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i couldn't wait to bring plants into my apartment. Any good decorator will tell you that a house needs living things -- other than its owner -- to make it feel like a home. Plants are the perfect solution for me, because the level of care they require suits my busy life. And they look so good, softening the right angles of the rooms and adding a sculptural element to the decor. But mainly I love them because they're alive. That may sound corny, but I've grown extremely attached to my philodendrons, bromeliads, and ferns. By bringing joy and beauty to my life, they reward me for the caring attention I give them. (Yes, I talk to my plants!)
When I set out to choose houseplants from the hundreds that are available, I had practical and aesthetic considerations in mind. Of course, I needed to consider the quality and duration of light in my apartment, but I also found myself seeing the project in decorating terms. Exploring the graphic effect, color, texture, and pattern of each plant was eye-opening. The options turned out to be endless.
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Take the philodendron in my living room. It does exactly what I want it to do by holding its own against the view. This plant is like the perfect chair -- inviting and elegant. It thrives in my living room in full or partial sun with super-aerated soil (three parts soil mix to one part mulch), excellent drainage, and weekly watering.
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Instead of using cut flowers to decorate the dining room table, I've opted for a mass of ebullient bromeliads, placed -- I think quite chicly -- in white sand. For me it's especially gratifying to give makeovers to plants that are considered out of style.
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Asparagus ferns, spider plants, and mother-in-law's tongue can all be sophisticated and surprising if you match them with the right container. Dress the pots with a decorative topping, such as Spanish moss, sand, or gravel, and they'll be anything but fuddy-duddy. Bromeliads make a fabulous -- and semipermanent -- centerpiece for my dining room table. With their small root system, they do well in compact containers if they have wellaerated soil and good drainage. A frothy asparagus fern softens the graphic lines of my bedroom cabinet and does well in moderate sun.
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The plant's container is all-important, so toss that macrame hanging basket, and install your spider plant in a simple ceramic bowl top-dressed with moss. Instantly, it's modern! (Not to mention easy to care for, since it will tolerate sun and shade and a range of indoor temperatures.)
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How to do justice to an amazing bromeliad? With a mirrored or black-glass cube so it appears to float. It does fine in partial sun, but for spectacular leaves, treat it to full but not direct sun.
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The sansevieria (mother-in-law's tongue) in my bedroom window is a perfect indoor hedge. Planted in one long container, it provides privacy without sacrificing light. Sansevieria need watering once a month and love the shade but will adapt to light.
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I adore African violets and their unassuming cousin gloxinia, which I keep in a small pot on my bedroom desk. The light there is bright but diffused by a shade -- just the way gloxinias like it.
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Kevin's Plant-Care Essentials: The Finishing Touches
Simply spreading white gravel (top), clump moss (right), sand (bottom), or Spanish moss (left) around the base of a houseplant is an easy way to finish its look. Moss adds polish to a humble gloxinia; white gravel plays off and highlights the drama of sansevieria. And what could be more striking than bromeliad leaves shooting up out of pure-white sand? I'm partial to Spanish moss for embellishment. It's an air plant that lacks most of the cells that make plants green, hence its gorgeous silvery color. And it keeps that ethereal quality even after you've watered the plant it decorates.
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Kevin's Plant-Care Essentials: Kit of Smarts
I love the ritual of caring for my plants. Each requires a slightly different regimen of cleaning, watering, trimming, and fertilizing. I keep the tools and solutions I need in one container. In this case, it's a handled wire basket that's easy to carry around the apartment as I move from one plant to the next. A mister, some plant food, paintbrushes from a home-supply store for dusting leaves, garden shears, small pruners, and an absorbent towel are all I need. When I'm not fussing over my plants, I keep the basket in the pantry. Classico small basket, in Chrome, gracioushome.com
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