Indoor remembrance plants

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Indoor remembrance plants make more room for outdoor living, the kind that's a bit more rustic.

By Beth Johnson on May 3, 2015 at 4:24 PM


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The idea that an indoor plant can add beauty to your outdoor living space is a romantic one. You may already have a large ficus tree in your backyard, and an indoor plant in your kitchen. These are good examples of indoor plants that are at home outside. The same goes for indoor plants that are out of doors, like indoor gardenias, which are often used to fill a void between house and landscape.

If you don’t have an indoor plant that works outside, indoor plants for outdoor use may be a solution. Plants that provide oxygen or natural filters, like African violet, spider plant, English ivy or hostas, grow well in the summer and do well in the fall.

The most difficult part of indoor planting is determining the right spot for each plant.

“There is a good amount of research that has been done that shows people are generally more comfortable around smaller plants,” says Paul Smedinghoff, a landscape architect and educator at the University of Washington Extension.

However, he adds, “We didn’t have a lot of large plants around when we grew up.”

While Smedinghoff says that large plants can be more dramatic than smaller ones, he adds that people often appreciate the natural beauty of trees and bushes that are closer to the ground, and the shade they can provide. If you’re seeking more of a landscape, you might consider large, shade-producing plants that are more formal.

Choosing indoor plants for an outdoor space

Outdoor plants, like the ones that grow in our yards and gardens, often require more sunlight than indoor plants. “They’ll be a little bit smaller, they’re going to be in pots, and they’re going to need to be in a sunnier spot,” Smedinghoff says.

The ideal indoor plant for an outdoor environment is one that can survive some degree of wind and that needs only small amounts of water. “For that reason, plants that like to get a little sun might be the best ones,” Smedinghoff says.

“We found that many people love to just walk past the flower beds, pick a few of those plants, and say ‘Oh, that’s nice,’” adds Smedinghoff. This might help spur some healthy planting for your yard, yard, or wherever you’re looking to create a “happier” space.

So, how do you decide which plant to add to your deck? Consider your budget, if you’re doing a lot of work on your property. That might mean you’re looking for plants that are easy to take care of, such as succulents or those that are low maintenance.

If you’re not worried about your plants taking up space, you might also consider planting large, space-eating plants like those found at botanical gardens or a large tree that can grow in the shade. Smedinghoff says one plant could take up as much as four feet of your space.

Plants that require water might not be a good idea, but she points out that plants that require water tend to be more resilient than other types of plants that require a lot of attention. That means they’ll likely perform better over time.

Smedinghoff says another thing to think about is color. If you want a more “lively” space, then consider something that’s bold or bright. If you’re looking for a more calm environment, you might consider plants that will help you unwind.

“Sometimes when you have a beautiful home or yard, you can overthink the layout and think you need something that looks like it’s growing from another room,” Smedinghoff says.

“But then we’re getting too much into the design. We need to make it beautiful without breaking the bank and without taking up too much space.”

What makes a good green thumb?

While many people think they have green thumbs, Smedinghoff says a “good green thumb” can be difficult to determine. While having green fingers can definitely be a positive trait, Smedinghoff says you’d be hard-pressed to find an expert green thumb that doesn’t spend their entire life with a pair of gardening gloves on.

There are many misconceptions about what makes a good green thumb, she says, which are often passed on by parents and teachers to kids who then begin to believe they’re born with a green thumb.

“We need to put a face on green thumbs. We can’t just call someone a ‘good green thumb’ because of their experience. We want people to see what we’re trying to talk about,” Smedinghoff says. “Most people we’re talking to are not ‘green thumbs in the conventional sense. We need to make them aware of what we’re talking about, and what we’re really trying to do.”

The green thumb

There are several definitions for a green thumb, Smedinghoff says, but all of them include the idea of having an innate understanding of plants and natural systems. A good green thumb, she says, is someone who has a strong and deep understanding of the world around them and is also able to apply this knowledge to design.

For instance, Smedinghoff says people with a green thumb can easily become adept at understanding the cycles of nature.

“If we’re taking our garbage to the green bin, we need to think about our green thumb and use it to think about what we’re doing,” she says. “If we’re taking our garbage to the blue bin, then we should just drop it.”

The green thumb is a big part of the conversation at Sustainable Berkeley, which is where the term was first coined in the early 1990s, Smedinghoff says. During that time, Berkeley was dealing with the development of a master plan for the city’s future. It was during this period that city officials were having a difficult time attracting residential housing to the central area of town.

“Part of our job was to help our town look more attractive, and in a new and better way,” she says. “The idea was that there was this issue with housing, and we needed to fix it.”

She adds that the idea of sustainable development was just starting to become part of the conversation. There were a few different perspectives on what that meant, including people who were looking to the planet as a source of inspiration for development.

The idea of “green thumb” was also being developed at that time, Smed

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