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); purchased at a local nursery. Not for beginners; it’s not airtight.
Greenhouse terrarium with hinged roof (click to enlarge)

Click to enlarge. Flowering plants–sinningias pusilla and white sprite. 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, as a gift, why not make a terrarium? Older people, especially, are enchanted by these little creations. Nature is restorative. Watching these manageable little gardens grow and bloom adds interest to life…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 have the white stripe–not red– fittonia.)
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/ check pictures for ideas. 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
http://www.stormthecastle.com/terrarium/where-to-buy-micro-mini-sinningia.htm  Scroll way down for purchasing info and photos of sinningias (White Sprite and Pusilla seen in greenhouse terrarium above). 

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

 

Dish Garden with Succulents

Click all photos 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 that 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 reminder 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), need 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.  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. (Click to enlarge.)

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 growing 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?

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)

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.

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

Check out “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely tips, information and research from top universities. respected professionals and selected publications–to help parents age well.

Holiday Gifts for Nursing Home and Care Facilities Residents December 2013

Decorative Baskets Soon On Their Way~

“We are old and sick, not dead.
hope you all know that your thoughtfulness is appreciated.”

The first Wednesday in December– it’s tradition. The Woman’s Club holds its annual Holiday open house. The Garden Section members began the tradition of preparing baskets for nursing home residents 7 years ago, adhering to a suggested list of small gifts and “no-no’s” supplied by the facility and sticking to a $10 or under expenditure. The expenditure limit has been raised a bit. Inexpensive items, bringing great joy. Finding them at TJ Maxx, grocery stores, drug stores, etc. is half the fun.

Poinsettia, candy canes, red blanket in white basketBecause all members were “Plant People” and “Garden Lovers” there was a requirement, to include some fresh plant material: ivy cuttings (which seem to last 3 weeks without water), a plant, or a sprig of evergreen or holly. The sprigs don’t last long without water. Some members became more creative, putting evergreen and/or holly sprigs in $ store vases with very wet paper towels.

That sufficed until the next day when everything was transported to the nursing home and the vases were filled with water, becoming a cheery, long-lasting holiday room decoration.

As with worthwhile projects, more people–non-Garden Club members– wanted to participate and did. More gifts for nursing home residents to enjoy each year.

So while the fresh plant material decreased, the amount of baskets increased every December, ultimately filling long tables along one side of a long wall in the main room, of the Woman’s Club.Nursing Home Baskets

Clicking the link in the first paragraph, unearths a long list of suggested gifts that you realize would be welcomed by strangers as well as loved ones. Only for loved ones, forget the food restrictions unless they’re necessary and bring one or some of the following:

–Snacks and goodies they love.

–Picture frames (with family or grandchild photo). Just received a Christmas card from a dear old friend, a widow. Enclosed is a picture of her 5-year-old granddaughter and note beginning: “This is who brings joy to me.”  How many times do we reaffirm the importance of grandchildren to grandmothers?

–Flicker, Apple, Shutterfly etc. generate photo albums, books, calendars etc. There’s still time! 
–Games. Do you remember anagrams? Played by one or many. Good for the brain, I’d guess. What about a new attractive deck of cards for solitaire–or any game to play with family when they visit? Being engaged in something together adds a degree of normalcy.

–Light-weight cozy blankets and cozy soft socks. Since the latter lack rubber non-skid stuff on bottom, they’re for keeping feet snug and warm, not for elderly walking.  cozy sockxsoft blanket

 If ever in doubt about what thoughtful deeds mean to elders–

Dear Ladies,

My nice little plant is doing very nicely and is happy.  The Christmas tray and notepaper plus pens are a wonderful gift. We are all very appreciative of all the goodies you sent to us. You make our holidays much more exciting. We are old and sick, not dead. I hope you all know that your thoughtfulness is appreciated.

 My Christmas basket from last year still decorates my room.

Thank you and God Bless.

VM    

Note: Newsworthy (right sidebar). Links to timely information and research from top universities and respected professionals, plus some practical and fun stuff to help parents age well.

