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Ask Thumbelina Greene: Office Gardening

by Ruby Bayan

Beth, TX: Our building maintenance people takes care of our office plants -- should I still keep plants of my own?

Greene: Gardening is a form of expression, whether you do it in the backyard, on the patio, in the bathroom, or at the office. The kind of plants you care for reveal a lot about your personality -- and not having any plant to care for also says a lot about you. Of course, it could easily mean you don't have the time, are allergic to flowers, or have a phobia for plants, but otherwise, the general impression is: "What? You don't like plants?!"

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Keith, FL: I love plants. I have a lot of greenery at my office. And I enjoy using the watering can. But I detest handling dirt. Can I still call myself an office gardener?

Greene: First of all, it's called soil. People who love plants are called plant-lovers. Those who get a kick from watering cans are called watering-can-lovers. Gardeners, on the other hand, take care of plants, which includes handling the material from which plants derive food and nutrients. You can't call yourself a dentist if you detest putting your fingers inside a patient's mouth. Get the idea?

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Joel, WY: I bought some indoor plants on sale at the garden center, for my office space. But they're in these black plastic pots. How can I make them look attractive without having to spend too much?

Greene: There are several ways to camouflage these nursery pots. If you don't want to spend on baskets and ceramic planters, look around your office for substitutes. Some office items that can be used as plant containers are: pencil holders, coffee mugs, diskette tubs, index card cases, waste baskets, and busted fax machines.

If these are not available, you can decorate the black pots directly -- with correction fluid, permanent markers, and colorful stick-on labels. You can tape some of those fancy, shiny, gold-embossed business cards, too -- convenient way to look up names and addresses.

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Claudia, NC: I work in a small cubicle in the middle of a huge office, so I'm a mile away from the closest window. How can I make my garden grow?

Greene: Several varieties of plants thrive under artificial lighting, so the fluorescent lights at your office should suffice. One favorite indoor plant is the African Violet -- they will bloom under a reading lamp. You will have to keep the light on during the day, though, even when you're not reading. Or you can try mushrooms -- they grow in the dimmest office.

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