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tiny topiaries & “just our stuff”

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Last year was a big year for me.  I finally decided to give gardening and indoor plants a real effort.  I was actually going to water, tend, prune, weed, and fertilize.  Guess what happened?  I didn’t kill everything!

I only killed some things, but I learned a lot along the way.

I was not excited about warmer temperatures, because the A/C is broken in my van, but I was looking forward to the greenhouses being full again!  When my mom and I were antique shopping on Friday, we popped into a couple of local nurseries.  I was looking specifically for topiaries, but only found a half-blackened rosemary topiary.  I did find some little plants that could be trimmed up and made into topiaries, so I thought I would give that a try.

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I trimmed them up and tied them with cotton string to some little sticks I found in the yard.  We’ll see how it goes!  They certainly look cute at the moment.

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I did find a weeping fig (ficus) that has a topiary-ish shape.  I bought one last spring, but it really dropped leaves around Thanksgiving, so I finally waved the white flag and pitched it.  It made room for a mini Christmas tree, anyway, so it had good timing.  At $30, I was at peace with the fact that it only lasted for about 6 months.  I’m going to try to take this one further, though.

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We can do it, little guy!

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A funny thing about ficus tress… I actually bought one with my own money for my room when I was a TEENAGER. I also cleaned the entire house without prompting, but that’s another story.  I was definitely an oddball.  Anyway, I was infamous for misreading words at first glance and I thought the tag said “fiscus”, so I named my tree “Mr. Fiscus”.  It was later that I learned Mr. Fiscus was actually a ficus tree.  Duh.

I left this one (we can all him Fiscus Jr.) in the plastic pot it came in, but dropped it into an antique white bucket.

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I bought a few other plants.  Some herbs, succulents, baby tears, etc…

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While I was weeding and potting in the afternoon, the boys enjoyed the warm weather and played in the hose.  When Calvin came in, he curled up in one of my antique quilts on the ottoman.  It was just such a sweet moment, that I grabbed my camera.  I love that, even though we have lots of antiques, to them it’s just our stuff in our home.

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And that’s just how it should be.

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Comments

  1. Sonja says:

    sounds and look lovely. Well done for persevering. I find much of my life is about persevering rather than achieving perfection, just planted a bunch of herbs and find it delightful to add them fresh to what I am cooking, wishing I could join you at Lucketts but am too far away in Zimbabwe. However, love your blog and love following you. Thanks for a wonderful resource.

  2. Marsha Kern says:

    I want to go to Lucketts so bad!!!!

  3. Sheri says:

    I love the plants! Would you mind sharing where you purchased the pots you planted your mini “topiaries” in? I love the aged look they have! Thank you ?

    • I got some just like that at hobby lobby

      • Yes, that’s where I got mine as well.

      • Maureen says:

        Please tell me where these whitewashed little terra cotta pots were in Hobby Lobby. I spent an hour wandering the aisles and could not find them. I thought they would be with the glass vases and terra cotta when I walk in to the store on the left, but no luck.

        • marian says:

          I found them last fall and I don’t saw them in one Hobby Lobby, so it may not be something they have at every store. I looked at mine recently and didn’t see them. They were on one of the “islands” around the aisle of the store. I would suggest looking with the pots by the silk florals, though, if they aren’t in some random spot!

  4. Nancy says:

    Ficus don’t like to be moved, so if you find a spot yours “likes”, leave it there. Also my ficus, that I’ve had for 25 years always drops leaves when the weather changes. Advice I got from our greenhouse was to not be afraid to trim it up. Hope that helps!

  5. I was going to say the same thing as Nancy. It’s totally normal for them to drop their leaves. They aren’t dying. Actually, don’t overwater either. Mine often got bone dry and did fine. I got sick of it after about 15-20 years and gave it to my daughter and it’s still going great.

    • Darlene says:

      I was going to say the same thing too. Also Ficus don’t like to be shaken……such as, when leaves are dropping off, don’t shake the tree to get more off (I did that and it took the tree a long time to recover).

  6. LOVE that topiary ficus….it is perfection in that firkin and sitting on that primitive stool !

    I agree with Sheri about the mini topiary pots too…….PERFECTION !

  7. the late fall denuding of the ficus is part of its normal cycle. Also, consider potting it up a couple of inches. Just about all house plants I have bought, were root bound.

