As room dividers, potted plants offer an excellent alternative to the sort of furniture that is specifically manufactured for this purpose. When plants are used to divide large interiors into sections as, for instance, the living-dining areas, they offer some flexibility, as well as providing privacy without a solid wall.
The most important requirement of anyof plants is that it should be seen, so for maximum effect choose a prominent ; plants are too beautiful to be hidden away in a dark corner, although they can be used to hide an ugly feature or create a new dimension for a dull spot. The setting should not be too permanent as seeing the same plants month after month looking exactly the same may be dull. Make provision for some of the plants, particularly the flowering subjects, to be of a more temporary nature. And feel free to experiment: choose plants to show each other off in habit, texture, colour and shape, and to blend with or highlight the colours of the room.
To facilitate movement of plants, many of the containers that are manufactured specifically as planters have easy running castors fitted to the base of them. Containers of this type, besides being useful for the time when rearrangement of plants is necessary, will also make cleaning a much simpler task.
Containers are available in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, but as room dividers the square or oblong trough types are best, as they can be more easily butted together to form a barrier between one part of the room and the other. Some of the containers are fitted with capillarydevices which greatly reduce the need for visiting the planters with the watering can, as it is only necessary to top up the water reservoir in the bottom o( the container about once every two weeks. Capillary containers have indicators fitted which will show exactly how much water is required by the plants. However, it must be stressed that the reservoir should be allowed to dry out completely and remain dry for about five days between each topping up operation – this will permit the soil in the to become aerated, which would be impossible if it remained wet all the time.
Although containers used as room dividers are essentially oblong in shape, there is no reason why the feature should not be made up as a combination of smaller containers. The advantage here is that if several plants are used they can each be planted in their individual boxes, so that any problems that may occur with the soil in the box at a later date will be confined to one container and will not affect all the plants. If preferred, a layer of gravel can be placed in the bottom of the container and the plants, in their, placed on this.
In many instances indoors there is often the need for providing a container for a given location and it may then be necessary for one ot the correct size to be made. When making such containers it is important that they should not be too unwieldy, so if a very long trough type container is wanted, it may be necessary to build it in two or more sections.
Width and depth are important factors to consider if large plants that are intended to climb to the ceiling are envisaged. Tall plants of 1.8m/6ft or more in height will have to have a considerable bulk of soil around theirto keep them going. Therefore it means providing containers large enough to accept pots that may be as much as 25cm/10 in in diameter; the trough that is made must be at least that much across. The depth of the pot will be in the region of 30cm/1 ft , but it would be wiser to allow for at least 38cm/15in in order that a layer of gravel may be placed in the bottom of the trough on which the plant pots can be placed. The container must also have a liner of metal or plastic, so that any surplus moisture gathers in the bottom of the container rather than running out onto the carpet.
Having prepared the trough for accommodating the roots of the plant, or the pot, there is then need for providing some form of support on which the chosen plants may be allowed to climb. A simple trellis is probably the best way of overcoming the problem, and it can either have diamond- or square-shaped sections – the latter being my preference. Most trellis sections that are purchased ready-made for the job are almost invariably a dull brown in colour and not very interesting as features in the home. But the same trellis can be made to look very different simply by painting it white (or a colour that blends with the room’s colour scheme) rather than brown, andwill be set off much more effectively against the white.
The cheapest method of providing some form of support is to screw a 5 x 2.5cm/2 x 1 in slat into the ceiling immediately above the trough, and to insert stout screw eyelets into the slat. It will then be a simple task to tie thick nylon string from the eyelets in the ceiling to similar eyelets screwed into the trough. Screws can be inserted into either side of the trough so that the string can be traced up and down to form an open tent shape up which plant growth can either be trained or allowed to grow naturally. Done in this fashion the growth of the plant will be much less congested and will grow very much better.
By fixing a similar slat to the ceiling, you can employ slender lathes of wood for plants to grow against, the lathes to be pinned to the ceiling slat at one end and to a centre bar of wood running through the length of the trough at the bottom.
Although all manner of elaborate and expensive materials may be used for making the upper sections of room dividers, the simple and natural materials are very much more effective, as it is the plants themselves that should be the feature and not the framework.
Although flexibility could be claimed to be an advantage here, it will usually be found that thenormally used as room dividers will quickly become intertwined and a more or less permanent feature of the room.
Possibly the best plant of climbing habit that is intended for a location offering poor light is the grape ivy, Rhoicissus rhomboidea, with Philodendron scan dens running a close second. If rapid growth is an important need in the climbing plant used as a room divider there can be no better choice than Tetrastigma voinieriana – a vine that will grow at almost frightening pace it the prevailing conditions arc to its liking.
Room dividers are usually some distance from the natural light source of the window, so highly coloured plants such as crotons and variegated plants such as Hedera canadensis are comparatively unsuitable as they need ample light to keep them in good condition. Although crotons are not of climbing habit and
would not be suitable if a trellis or other framework were used, they could well be included in plant boxes that are raised on a waist-high wall near a window. The advantage of the latter method is that the plants are more easily seen in respect of their watering and other requirements and can be dealt with without need for too much bending.
If plants are some distance from the natural light source they will benefit from having artificial lighting placed above them, especially during the evening when they will not only benefit growthwise from the additional light but they will also be considerably improved in appearance.
From the foregoing it may seem that climbing plants against a framework are the only subjects that are suitable as room dividers, but this is not so as there is no reason why a row of stately dracaenas or ficus plants should not do an equally good job of segregating one part of the room from the other. But it must be remembered that only mature plants will be suitable for this purpose and, in any event, that mature plants will give the desired effect immediately. Also larger plants that are well established in their pots will settle to room conditions very much more readily than young plants. They would almost be scared out of their pots at the prospect of climbing a 2.4m/ 8ft bamboo, or lathe attached to the ceiling!