that helps parents age well.
Related:
Fittonia (red stripe) link: http://www.logees.com/browse-by-botanical-name/fittonia/nerve-plant-super-red-fittonia-verschaffeltii.htmlLogees has a fine reputation and excellent (often hard-to-find) plants. They advise if plants do well in terrariums. (I don’t have this variety.)
http://www.stormthecastle.com/terrarium/terrarium-plants.htmlvery complete, good instructions
http://www.thenester.com/2012/04/using-plants-in-your-home-part-4-terrariums.html–an especially excellent site for everything.
https://www.sprouthome.com/terrariums/ terrarium ideas–expensive; but check pictures. You can make them for much less
Commercial presentation: terrarium designs, purchasing. Beter planting instructions above.  http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/diy-or-buy-terrarium-167979-
Pictures, purchasing: flowering plants (sinningia “White Sprite” and “Pusilla”) in greenhouse terrarium (scroll down). http://www.stormthecastle.com/terrarium/where-to-buy-micro-mini-sinningia.htm  

Aging Parents: Little-Care Live Plant Gifts –flowering or not

 

Dish Garden with Succulents

Click to enlarge

DISH GARDENS
Dish gardens make great gifts–easy upkeep with the right plants.

I began making dish gardens in elementary school, which speaks to how easy creating these small landscapes is…. easy to make, easy to maintain with easy-care plants. And they add enjoyment…fun to watch grow and possibly flower. AND  they add a decorator’s touch, regardless of decorating style. Aren’t they a good gift for older people who appreciate nature, don’t get outdoors much–and even those who do? You can purchase a dish garden, or do-it-yourself.

WHETHER PURCHASING OR MAKING YOUR OWN– LOOK FOR
(and ask questions of sales person)

  • Plants that are smallish
  • Plants that are slow growing (if the goal is reducing work)
  • Plants with different textured leaves
  • Plants with leaves of different colors
  • At least one plant that could flower (it’s a bonus)
  • Plants the grow either indoor or outdoors…not both in same container
  • An attractive container (dish) with a drainage hold and saucer

CARE
(Light and Watering Requirements Should be on Plant’s Tag)

  • Watering nonuscculents: Proper watering leads to success or failure.Thus, each plant in the little garden should have the same water requirements. Overwatering causes root rot, that’s why the dish’s drainage hole is important–as is a plate or saucer underneath. Otherwise furniture gets damaged (and equally bad, you will have left an eyesore remainder of your well-intentioned gift.) My favorite “saucers” are free–lids on plastic take-home containers. They’re clear, unobtrusive, come in various shapes and sizes.
  • Watering succulents: Succulents (see top photo), needs very little water. A light spray on the top or a little water poured on the rocks doesn’t upset the sandy look and does the job. Succulents store water in their “leaves.” They begin to shrivel when too dry, but rebound when give a bit of water. The easiest dish garden– any adult can monitor a succulent dish garden and add water before a disaster could occur.
  • Light: Plants should also be grouped by their light requirement–full sun, partial sun etc. To flower, plants need light. For example, miniature violets and sinningias need indirect light at the least, but never full sun.

DO-IT-YOURSELF
See above for plant selection

The two dish gardens below were entered for competition at the Philadelphia Flower Show. The first container is a bonsai dish with indoor plants; the one below looks like it contains outdoor succulents and is, I believe, made from a composite.

IMG_1055

Pink/green leaf plant is fittonia, I believe. More common is green and white leaf color.

Dish Garden

Succulents and ???

  • Dish gardens can sprout up in unlikely dishes.
  • As long as there’s a drainage hole, you’re good to go.
  • Potting soil for cacti and succulents differs from soil used for leafy plants.
  • For Fertilizing:   follow instructions, using 1/2 or 1/4 strength or less.
  • Avoid potting soil with fertilizer or plants will quickly outgrow the dish.

Caring for plants, if not too taxing and fussy, gives elders a responsibility that offers the joy of watching them grow, keeping them healthy and being needed. It’s also fun and life-affirming. Doesn’t this help parents and older adults age well?
Related: Thanks to Lori for an additional way of growing plants–the Miracle-Gro Aero Garden.This hydroponic garden seems easy from start to finish–can add interest and fun to an elder’s life.

