Philip L. Standifer exudes free spirit, creativity and passion for all things in nature – after all, he is an Eagle Scout. A freelance horticulturist and garden designer, combining “aesthetic manipulation,” as he calls it, with his extensive knowledge in plant behavior, over the past 15 years he has worked on projects from Atlanta to Savannah to Amelia Island. Currently, his company, Rockstar Gardens, actively consults in the region and in Savannah with Herb Creek Landscape Supply and Low Country Landscapes. Using the wilds of the Low Country, with such places as Amelia Island and Cumberland Island as his muse, he and his business partner Chris Igou are opening a by-appointment garden shop-studio on Amelia Island.


We asked Standifer and Igou to share with us how to build a living centerpiece, or terrarium, for your dining room table. A living centerpiece is low maintenance and a great conversation starter.

There are a few rules to remember. Placement, space and scale are important. If you have a wide space, using a large glass bowl would work. If you are going for a long, narrow centerpiece, using stemless wine glasses lined up on a wooden cheese board would be a better fit. Use natural, local and arid plants and succulents that don’t need or want water and that will last.



Throw a handful or two of crushed, recycled glass pieces into some interesting glassware or vases. Place a variety of native plants in the vessels, paying attention to varying heights and complementary colors (Standifer prefers a palette of greens, gold, purples and reds). Nestle them into the glass so their bases are just covered. To add some flourish if entertaining, place interesting plants around the glassware that match your party palette and voila—Rockstar! You have created a totally unique and conversation-starting centerpiece.


Supplies for this terrarium can be purchased at any garden shop, and many plants like airplants and mosses can be found in your own backyard.

  • Crushed, recycled glass pieces
  • Various sizes of glassware, pitchers and vases
  • A small tool (knife or tweezer, perhaps) to manipulate the plants in the glassware
  • Reindeer moss – not actually a moss, but instead a light-colored, fruticose lichen
  • Chartreuse moss – a type of reindeer moss with a beautiful golden green color
  • Echeveria – Native to the Americas, their rosettes range in size with colors from white to orange to pink to red
  • Retro succulent – Attractive rosettes of pale green foliage stippled in creamy white, with coral-fringed leaf edges.
  • Purple coneflower – a showy, easily grown garden plant
  • Shoestring acacia – an evergreen with weepy branches
  • Agave
  • Lavender
  • Palm boot – the remnant bases when the leaves of palm trees die
  • Husk from bamboo plant
  • Spanish moss
  • Pelican feather – no bird was hurt in the design of this centerpiece