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HOMEHome & Patio Articles

Horticulture Design ~ Foyer Gardens
by Carole Schwalm A decorative foyer with plants growing inside.

In the ancient art of feng shui:

Outside the entrance, the occupants are not part of the house; inside the entrance, they become a part of the house and the house becomes part of them.

Your foyer not only welcomes guests into your home it also is where energy enters and enhances the people who live there. What better source of loving energy is there than plants in a miniature garden or indoor vignette?

Bonsai plant as vignette
Think of them as possibilities for a vignette, on a shelf for example. You might find a new gardening hobby! This plant btw is 70 years old.

Bonsai serves as a perfect inspiration. Viewing bonsai should be a kind of rest, a green pause in the staccato pace of daily life, a brief contact with nature's great calm.

This is what a foyer is about: the entrance to your restful home whether accomplished with diminutive bamboos, pine trees, and plum trees or within a creative arrangement of house plants in eye-catching glazed pots or hanging containers. Your environment is even more peaceful with the addition of a fountain and/or a natural rock setting. Don't have a lot of space? Miniaturize!


Living plants need illumination that meets light requirements. Light is life to the photosynthesis process. Direct sun means the plant requires between 4-6 hours of light a day. Bright sunlight means no direct rays but filtered or indirect. Moderate sunlight means an intermediate amount.

A Buxaceae plant hanging in front of a window in a foyer.
A Buxaceae in a stunning container, simple yet eye-catching. This evergreen ornamental shrub is good in every environment but a south window. ("The Facts of Light")

Light arrives through windows.

Did you know that natural sunlight is reduced to a point that it is too dark for many plants at just three feet away from the window?

A north window receives less light and least heat. Low light plants work best here, even though they would rather have more sun. Asparagus or maidenhair ferns make good hanging plants. A dracaena in a glass container with stones could be a vignette centerpiece.

Southern exposure recreates a greenhouse atmosphere and happily adopts an azalea or a cactus grouping. It is totally Zen and vignette friendly as home for heavenly bamboo. (In summer, southern-exposed plants need to be protected from strong rays).

An east window receives direct light from morning until mid-day, and is a bit cooler environment. A Boston fern or a lipstick vine are lovely hanging plants. A weeping fig is a showpiece. "A tree is the symbol of all life."

A dracaena in a glass container.
A dracaena in a glass container. Dirt is at the top and stone layering. The vase technique can be done with many plants. This is a gardenia. It needs an airy window but keep away from southern exposure in the summer. Use your imagination. Make sure you do not neglect the roots! (From "The Facts of Light" book picture credit)

A west window creates the highest summer temps, dangerous or deadly for many plants. The exposure calls for curtaining or filtering out rays if the plant needs low light. This is another cacti surroundings. A kangaroo vine or artillery fern are blissfully suspended. Either a Norfolk Island pine or rubber tree is a center of attention.


You may have to consider artificial lighting to fulfill your miniature garden's requirements. And yes, plants grow in supplemented sunlight as long as it "shines" at least 10-16 hours a day, the same time each day. It isn't as nature intends, and a few types of plants won't thrive, but only a small number. And, in this "light," flowering plants work in your foyer.

A lamp or bright overhead light are options when it comes to enhancing illumination. However, ensure that the plants are safe from intense heat from regular light bulbs.

A plant growing in a decorative vase. Incandescent bulbs, fluorescent light, and Halogen quartz are options, and all produce a small amount of heat. Incandescent lighting is economical because of its longer lifetime. Fluorescent lights come in mini or aquarium tubes that are nicer looking than the old-fashioned 3' long bars of lights that come immediately to mind when you think fluorescent!


In your little home microclimate: Too much light and it is too intense. Too little and you risk impaired photosynthesis. Too hot and it growth is reduced. Too low -- same thing.

A light meter checks foot candles or where to find the minimum of 200 to 1,000 lux during the day. It also helps you to find the just right angle seasonally, when direct sunlight positioning changes. (Move plants that thrive in eastern or southern exposure to the west in winter).

Most plants need a temperature of 65 to 75 degrees. There are more problems from too much heat than too little. They tolerate 50 to 60 draft-free degrees at night. Plants need good air circulation. Also, think humidity requirements.

Mirrors accent vignettes and are a source of light reflection helpful for plant growth.

Share your foyer gardening experience or if you'd like more information.