 

Aging Parents: Prelude to Halloween continued…

Prelude to Halloweeen

Prelude to Halloween

People’s spirits can rise and fall based on something as simple as “weather.” We can understand this when thinking about the emotional fragility of the “frail and isolated elderly.” Yet down-days are also common for ordinary older people, whose lives have shrunk from a fast-forward, exhilarating younger pace to a slowdown-and boredom–in old age.

October’s weather can cause an avalanche of down days (although thankfully not this year in NY). Several dreary Octobers ago a prominent octogenarian couple I knew needed a cheery something. And I needed to visit them–but not empty-handed. Earlier that day I had gone food shopping. In the grocery store I saw the screwiest-looking pumpkin stem atop a lopsided-looking pumpkin. It made me laugh as I wondered who could ever carve a face on it. The whimsy got the better of me. I bought it; clueless about what to do with it.

You know my thinking next: If it makes me smile, why not take it to the old couple? How stupid/risky/outrageous is that? Here’s the first pumpkin I ever decorated as displayed on that October blog.   

Since then my creative endeavors often have some unanticipated small disaster. As you can see, the “screwy” part of the stem broke off during the decoration process. Only the lopsidedness remains. (And you’re the only ones who know how the stem should have looked.)

Now it’s October again, so yesterday I left NYC to do my decorated pumpkin for the 95 year-old widower of that original elderly couple–only this time in his kitchen. I brought 2 pumpkins (in case of disaster) and flowers, took glue gun and acorns, scissors and scarecrows. He was waiting for me in the study when I arrived, but seemed to have little energy for going into the kitchen to watch the decorating.

His caregiver got into the act quickly since I’d forgotten the skewers needed to poke deep holes in the pumpkin so flower stems could benefit from the liquid around the seeds inside (and last longer). He found an old fondue fork and I found that a good stab by him at the place I designated worked as well as the turkey skewer–perhaps better for the wide chrysanthemum stems.

We worked as a team. After 5 minutes the larger pumpkin (at top), was finished. He asked if we could do the small one. By this time he was helping with the decoration and suggested the acorn. Giving his approval to one of the places I suggested, we glued it. Finished product–

My elderly friend loved them and remembered they would last, no doubt until Halloween. His caregiver kept telling me how much he loved helping and spent a while taking pictures with his cell phone.
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Bottom line: It’s always rewarding to do something that makes an older person happy. This was a win, win, win– for my elderly friend, his caregiver, and me.
                              Things that lift the spirit help parents age well
 
Check out “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely tips, information and research from top universities. respected professionals and selected publications–to help parents age well.
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Related: “Halloween Posts”– Clck tab above under heading

Easy-Care Plants for Aging Parents

 “Once we become interested in the progress of the plants in our care,
their development becomes a part of the rhythm of our own lives
and we are refreshed by it.”
Thalassa Cruso (1909-1997),
Public TV’s “Julia Child of the Horticulture” 1966-69.

October. Days shorten. Get colder. Leaves fall. We spend more time indoors, less time with nature.

A perfect, thoughtful gift for older people: an easy-to-care-for plant. Even more perfect if doing so can refresh and lift the spirits of those we care about–those living alone, in assisted living or care facilities, even those with no “green thumb.”

Here’s a short list of plants that take neglect and still perform. Indeed they ask nothing more than regular watering and filtered sun or low light.

3 Flowering Plants

Caring for Your St. Patrick’s Day Shamrock Plant - (This popular house plant (oxalis) is very easy to grow and maintain) http://gomestic.com/gardening/caring-for-your-st-patricks-day-shamrock-plant/

1. Oxalis is one of the easiest, most forgiving, fun-to-watch plants. Green (regnellii)  or purple (triangularis) leaves. Leaves open at daylight (watch 33 second video link that shows leaves opening at 23 seconds) and close each night as darkness sets in. Wants light in order to produce flowers, but not full sun. Likes damp (not soggy) soil. When too dry, plant tells you; it looks like it’s collapsing. But it comes right back after watering. Blooms for long periods indoors, with a rest period after blooming.

