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Plant area in new house

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by Oruboris on February 28, 2006 02:52 PM
I'm in the planning stage for my new home, And I'd like a 'plant area'.

It will be a basicly triangular, about 28 square feet, with a water feature and small pond for my goldfish. This will provide humidity and a source for nutrient rich water...

The outside wall will face north and have a window, but the primary source of light will be an east facing skylight. 2 story entry area, so the ceiling will be around 24 feet.

It will be a 'raised bed' type affair to discourage the pets from getting *too* back to nature.

I'd like it to appear to be a single bed as opposed to a collection of pots. I'd love a meyer's lemon [is it true they bloom almost constantly?], perhaps a Norfolk Island pine. Other than that, a good range of heights and folige color/texture.

Advice on any aspect of this project will be most welcome.
by Patty S on February 28, 2006 04:32 PM
Gosh Oruboris, that sounds like such an awesome idea! [thumb] When we were house hunting here, we looked at a place that had such a "room", but it was actually a little yard that the house was built around! There was a sliding glass door for access, & wire mesh across the top (at roof level), as the former owners kept birds in there, too! I'd never seen anything like it, & it was absolutely charming! Having lived most of my life in Montana however, I realize that an open air room like that would defeat your dreams, with the winters you have!

I assume that you're planning to build your new home (or this particular room) with bricks, rather than lumber, to avoid structural damage from all the humidity that would accumulate from an indoor garden and a pond. (We have a friend who had an indoor Hot tub once, & he ended up taking it out because of that very problem!) I'm certainly not an architect or even a Carpenter, so I can't advise you, but I'm sure there's a way to ventilate it to avoid structural damage, & still maintain the climate you need... I've been in homes with professionally installed Steam saunas & Hot tubs, so I know it's possible.

I don't know firsthand about Meyer's lemon trees, but I found a comment that was posted by someone who has one... she said, "that darn tree just keeps producing all year long no matter how much I neglect it." (Reading that makes me want one, too!)

I doubt if I've been much help, but I really liked your description, so I wanted to comment on your "dream home" & encourage you to keep going with the idea, & look into the possibilities of making it a reality! (Maybe consulting a licensed contractor is part of your plan... you didn't mention if you have one lined up.)

Welcome to the Forum, by the way! You'll find the folks here so friendly that in no time at all, you'll feel like they've been your neighbors all your life! They come from all walks of life too, so maybe you'll get some "real" help with getting your house built & planning those gardens!

(Where are you, in Montana? I was born in Billings & spent my childhood there, then married a Libby boy. We raised our kids in Libby before the Timber industry went belly-up & we had to move on. (Our household is still supported by "Timber Dollars", though! [grin] ) We don't miss the harsh winters, but know we'll never find another place on Earth like our Big Sky Country, for fishing, hunting & camping! It'll ALWAYS be "home" to us!) [Smile]

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by tkhooper on February 28, 2006 10:55 PM
Re: Water/humidity damage. There is a specific sheet rock/dry wall that is used in bathrooms for exactly that situation. It is green rather than white when you go to the home improvement store to get it. Building with brick or rock isn't necessary unless you have the money for that kind of thing.

um, an 8 x 8 foot room would be 64 square feet and would be really small for a solarium. Could you possible make it bigger?

Here is my idea for what it is worth.


Build tiers starting with the shortest on the outside and going up from there. That would put your pond water feature and trees on the top tier. I would also add one more tree something palm like. Being on the top tier the roots and the pond could be sunk into the ground without having to lower the floor in the room.

Next I would use the two outter wall corners for floor to ceiling storage cabinets on the North west side and for a potting watering area on the North east side. Assuming that you are going to have a wet as well as dry sink in the solarium. That's so much easier than having to transport the water.

Any way from there I would probably put the staircase up the tiers on the north west side because that would be the shadiest side once the plants began to grow. For that side I would definitely want an Arabian Jasmine on a trellis of some kind possible shaped like an arbor that went over the stairwell. For the darkest corner of course the castiron plant would work well since it can handle a lack of light. On that side I would also have a variety of ferns including the painted variety. I of course can not remember it's exact name at this point. Also if you like anstibles this might work for them too.

I think the main thing to remember in planning your solarium is that plants that need a winter would need to be buried in there pots and taken outside for the winter. I'm not sure but your pine may be in this catagory. That's why most house plants are tropical. They don't need to experience a "winter".

On the east side where you have morning sun comming in you might want to try succulents like cactus, jade, portulaca, Kalanchoe Calandiva, and any of the other succulents that you like. I'm not sure what to tell you about the north side. I would probably try for a waterfall but that's because I love waterfalls and babbling brooks. Again I think it is a matter of personal preferrence. Being as far north as you are I would definitely think about trying to add the full spectrum lighting around the room in some way were it wasn't an eye sore but could give the plants additional light. It sounds as if the room is going to be pretty dark. But then I may not be seeing it right in my minds eye.

Next I would definitely try and design a drip water irrigation system since that would save you having to climb all over the tiers to water everything. And that way you could control how much water got to each section.

Well good luck with your project. I hope you will post pictures during the process.

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by Oruboris on March 02, 2006 05:32 AM
I should have been more clear in my description: this space will essentially be half the floor space of my entry area, with the front door on one side, dining room on another. Seperated from the kitchen by an open staircase, overlooked by the office on the second floor.

I'm hoping the lemon tree quickly reaches a height where it can be enjoyed from all these other rooms.

The northern exposure with eastern skylights is pretty set-in-stone: Either this space or the kitchen gets the south/east light, and at the end of the day, the kitchen won.

I'm not to concerned about humidity: the air here is very dry [I'm in the SW corner of the state, near Yellowstone park, a mile above sea level]. My larger aquarium looses about 2 quarts of water a day, and I still have a hard time growing high humidity plants like maranatha.

I'm unsure what kind of look I'm going for-- tropical jungle? Manicured garden? A quiet corner in the woods?-- I just know I want it to be lush, healthy-looking and colorful.

My biggest worry at this planning stage is making sure the eastern skylights provide enough light. I'm also wondering if there is anything I can do as far as the heating system, etc. that will make the space more successful. I do plan on having some plumbing in the area to make it easier to maintain.

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