Move the Forest Indoors

Photo copyrighted by Kindra Clineff from The Unexpected Houseplant

Now, my little muffins, I want you all to pour yourselves a nice warm cup of tea (or your beverage of choice) and sink into someplace comfy. Pull that wooly throw blanket up to your chin, and let all those visions of sugarplums (or whatever tingles your tastebuds) dance through your head. Dose off. Dream of world peace. And do it all with a little tree by your side.

No, really–Why not? Now that you’ve grown accustomed to having the Christmas tree in your home, how about holding that thought through the winter? You laugh, but stranger things have happened.

Photo copyrighted by Kindra Clineff from The Unexpected Houseplant

I do it. I bring a conifer in every winter. It isn’t always the same tree (although it all started with a Cupressus arizonica ‘Blue Ice’ that went in and out for several years until it outgrew its container). I purchase a conifer during the autumn sales, I pot it in a deep container (note here: I fill the entire container with potting soil rather than “cheating it” with styrofoam noodles are some such filler). The deep container is key, by the way. I remember to water it (just a suggestion). And then I commune with my little tree indoors until spring arrives when it goes outdoors (and so do I). Sometimes I plant it in the ground, sometimes I leave it in the pot and use it as a sentinel by the front door. Point is: it has legs–this is a good investment.

Photo copyrighted by Kindra Clineff from The Unexpected Houseplant

Confession here: I’ve got tall French doors facing east with sufficient light to do this deed. Another confession: I’ve got a fairly chilly home. But it’s worth a try, right? What’s the worst that can happen?

Probably, it will flourish. And when you wake from that warm winter’s snooze, your tea will be cold. But you’ll open your eyes to your own little forest by your side indoors in the middle of the winter. How cool is that?

Thank you for a year full of beauty and friendship. I love you all. And so does Einstein (my kitten and research assistant).

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Terrarium Workshops

Just an idea for that someone on your list who has everything–give them a Terrarium Workshop for the holidays. Talk about presenting them with peace, tranquility, and green therapy. Here’s a partial list of locations where I’ll be giving workshops and terrarium demonstrations as well as houseplant demonstrations in the coming year:

January 30, 2013 ~ 6:30 PM
Elizabeth Park ~ West Hartford, CT
Terrarium workshop

February 3, 2013 ~ 1:00 PM
Campo de’ Fiori ~ Sheffield, MA
Terrarium demonstration and Houseplant Repotathon

February 24, 2013 ~ 10:00 AM
Northwest Flower & Garden Show ~ Seattle, WA
Terrarium lecture & Houseplant lecture

March 2, 2013 ~ 11:00 AM
Pennsylvania Garden Show of York ~ York, PA
Terrarium workshop & Houseplant lecture

March 5, 2013 ~ 1:00 PM & 3:15 PM
Davidson Horticultural Symposium ~ Davidson, NC
Terrarium Lecture & Houseplant Lecture

May 5, 2013 ~ 3:00 PM
Lori Warner Studio ~ Chester, CT
Terrarium Workshop

And who is that in the picture? That’s Jerry Fritz at my Terrarium Workshop for Linden Hill in Ottsville, PA. Bet I’ll be doing my annual workshop there next year. Stay tuned.

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Primula kisoana

Fast forward because already I need a little springtime. Here it is only late November and I’m clawing at the windows chafing for some semblance of growth in the garden. Not that the houseplants aren’t entertaining — but still, November doesn’t deliver color, indoors or outside. (Granted, the Senecio ‘Blazin’ Glory’ is still happening, but that’s about it for blossoms on the windowsill.) So dreams of primroses are dancing before my eyes.

If you’ve tried and failed with primroses, then you haven’t met Primula kisoana yet. These photos were taken on April 17th and that’s just when you need a dollop of scarlet in your life. And that’s exactly what P. kisoana delivers. And we’re talking reliable — despite last year’s floods, nothing could dissuade these fuzzy-leaved little primroses from sending up their courageously colorful flowers. Outspoken, that’s how I’d classify the shade. But it’s the kind of color you spy from a distance. We like that in a flower, right? The performance continues for several weeks until the flowers slowly fade into pink. Then, by midsummer, this Japanese species goes underground. Completely dormant until the next spring. No worries about whether it will brave summer droughts — this little primrose sleeps through it all.