Check out Some of my favorite little plants: Sinningia pusilla (tiny tuber).Rob’s Scrumptious (miniature violet). Ficus pumila Quercifolia (tiny ivy). Nephrolepis exalta  Fluffy Ruffles (little fern). Kalanchoe (check out colors)

Helpful sites: http://www.thegardenhelper.com/dish~gardens.html –about dish gardens
https://www.violetbarn.com/shop/index.php?_a=category&cat_id=30. Site for small plants

Red Kalanchoe-Green container

Red Kalanchoe~Green Container

Note: Newsworthy (right sidebar). Links to timely information and research from top universities and medical institutions–to help parents age well.

Great Halloween Gift Ideas Roundup for Aging, Elderly, and Hosptialized Adults–Part 1: Pumpkins–Decorated, not Carved

Favorite Farm Stand 2014

Favorite Farm Stand 2014

Decorating pumpkin patch pumpkins in an unorthodox way–
Unique and fun gift for aging parents and elders.

When I lived near this farm stand I’d take pumpkins home and decorate–not carve–them on the kitchen counter….gifts for elderly friends at Halloween. However when we moved to the City, transporting them became a logistical challenge because cars in the City are basically an expensive nuisance. Thus, our car is in a garage in the suburbs. Last week I took the commuter train to the suburbs, got our car, then purchased the pumpkin, flowers etc. without knowing where I would assemble everything.

Decorating in the car would be a last resort, as there’s no electrical outlet for the glue gun. Decision: this year’s pumpkin–only one–would not require a glue gun, only the skewers to poke the holes. I forgot it last year and ended up using a fondue fork. It works too.

Halloween 2013 Scarecrow Pumplin

2012 Halloween Pumpkin, Skewers, Glue Gun, Scarecrow.    Click to enlarge

2013 Scarecrows

2013 Finished Hallwoween Pumpkins              (with fairly short stems)

This 2014 non-messy project began at the farm stand, where I selected an easily-portable pumpkin with a curved stem that had strings dangling from it. At Trader Joe’s I bought the $3.99 bouquet special, then went in search of some ornaments.

I’ve used small scarecrows in the past, but couldn’t find any this year.  The best I could do was purchase a head band with black feathers and pumpkins quivering on a spring ($2.99). That was a bit of a splurge for me, but what the heck! A dollar store was too far away.

I’ve learned to phone to double-check that it’s still convenient for me to bring a pumpkin to an elderly person–things can easily change as we know. The 96-yearr-old man’s caregiver said to come on over and decorate the pumpkin in the kitchen, which I (we) did.

2014  Whimsey Pumpkin

We placed an orange daisy in mouth to appear that a tooth is missing and added purple cheeks or ears

The finished 2014 whimsey pumpkin:We inserted an orangish chrysanthemum to look like a tooth was missing in the smile and added the purple mums for cheeks or ears.

Alternative to a fresh pumpkin: purchase ceramic or paper mache pumpkins with open tops or cut the paper mache top off, place container of water (plastic deli kind works well) inside, fill with fall flowers. Chrysanthemums in water last as long as the ones that have their longish stems inserted through the skewered hole into a fresh pumpkin’s liquidy center. The pumpkin above should last about 2 weeks. (Unused flowers are left in a glass of water and can replace any flowers that wilt.)

Today I found–and bought– pumpkins at Trader Joe’s and scarecrows at Michael’s. The scarecrows are $1.25 on sale–I bought 3. Tomorrow I will phone my 101-year-old m-i-l and tell her I’d like to bring over a small decorated Halloween pumpkin, if she would like. Having control, at 101, has become even more important to her. She has become very  particular about not having anything unnecessary around–she will recycle it to a friend or throw it away. That’s why I’ll ask first.

Trader Joe's Scarecrows

Michael’s Scarecrows

IMG_3471

Trader Joe’s Pumpkins

Related: 2013: Decorating a Gift Pumpkin: Instructions and finished product
2010: A Halloween Surprise 

The first Decorated Pumpkins 2010

2010 My first Decorated Pumpkins                    Click to enlarge

Check out “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Click links to timely information and research from respected universities, plus some fun stuff–to help parents age well.

