For the homeowner new to landscaping and faced with the overwhelming task of renovating an existing garden or creating a new one from scratch, Northwest Landscaping, by Michael Munro (Alaska Northwest Books, 1992; $20), is a welcome gift. The book addresses just about every step required to complete a landscape: brainstorming, evaluating what's there, choosing a style, preparing a site, construction, installation, and maintenance. Although it's a lot of ground to cover in a relatively small book, Munro packs in a lot of specifics, with special attention to creating good-looking, yet easy-care gardens.
I especially enjoyed the chapter "Visions of the Garden," which describes a dozen enticing Northwest gardens that are now on my list of places to visit. The book concentrates on Northwest landscape styles and plants, but the principles in it would be of interest to a new or intermediate gardener anywhere.
Clever Gardening Technique
Create a Terrarium
If you're looking for a clever gift for a gardener, or would just like to add some carefree greenery to your living space, I'd encourage you to create a terrarium. You'll need:
1. An air-tight container such as a large mouthed jar with a tight fitting lid, or an old aquarium
2. Activated charcoal
3. Sterilized peat-based potting soil
4. Aquarium gravel
5. Plants of your choice
6. Decorative items such as small shells, stones, or pieces of wood
To begin the project, wash the container well and dry it thoroughly. Place a layer of small stones on the bottom of the container and add a layer of activated charcoal to help keep the soil sweet. Sterilized peat-based potting soil will be your planting medium. Moisten it well and squeeze out excess moisture, then place it over the charcoal layer to a depth of at least 3 to 4 inches. You can create a landscape effect by making hills and valleys with the soil and using small shells, stones, or pieces of wood for decoration.
Choose plants with smooth (non-hairy) leaves, such as ferns, baby's tears, creeping fig, Pilea, or Fittonia. (Plants with fuzzy leaves are prone to mildew and other fungal diseases.) Dig small holes in the soil and place the plants in them, firming the soil gently around the roots. Make sure the plants are not touching the sides of the container.
Place the lid on the container when you're finished planting and put your new terrarium in a bright area out of direct sunlight, and enjoy.
Terrariums require a minimum of care if they are kept sealed. The moisture that plants absorb from the soil is given off through the leaves by the process of transpiration. This condenses on the glass walls and runs down to moisten the soil again. The atmosphere also remains balanced through the combined plant processes of photosynthesis and respiration. A well-constructed terrarium requires only light and warmth to flourish.
Terrariums are fun to make and can be great gifts for your gardening friends.