Sometimes it is better to sit inside, and read a good book
There are times when it is simply a pleasure to sit inside and relax, read a good book, watch something of interest on the television or have a good conversation.
It is especially enjoyable to do so in a quiet, peaceful space where the addition of some flowers and greenery could make a world of difference to the ambience of the surroundings.
Houseplants are usually of a foliage nature; they can also be dust gatherers, which meld into the surrounding furnishings without cause or justification and in time, become a fixture regardless of their disposition.
As a change, consider using plants that are normally found in the flower beds but can have as much interest, fragrance and character as flowers. With the wide variety of plant containers/pots now available, interest can be taken to the next level with creative placement and plant characteristics.
For quick-flowering plants, there are numerous types of annuals that can be used when in bloom and rotated with time. Availability varies with the seasons so there can always be a presence of flowering annuals.
Herbs can be grown in light, airy spaces and have the benefit of being both visually attractive and supplying taste to culinary delights. Popular types are basil, thyme, parsley, chives, chervil, rosemary, sage, tarragon and oregano.
Bulbs, rhizomes and similar plants are not readily available in Bermuda except normally from "inground" stock, which can be lifted and divided then potted on for indoor use. Obvious choices include tagetes (marigolds), petunias, phlox, pansies, bells of Ireland.
For the bulbous, rhizomatous types, one can select from a wide range of material, including, Easter lilies; Agapanthus (lily of the Nile); Hemerocallis (day lilies); Begonias; Alpinia (ginger); Canna; Clivia (Kaffir lily); Crinum; Eucharis (Amazon lily); Hippeastrum (amaryllis); Zephyranthes (rain lily). These can be lifted and divided, potted up and maintained in a protected area until established and blooms start to develop; they can then be brought inside to "do their thing".
Grass-like foliage adds contrast to an arrangement of container groupings, with the oft-seen Liriope (lily grass) and Ophiopogon (mondo grass) being candidate; both types are found in both low-growing and taller species.
Another grass type is miscanthus sinensis zebrinus (zebra grass), which dies down in winter but is worth a try during the summer months. Pennisetum setaceum rubrum (purple fountain) grass is a good colour accent plant and is best used inside during the summer, when most active. From an architectural perspective several of the local bamboo species, when used against a blank wall, would make a bold statement, especially with uplighting or similar.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder however consideration should be given to a plant’s "personality" ie its general appearance, what it can offer as an indoor plant and how long it will give visual acceptance.
With that in mind, plants which perhaps fall into that category but are worthy of consideration are the aspidistra elatior (cast iron plant), which survives in shady locations; the sansevieria trifasciata laurentii – commonly known as mother-in-law's tongue – is also a hardy candidate for low light areas. Crassual argentea (jade plant) has a compact habit, is evergreen and succulent and therefore a very hardy plant for indoors. The Christmas cactus (schlumbergera) and Easter cactus (rhipasalidopsis) add a touch of colour when in bloom and should be treated as seasonal usage plants.
When using "garden" plants for indoor use, it is advisable to rotate them regularly but in a similar light environment. The ideal is to use a tunnel house which is covered with shade cloth or slats.
A selection of garden plants worth trying are aralias in the polyscias species, which offer a range in leaf characteristics that are visually attractive. Examples include P. guilfoylei varieties, P. scutellaria balfourii marginata and P. filicifolia, with fern leaf like foliage.
It is important to remember the importance of keeping aerosol sprays away from indoor plants as this will have an impact on their foliage appearance. it is also important to keep them away from draughts and direct sun when near a window.
Malcolm Griffiths is a trained horticulturalist and fellow of the Chartered Institute of Horticulture in the UK. He is also past president of the Bermuda Horticultural Society, Bermuda Orchid Society and the Bermuda Botanical Society