Of course it likes shade. But here’s the clincher — most of my primroses are living happily ever after under a black walnut tree! Besides the epimediums, not many perennials survive the walnut toxins without a whimper.

If you know of a source, pass it along to me. Mine came from Sydney Eddison. Nobody leaves Sydney’s garden empty handed. And primroses are one of her favorite gifts to bestow.

There’s an ‘Alba’ form. Explain to me = what’s the point? When you’ve got something that’s radiant, brilliant, and wonderful — why strip it of its glory?

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Senecio cephalophorus ‘Blazin’ Glory’

Well, the name’s a little melodramatic. But if you can get over that (what’s in a name?), what’s not to love in this little cutie? I’m always game to try anything that might work indoors. For example, this little number wasn’t really being sold as a houseplant. But why not give it a spin?

When I picked Senecio cephalophorus ‘Blazin’ Glory’ up from Avant Gardens, it was love at first sight, even before the first bud opened. And by the way, there’s nothing wilted in this photo. The buds are naturally nodding, which you find irresistibly endearing, don’t you? And then they straighten up and jut out at odd angles to burst into a paintbrush of tiny orange bristles — each one a flower.

But even if this show didn’t go on for months (which it does) — there’s that foliage to die for. Plump, oval leaves tucked together in a nest. Each leaf chalky bluish-silver. Whole shebang stands no larger than a foot. Are you sold yet?

What if I told you that it’s virtually maintenance-free? Needs no tidying whatsoever because it’s invariably picture perfect. Never pouts. But I’m stingy with the water — it might not like being drowned. So water it sparingly, like you do all succulents. And those orange flowers — they don’t have the typical “old gym socks” senecio smell (thank goodness). In fact, their scent is mildly (very mildly = use your imagination) pleasant.

So go for it. Yes, this little number will need a bright, south window. But can you think of a better way to invest your sunbeams?

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Dahlia ‘Akita’: Until we Meet Again

I saw it coming. For once, I was monitoring the weather. All the houseplants were safely inside (well, most of the houseplants were already squirreled indoors). But what happens to the dahlias is beyond my control. With tubers planted in gigantic containers too large to haul in — the only way that they’re coming indoors is in a paper bag.

Unable to extend their performance, I did what any self-respecting devotee would do — I shot them. With my camera, of course. And I especially focused on the dahlia that has given me untold pleasure this summer — ‘Akita’.

I ordered ‘Akita Mixed’ from Longfield Gardens (, and every flower has been an odyssey. The only way that I can think to describe the flowers is that they’re colored like quills. What do you think? Maybe an Indian headdress with stripes of copper and yellow or stripes of magenta/purple and yellow, depending on the bulb. There’s nothing like a mixture to keep you guessing. And that’s part of the fun.

Described as a dinnerplate, ‘Akita’ is definitely plus-sized, but not unwieldy. Each flower is about 3-4 inches or so with dense petals in the center but outer petals extending like rays. In other words, it doesn’t look heavy. And in fact, mine stood up without staking — I always avoid staking if possible. Anybody else with me on this? It always seems awkward and contrived. If it’s got to happen, the best way to achieve propping up is behind the scenes. And that’s nearly impossible with a dahlia, especially a potted dahlia. Anyway, ‘Akita’s thick stem did the job — unwaveringly. And heaven knows, there were plenty of gusty days to challenge their strength.

Buds kept coming. They would have continued, but The Late Show wasn’t in the cards. So I snapped a few final photos last night, cut them down this afternoon, and tucked them somberly into the cellar until next spring. Sometime this winter, let’s all look back at these photos. Already seems surreal, doesn’t it?

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Terrain at Styer’s: See you There Sunday!

Rev your engines! This is the moment you’ve all been waiting for! The official start of Houseplant Season. Hooray! And I’ll be giving it a warm welcome at Terrain at Styer’s in Glen Mills, PA ( on Sunday October 21, 2012 from 10:00 -11:30 AM for a Houseplant Workshop with indoor gardening demonstrations, advice, help, and hand-holding. I’ll be making very cool combo containers with Terrain’s extraordinary components. And I’ll be signing books of The Unexpected Houseplant. Come on over!

