As a winter project, indoor gardeners can turn an analytical eye on the total effect of their present arrangement of plants in relation to home decoration and consider how the atmosphere can be enhanced and the air made more breathable by including living greenery.
A friend of mine returned from a Christmas visit in Florida exclaiming about the size of the Scheffleras and Norfolk Island Pines - "houseplants growing outdoors." I empathized with him, recalling the first time I saw an emormous rubber tree (Ficus elastica), it branches loaded with intensely red figs, spread out over a subtropical lawn.
It is a startling experience for a northerner to suddenly realize that the same plants we've grown for years in pots indoor grow outdoors in tropical or subtropical areas as mammoth vines and full-grown trees. If we could maintain the high levels of light, heat and humidity in our homes that many foilage plants are naturally accustomed to, they would attain such size and vigor that we would have to move out.
Over the years it has been found that many tropical species adapt to indoor light, heat and humidity by simply reducing their growth rates. Their exotic greenery furnishes us with an array of sizes and shapes, leaf patterns, textures and colors. The diversity seems endless and so are the possibilities for using these plants for ornamentation and to fulfill our longong for a closer relationship to nature.
"The home is the perfect place to begin to live in harmony with plants," writes William S. Hawkey, an author and indoor landscaper. "If you understand the needs of plants and select those that most easily fit into the interior environment in which you are most comfortable, you've got a very good chance of developing a nice relationship with some beautiful and interesting living companions."
We draw on many historical periods and geographic areas in choosing the architectural style of our homes and furnishings. Whether we realize it or not, we are expressing a philosophical point of view, a life style. In their individual ways plants complement or help to express that style . . . as free-standing accents, as room dividers, as hanging airspace fillers, as mantle and table ornaments or to disguise a problem area.
A window filled with greenery an enhance a room by the imaginative selection of plants with interesting leaf textures, unusually variegated or shaped foliage, and variety of growth habits.
The name of the designer Vera is a household word. Her name and ladybug trademark appear on garments, tablecloths, china and much more. Vera is quoted in Redbook's "Decorating With Flowers and Plants" (Fall 1977, $1.50): "In the winter, foliage plants take over my home. I consider most of my houseplants, like the tall, long-established ficus and schefflera, old friends. As you can see from my work, flowers and plants offer me both personal sustenance and aesthetic inspiration. In my home, they are as important decoratively as my collections of contemporary art and international folk art."
We have become accustomed to interior landscaping through seeing plants in shopping malls, hotel lobbies, offices and public buildings. In the home, there may be unsuspected places and unusual ways in which the indoor gardener can use plants which now are simply occupying space. Space may be increased through deft maneuvering or improved by creative lighting, making possible more artistic, more dramatic display of plants.
From room to room, from time to time, suggestions will follow for combinations of plants and people living together.