Spathiphyllum

Spathiphyllum–click to enlarge

 

2. Spathiphyllum is also easy and forgiving. Many varieties, different size plants. Buy the small size. They grow just as well and are more manageable. If plants are getting dry, the leaves begin to sag–that’s the signal to water. If they get too dry the tips turn brown; but the plant survives, and the tips can be trimmed if desired. I’ve found these plants impossible to kill. Low light is fine. they don’t like bright light. Blooms year round.

Video short with instructions, basically tells you how easy this plant is to care for. I didn’t know it’s also an air purifier but, according to the video, it is.

Bromeliad

Bromeliad–click to enlarge

3.  Bromelliad blooms are vibrant, last months, and clearly add color to any room. They do need good light, usually bright indirect light, but require little care, definitely don’t want to be overwatered.

Bromelliads at left were at Home Depot (NYC) not a place to buy fussy, difficult-to-grow plants. Should an older person become attached to this plant, the major problem is that, after blooming for several months, the plant dies. That said, it has already produced “pups” around it, that will bloom about 6 months later–I think. So the plant dies, but leaves its offspring, which elders can enjoy watching grow and finally bloom. 7 Easy-to-grow Bromelliads


“Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful:
they are sunshine, food and medicine to the soul.”
Luther Burbank
American botanist, horticulturalist, pioneer in agricultural science
to be continued next post.

Related: Aging Parents: Easy-care, live-plant gifts: terrariums–flowering-or-not

Check out “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely information and research from top universities and respected professionals, plus practical information–to help parents age well. 

Gifts for Aging Parents in Care Facilities

Christmas items were available in stores even before Halloween could bring out the trick-or treaters. Personally I like to savor each holiday before moving on to the next, but this year I am as premature as those I am critical of. Thanksgiving is over two weeks away; yet because of my schedule, I just finished two holiday gift baskets for people in a nearby nursing home. Delivery date: Dec. 2nd.

Since the baskets are for the purpose of helping older people age at least a bit happier (if not well), gifts for seniors in nursing and care facilities are today’s feature. You will find inexpensive gift ideas that older people, whether in care facilities or not, will appreciate.  The following suggestions are within the guidelines of the nursing home near us.  Guidelines may differ so check them out.

(Click photos to enlarge and see details)

Nursing Home Basket

  • chap sticks
  • soaps, lotions or creams– no scent
  • comb and brush
  • small stuffed animals
  • pens, pads, stationery
  • sunglasses
  • neckties
  • slippers, socks
  • mittens, gloves, scarves, shawls
  • decorative boxes or containers
  • scrapbooks, photo albums, picture frames
  • candy canes (no other food but this)
  • holiday decorations
  • games (checkers, playing cards, jig saw puzzles)
  • small, light-weight blanket
  • decorative pillow

In the top photo, the left basket uses three of the above suggested items (blanket–$6.99 at Amazing Savings; game–$1.00; the tree was made by me from Michaels after-Christmas-sale “stuff”–under $4; basket–pennies at yard sale). Basket at the right: has a game theme– using 4 of the above items (candy-cane striped pen, stuffed animal, Sudoku book, playing cards), magnifying glass, and a vase to hold some seasonal greenery (each $1 at a dollar-type store). As December 2 nears, the greenery– plus two lottery tickets to bring a little excitement–will be added. Total cost: under $12.

The eye appeal of our Garden Club’s nursing home gifts–be they packages or baskets– is important.  Each must have fresh and/or dried flowers, leaves, pine cones etc. as part of the decoration…nothing artificial.  They will be displayed on a long table as part of the Woman’s Club annual holiday Open House.

And people at the Open House never fail to ask if they can purchase these baskets. Probably because they look great. We shop all the $ stores, some drug stores, TJMaxx, the Christmas Tree store etc. in search of great finds. By the time the game-theme basket has the greenery and lottery tickets within, and is wrapped in cellophane, it will look ready to lift someone’s spirits.
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Related: Halloween Gift Ideas: Roundup for Aging, Elderly and Hospitalized Adults
Additional pictures of baskets on my Dec. 1st post
“Great Gifts click link or tab in header at top.

Check out “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely information and research from top universities and respected professionals, plus practical information–to help parents age well.