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Tabletop gardens welcome spring

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The soil is still a bit too hard — frozen to be exact — in our neck of the woods, southwest of Chicago, to do any serious planting. During this in-between time of year, when the weather is sometimes unsettled, a small portable garden placed on a table, a kitchen counter, or windowsill is a great way to dress up your home and lift your spirits.

A basket filled with a few pots of primroses, a little Zen garden — a ceramic bowl filled with moss — or a shallow container planted with herbs are good choices.

Rosemary McCreary, author of "Tabletop Gardens" (Storey, 168 pages, $16.95) uses herbs, grasses, spring-blooming bulbs, bamboo, orchids,miniature trees, and water-loving plants like cyperus to create striking one-of-a-kind containers.

“Tabletop gardens bring the outdoors in, and many people want to feel this connection with the natural world,” she says.

Succulents ideal for tabletop gardens

Succulents, with their blue-green chunky leaves, are among her favorites. “They are neat and clean for indoors, and you don’t need much soil," she explains. "They’re inexpensive, fun, and, in a shallow tray, they make a fabulous centerpiece.”

Ms. McCreary purchases a variety of succulents with different sizes and colors of leaves and combines them in one shallow pot that has drainage holes, which is critical for growing these drought-loving plants.

Buying plants in small pots is an economical way to create a miniature garden. And don’t overlook the produce section and the floral displays in your local food market, says floral designer Dennis Kovar of Attica, Ind.

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