  8. Cindy in Oklahoma says:

    Small plants trimmed into topiaries? Love.
    Baby tears? Love more.
    Calvin wrapped in quilt? …..Love most.

  9. Marlene Stephenson says:

    You are so right that is exactly how it should be for our children or grandchildren. Our homes can be lovely with antiques and still be comfy and cozy. Thanks Marian.

  10. Melissa Leach says:

    What Cindy in OK said! Love!

  11. annemarie says:

    Yes, letting kids be kids is what makes a house a home.
    Love your posts and your projects.

  12. [email protected] says:

    you know – in Puerto Rico the ficus trees grow (outdoors) up into BIG TREES! Taller than a HOUSE!
    -b.

  13. Sheila says:

    Now I want a ficus! Off to find a spot for one.

  14. sweetness …
    thank you once again, xo

  15. Lindsey says:

    How do you water it? Is there anything at the bottom to protect the antique bucket?

  16. I was inspired last fall by your gardening table that had topiaries. So I needed something for a quick fill for zero cost. I cut–maybe broke off–the top of a fast growing Dusty Miller And it is still looking great in the pot!!! Free plant. I also break them off to fill in a bald spot in my window box or even in the ground. I constantly cut them for fresh flower arrangements I then had success in mini gardens cutting some rosemary and stripping the bottom to make a line of little trees by just shoving it in the soil. So could I choose a bit bigger stem of rosemary from my small pot, strip it and shape it to be a topiary?? Yes!!!!! It made it through our hottest October and November and coldest winter and it’s still working and growing!!!! I’d like one from a store because this will take forever ( maybe if I fed it!!) but if you want a quick plant for an empty pot these both work? You were my inspiration!!

  17. Cindy Jothen says:

    I have had the same ficus tree for over 25 years. When I trim it I put the larger stems in water to get them started for an other tree. When they are young I braid the trunks, eventually the trunk grows into one beautiful braid.
    They love light, just not direct light or to much heat.
    I live in Arizona so I do have to water my trees often. I love mine, hope you enjoy yours.

  18. shirley l wells says:

    Your house is so beautiful!!!! I love everything you do:)

  19. Patty Kasparian says:

    I love houseplants; they go with every style and are always a perfect neutral!

  20. I’ve always had a problem with ficus dropping their leaves too, so I hope you have more success this time, and share your tips!

  21. My favorite indoor plants are orchids. I get flowers for months, greenery year-round, and they eventually flower again (usually a year later).

    When I was a teenager I used to spend money on maidenhair ferns. The trouble is, they like a humid climate, and I live in the desert! They never lasted long.

    I have the most success with outdoor plants. Rosemary grows year-round in my climate, and I’ve pruned one plant to a topiary, and working on getting another to that point. I only prune it when I am using it to cook with, so that nothing is wasted.

    In the garden, I’m also working to grow several euonymus bushes into round topiary balls. It takes a few years for them to get large enough to trim round.

  22. Naomi S. says:

    I was walking in my neighborhood one day and came to a house on a corner, not far from my house. Under a tree at the corner of the yard was a small ficus tree with a sign on it that said “Free”. I’ve never had much success with ficuses, but I grabbed up that little guy and said, “You are going home with me and we’re going to be friends!” Well, so far, it hasn’t dropped many leaves and it seems to like the window where I put it. When I picked it up it had two branches but my two five-year-old grandsons were horsing around in that window and broke the tallest one clean off. I was NOT happy, but not much I could do after the fact and since I wasn’t there when it happened. I was worried it would die from shock, but it didn’t and is still looking healthy with only the one branch. It usually dries out before I water it and seems to prefer not too much moisture even tho’ it likes the bright light. Since reading your post I’m thinking I might try to trim it into a topiary shape. It has green and white variegated leaves and would look nice as a topiary, I think.

    Thanks for the post, Marian, and for sharing Calvin’s photo. So sweet and perfectly at ease with the beautiful but “lived in” home you’ve created. Striking that balance between valuing one’s surroundings, yet being comfortable to be at ease in them is really crucial raising children. I’m learning that in spades since recently having small boys in my house frequently!

