February 2018 Gardening

by Jane Ahrens

From Mélie’s Garden

After living twenty years in the country, my husband and I moved to an apartment in New York. Once there, a friend asked me to join the house committee at The Garden Club of America’s Headquarters. I was put on the Hospitality Committee and was assigned to work on flower arranging for events that were held there. One winter, we were faced with a number of lunches and dinners, all quite close together, and the thought of all those centerpieces was quite daunting. I had found, among the enormous collection of containers at GCA, about a dozen round glass fish bowls and I came up with the idea to plant begonias in them. These small “terrariums” would hopefully last for a month or two and cut down on the time and expense of cut flower arrangements.

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I drove up to my favorite plant supplier, Logee’s Greenhouses, in Danielson, CT and bought tons of small begonias to put into the glass bowls. Begonias don’t mind living in containers and the spectacular variety of colors in their leaves can be very pretty. If they bloom, which they do towards the end of winter, it only just adds to their delight. Back at GCA we assembled the terrariums, putting three begonias in each bowl. We used houseplant soil with a little perlite and charcoal added to keep the soil light and well drained. It is usually recommended to put pebbles at the bottom of a terrarium for better drainage, but the bowls were too small to do that, so the perlite and charcoal helped in not having the begonias rot. The containers were then watered sparingly, which begonias like even when planted in pots. The centerpieces turned out to be quite appealing and those of us who had assembled them were pleased with the results of our efforts.

A few days after the first event, I went down to check on the terrariums. I was met by the GCA receptionist, who seemed quite upset and said, “Oh Mrs. Spofford, I just don’t know how to tell you this!” And my heart sank imagining bowls of dead begonias, but after taking a deep breath, she said, “When we were taking the terrariums back to the flower room after the lunch, we noticed that two or three plants had been removed from a couple of the containers!” I have often wondered how those GCA ladies, all properly attired, had smuggled out the stolen plants in their Hermés handbags! They would certainly have been able to easily scoop out the begonias with a dessert spoon but did they come prepared with plastic Baggies to put the plants into or did just a Kleenex do to wrap them up and pop them into their bags? Luckily, Logee’s was quickly able to FedEx replacement plants because we had a number of lunches coming up and I am happy to report no more begonias were stolen and the flower budget for GCA stayed intact that winter.

Featured Photo

USCG Eagle passing the Race early morning March 18, 2023 on her return from the Chesapeake Bay . Photo Credit Marlin Bloethe

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