R’s 101st BIRTHDAY TODAY

We had the small birthday dinner R requested at her favorite place. Early in the day we got the feeling R really didn’t want to go out, Her mood was clearly not upbeat. That said, she has always been a disciplined person and I guess decided she needed to be a good sport and take the time and go to all the trouble of getting dressed up and putting on her make-up–not easy at 101. 101 BIRTHDATShe said her phone rang all day–I can vouch for that having tried to telephone her. She knew she’d need a nap since she tires so easily, and said she stopped answering the phone in the afternoon so she could rest. We were concerned about how the evening would work out. This photo may give a hint. But details must wait until tomorrow….probably after we fly back to New York. Every day we learn more about helping parents age well. Until tomorrow….

Aging Parents: LETTING GO and the CIRCLE OF LIFE

Dad and My Childhood best friend

Dad and my childhood best friend after Mom died

Dad died almost 11 years ago. We held onto the family home we grew up in so there would be continuity for my, at-the-time, very young niece. I was certain the home represented needed security and stability for her. I was also  trying my best to soften the loss of “Grandpa,” with whom she spent a great deal of time– often sitting on his lap in his blue recliner.

She was at the house most of the week after he died. When she asked why Grandpa died, I said something to the effect that God wanted Grandpa. An age-appropriate response, right? That 3-year-old memory, I realized, was much better than that of older people who would no doubt have forgotten that conversation. Her request of me several months later: “Would you please call God and ask him to send Grandpa back?”
*              *             *

Memories came back in waves as Dad’s recliner, Mother’s china and various furnishings left our home thanks to the estate sale. Interestingly, they weren’t poignant nor did they engender sadness.

Picnic by the ocean: Mother (79) and me

Picnic by the ocean: Mother (79) and me

I have been asked often during the last week if I felt sad cleaning out the home. My answer: “No.”  Interestingly that was my brother’s answer also. Reminders of past moments and the people who were part of them take me back so many decades. Yet as a far-away-living child I knew my parents’ death was always a possibility and tried to make certain, as they aged, that there would be no unfinished business nor unspoken words as each visit ended.

I also think, as does my brother, that our home deserves a young family with kids–to slide down the banister and discover our hiding places in the big basement. And so I, a sentimental person, have done a pretty good job of letting go–I think.

Moving on happens. It’s difficult to control. Life in my parents’ home is coming full circle.

Family Photos

Family Photos

It will house a new family and children again. And my parents’ last gift to me is this mountain of stuff that–in the going through and reading–has helped make sense of much of my past…and our family’s past.

If your parents should leave you boxes and drawers to clean out, try to muster up the patience (most in my family can’t) to see this is an opportunity to fill in gaps and answer questions. You get to relive your parents as younger, healthy and strong. The illnesses and the caregiving recede. For me, it has provided closure; has made letting go easier; has been priceless.

Aging Parents: Alzheimer’s Blogs and Key Thoughts for Caregivers and Adult Children

An Unexpected Honor and the Key Thoughts

The May 24th email announced: “I am happy to inform you that your blog has made Healthline’s list of the Best Alzheimer’s Blogs 2014.  Healthline diligently selected each of the blogs on the list…..”

Neither Alzheimer’s nor dementia is in my husband’s or my family. And I’ve never written specifically about it or any other illness in my posts. The closest I’ve come to mentioning dementia is including links in the sidebar (“Of Current Interest”) to articles I’ve reviewed (some include dementia) from highly regarded medical school publications. So Help! Aging Parents takes special pride in the reasoning the led to including our blog in this “Best” list of 23 Alzheimer’s blogs.

Helping Parents Age Well isn’t just about helping our parents.
The information and insight in these pages is useful to anyone
who anticipates living beyond midlife. Key thoughts like “Will
these actions I’m about to undertake empower or diminish?”
and “Does the quick fix harm later goals?” inform all of blogger
Susan’s writing. Her focus on values and long-term solutions makes
for a good life-coaching guide and regular reading.

Since the “Key Thoughts for Adult Children of Aging Parents” list goes back to my early posts, and many may not be aware of their publication, revisiting the list makes sense.