  23. I have had ficus trees in my house for years. They grow like weeds for me. The one I had in our lake house got so big I gave it to the lady who bough our house; our new house didn’t have ceilings that high! Here are some of my tips for successful indoor ficus trees…

    1. They like bright light, but direct sun through a window pane maybe be too much and may brown the leaf tips. I don’t put them in windows with a southern exposure. A corner by a window with a little bit of shade from a window covering is perfect.

    2. Ficus like to dry out in-between watering’s. I water mine every Saturday (just because its easier for me to remember) and I water until I see a bit of water in the pot tray. In the winter I check them more often. The furnace heat make everything drier, including your plants. About once a month, when its warm out, I take them out side and give them a good deep watering with the hose, and lightly spray off the leaves. Just like makeup will clog up our pores, dust covering leaves will slow down photosynthesis in plants.

    3. Ficus do drop leaves; nothing to worry about, they are shedders. All indoor plants benefit from a bit of mulch on top of the soil to keep them moist. What I do is, put the shed leaves back on top of the soil in the pot. It acts as a natural mulch and eventually a compost to feed the tree.

    4. I feed my ficus twice a year; spring, and fall. I used Miracle Grow house plant food that I buy at lowes.

    5. Repot when you start to see roots coming out the drain holes. But the key to repotting a ficus is to not go too big with the pot. A couple inches bigger is sufficient. Ficus needs to be a little bit root bound to grow up. In other words, if the pot is too big the plant will expend all of its energy growing roots to fill the pot first until is snug and comfortable. After it is comfortable in the pot, then it will switch gears and start growing branches and leave; become fuller and taller. If you put a little tree in a gigantic pot, it will stay small for a very, very long time.

    I hope this helps. Like other ladies have commented, I have had one ficus plant (I called her Betsy) for 20 years now. She moved with me from California, to Dallas, and then to North Carolina. At one point she was down to a few leaves (shock from traveling in a trailer in the winter from Dallas to NC), and weathered a nasty bout of spider mites; but bounced back both times stronger than ever. Happy House Plants, Marian :)

  24. Krista says:

    Such pretty little plants & pots. They all look so pretty in your home. And the picture of your son is so sweet…you’ll treasure that photo especially when he’s an adult!

  25. I’m not very smart when it comes to plants, so I was wondering the name of the plant you used to make your mini topiaries? They are so sweet! I need some! Love your blog!

  26. Hyedi says:

    Tera, that’s exactly what I was going to ask Marian; please tell us non green thumbers what is what, in the mini pots she planted.

  27. Laurine Heberling says:

    Awhile back you mentioned the wooden handle-round brush which you love. Me too, I have used them for 60 some years-they are my faves, but I can’t find them around here – Butler, Pa. 35 miles North of Pgh. Can you suggest a source? Sure appreciate.

  28. I was wondering the same thing as Lindsey: do you take the plant out of the bucket to water it or is there some kind of liner inside? I’ve always liked the look of indoor trees in a woven basket but wondered how people water them?

  29. Laura Higgins says:

    I’ve been gardening as long as I been collecting antiques, which is over 40 years. Anyhoo, plants are never meant to live in the plastic pots they are sold in. Find a pot a little bigger, tickle the roots. Yes, I said tickle the roots, which means loosen them up. Then repot. I agree Ficus do not like to be moved.

  30. Beth H. says:

    What Patti said, above. I’ve had many. Took one from inside and planted it outside by the back fence. Do NOT plant them close to your house or any other trees!! This tiny 4ft tree I had inside for years took off outside and grew almost 3 stories tall. It blocked all of the sun coming in from the west to my yard. The roots are humongous and started to push up the grass (thankfully I planted this far enough away from my house foundation). I would trim it all the time but it just wouldn’t stop growing and blocking out everything. My other smaller trees, grapefruit, and other plants were not doing well because they weren’t getting any sun. It had to go. Chopped it down!! (it was probably 25 years old at this point). within a month my grapefruit tree perked up and started to bear fruit! And the rest of my yard finally got some sunshine.
    So I guess what I’m trying to say is, keep it potted! Don’t even think about planting it close to your house as the roots will do a number on your plumbing lines and foundation.

  31. Gail Hadley says:

    I have a huge bamboo plant standing on an old red antique ladder as well! Love ur page so much!!!

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