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Neoregelia ‘Tiger Cub’

They’re back in the fold again! The houseplants, that is. And as much as I liked the convenience of hitting them with a hose (and sharing the watering duties with Mother Nature), I missed them. Now I feel whole again. The nest is never totally empty. But still, I spent last night roaming around patting the plants that don’t bite on the head. So the agaves with teeth just got a high five.

Needless to say, the family has expanded over the summer — it always does. A bunch of new goodies hitchhiked home in the car from a visit to Landcraft in Mattituck, LI. Had to enlist some new plantstands just to accommodate them all. My favorite? Neoregelia ‘Tiger Cub’. Check it out.

What’s not to like? Beyond being outrageously handsome, ‘Tiger Cub’ is low maintenance. Raving success is a no-brainer with most bromeliads. The only time I fail is when I burn them with too much light. Find them an east window and it’s Easy Street. And paired with a cool container, you’ve got something that will warm your winter months.

I keep my neoregelias (yes, I have others) moderately moist. Although they like having their vase-like leaves filled with water, that’s easier done outdoors than inside, and they don’t demand it. Basically, they like to grow in the same conditions that we favor indoors. Simple as that. And they make pups to share with lucky friends…Am I going to be popular with neoregelia wanna-haves, or what?

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Wildlings Indoors: Viola walteri

Make haste. Because summer is slipping away fast. What to do about the dilemma? Well, that’s what The Unexpected Houseplant is all about. And now that I’m back on the blog roll for the season, I’m going to give you some unexpected suggestions. For now, the blog will run back and forth between indoors and outside. When the garden is snapped shut by the frost, we’ll retreat indoors entirely. What you’ll find here is an update from the book– because gardening is about moving forward, am I right? You’ll be amazed at what you’re going to find on these windowsills.

Like Viola walteri. I got this delightful little native species from Avant Gardener at the Hollister House Study Weekend a few weeks ago. Sure, I could have plunked it into the garden and got a whole month of entertainment from it before doomsday (from a Zone 8 violet’s point of view).

Instead, I tucked it into a little pedestal urn where it’s been blithely performing ever since. Right now, it’s still outside in a shady spot. As soon as frost threatens, I’ll squirrel it indoors and give it an east or west-facing windowsill. I’m willing to bet it loves living with me. And who can beat the steel gray leaves with plum-colored accents?

Einstein thinks so, too. He did the bounce and stress testing for my book. Now in Graduate School, he’s still working hard at the job.

Hope to see you all at my book lecture on Thursday October 4 at 6:00 for The Unexpected Houseplant at the Horticultural Society of New York, 148 West 37th Street, 13th floor, New York, NY. See you there!

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Repotathon at Pergola in New Preston!

copyright Kindra Clineff from The Unexpected Houseplant

September 15, 2012, 1:00-4:00!
A Houseplant Repotathon at Pergola in New Preston, CT

Come to the launch event for my new book, The Unexpected Houseplant.

Rather than waving a fond farewell to the garden, shift focus indoors. Especially geared for everyone who sees houseplants and gets the jitters, this in-shop event is nurture-training for wannabe indoor gardeners.

Over the span of the afternoon, I’ll prove just how incredibly beautiful houseplants can be.

* There will be houseplant therapy sessions
* Tony combinations of containers and cool plants will be continuously created
* Plants of all descriptions will get major face-lifts using Pergola’s wonderful line of accessories
* There will be brown thumb hand-holding
* Books will be available for signing

Come and bring questions and get converted into an indoor gardener. You and some lucky houseplant are going to live happily ever after.

September 15, 2012 from 1:00 PM – 4:00 PM
7 East Shore Road
New Preston, CT
or call 860-868-4769

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Listen Up! Live on Martha Stewart Radio

Hey Gang! Been busier than a honeybee, bopping all around. And I promise to get a new post up soon — I’m back from my travels. But in the meantime, I wanted to let you all know that I’m LIVE on Martha Stewart Radio on Sirius Satellite this evening, August 13 from 5:00-6:00 EST with Stephen Orr for “The Gardening Hour.” We’ll be talking about Containers in the Heat. Got questions? Call in! Got success stories? Share ’em! Got failures? We want to know!

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