KEY THOUGHTS

• The Right Start Saves Many Problems
• Will Actions Empower or Diminish?
• Get All Possible Information Before
• Does the Quick Fix Harm Later Goals?
• Is it Better for Me or for My Parents?
• Are Life and Limb Threatened?
• If the monkey wants a banana, give him/her a banana
• People Change, Not Much
• Think Airplane Advice–Secure Your Mask First, Then Help Others

Regardless of who’s doing the caregiving or the illness involved, the last key thought keeps us balanced and healthy and–ideally–better able to handle what comes our way.

For those who are fortunate enough to have fathers to celebrate FATHER’S DAY with, we wish you a day that is special; a day that will provide happy memories for you and for your dad. And if you don’t have a father, you’ll no doubt think of your father as I think of mine.

Perhaps there’s an elderly gentleman who will feel very special if he receives an unexpected phone call with Father’s Day wishes. As I write this I’m thinking about who I will phone. Father’s Day provides us another chance to give elders attention, so important in aging well. That should make them feel good. And doesn’t that make us feel good too?

Changing often: “Of Current Interest” (right sidebar). Links to timely information and research from top universities, plus some fun stuff–to help parents age well.  

 

 

Aging Parents: Gifts for Fathers and Grandfathers–2

2014 Round-up of 45 Gifts for Fathers and Grandfathers Continues

Cake by Esperanza

Back in the day when men “dressed” to go out–even to a baseball game–ties were a most popular Father’s Day gift. Indeed until recently ties continued to be a very popular gift. The more casual dress code the US has adopted, makes me wonder about the future of ties…they aren’t listed under “Accessories/Clothing” in part 1. Yet for traditionalists, this Father’s Day Cake complete with tie could be a creative answer for those who bake and like using marzipan. Can anything top making this cake as a loving tribute to a great Dad or Granddad? For those who don’t bake, my round-up continues…..

Hearing: Hearing loss is a problem for older people and for those who communicate with them.

  • Assistive listening systems: products for TV watchers who need very high volume to hear well (while others don’t). Click the preceding link then scroll down to “Assistive Listening Systems” if you wish to educate yourself.
  • Amplified Telephones =better conversation for all. This link provides a quick education as does the “Amplified Telephones” section of this U. of Calif at San Francisco Medical Center site.
  • A good audiologist’s contact information. Do the research to up the odds that the hearing loss will be diagnosed and corrected. Put the information in a gift box with the appropriate note and offer transportation to and from the appointment if you wish.
  • This  2011 NY Times article, mentions/praises Clarity phones, you might want to  click the pictures (amplified phones, mobile phones) for more info.
  • Googling “telephones for hearing loss” provides additional phone options.

Pampering

  • Starbucks’s VIA ready brew individual instant coffee packets–regular or decaf in 3, 12. or 50 packs for coffee lovers. My Dad would find them pricey–Probably wouldn’t buy them for himself.
  • A mug (perhaps with a family photo?) to microwave the coffee in.
  • Good bottle of wine
  • Wine refrigerator 
  • His favorite microbrew beer (a case?)
  • Massage
  • Professional shave
  • Manicure

Visionwe know vision changes with age; these gifts can enhance

  • Large print books (for those who still like the feel of a book)
  • An electronic book. Because the font can be enlarged–I hear it’s a Godsend. The background color can also make a difference so check this out with someone knowledgeable.
  • A Verilux lamp can be especially helpful for those with vision issues. Two people I know (one with advanced macular degeneration) have the “Original Natural Spectrum” floor  model and say the light bulb adds clarity and the gooseneck directs the light where it does the most good  when reading or doing desk work.
  • The mini-maglite, small flashlights that give great light in dark places.                             
  • Pocket magnifying glasses great for reading small print (think menus and the check) in dark restaurants. Pocket 3X strength magnifying-glass takes up little space, is light weight, not pricey (around $10 at Barnes & Noble), remains lit without having to keep a finger on any button.  Also check out the 5X strength ($9.99) from another mfg. Note: This guide for buying magnifying glasses for those with low vision can be helpful.
Here’s to successful shopping!
Changing often: “Of Current Interest” (right sidebar). Links to timely information and research from top universities, plus some fun stuff–to help parents age well.