CONCORD, N.H. -- Not only am I without a green thumb, but I have a black cat that nibbles on anything vaguely leafy that enters my home. Might faux succulent plants be the way to go?
Real succulents - drought-resistant plants with thick stems and leaves that sometimes resemble squat, miniature cabbages - are super trendy, but they're not necessarily easy to raise indoors in limited light. A few that I salvaged from a flower arrangement in February survived being planted in small pots, but soon grew unattractively leggy due to lack of sun. So I turned to fake varieties, trying out three techniques for making succulent plants out of paper, felt and pinecones.
None of them would pass for the real thing, and I wouldn't have the patience to make a dozen of them for a centerpiece or to adorn a wreath. Still, each had its own charm, and as one-offs, might make cute end-of-school-year gifts for a favorite teacher.
Here's what I found, with each method rated from 1 to 10, with 10 indicating the least expensive, easiest and best results:
Following a tutorial on Craftberry Bush blog (http://bit.ly/2s00WuO ), I painted several sheets of cardstock with shades of light green paint, and then cut out a variety of leaf shapes using a template downloaded from the website. The tutorial calls for using thick cardstock with the texture of handmade paper. I used standard, smooth cardstock that I had on hand, but crumpled it up a bit while the paper was still damp to make it more pliable and give it a bit of texture.
While I enjoyed painting the paper, assembling the plant was challenging. The instructions call for rolling up a rectangle of cardstock to make a stem and then gluing individual leaves to it, but holding everything in place was tricky. The result looks cute in a little pot, but the thin paper doesn't much resemble succulent leaves. Using thicker cardstock or handmade paper would have helped, though that also would add to the cost.
I have a soft spot for felt, which I've used to make a variety of faux foods for my son when he was little, plus many Christmas ornaments and decorations over the years. For this project, I followed a tutorial (http://bit.ly/2szvgte ) on a blog associated with the craft company Super + Super.
While the instructions call for printing and cutting out patterns for leaves and then pinning them to felt, I found it easier to just hold the pattern in place while I cut. I didn't worry about being particularly precise, given that actual leaves aren't identical. The site includes templates for several varieties of succulents; I chose one that included an extra step of cutting a slit in each leaf, allowing them to curve a bit.
This project was fairly easy, involving just cutting out the leaves and gluing them to a square base of felt. The result is more whimsical than realistic, but I think a few of them arranged in a shallow box would provide a nice decorative touch to a mantel or side table.
This version would have been the easiest, if I had the right tools. I followed a tutorial (http://bit.ly/2rPTQYM ) on a blog called Running With Sisters, which used this technique to make a pretty wreath decorated with the faux plants.
This method involves cutting pinecones in half and painting them to resemble succulents. My problem was I had neither a handsaw nor a pruning shears to cut the pinecones, and cutting them with an old pair of scissors was a messy, difficult job. Covering every bit of the "leaves" with paint took some time, but the result is probably the most realistic, given that the pinecone petals have a thickness and shape similar to succulent leaves.
Rainy weather kept me from collecting pinecones outside, so I purchased some at a craft store, but had I gone the natural route, this version would have been the cheapest, too.