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Versatile Chimeneas Create Warm Feelings
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
There is a new pot in town. Chimenea, which is Spanish for fireplace or stove, have been for sale at nurseries and garden centers for more than a year and their popularity has risen dramatically.
For those of you who have wished for an outdoor fireplace to sit around with a cup of hot chocolate or coffee, then the chimenea may be just what you need. They are made out of clay and come in a wide range of sizes, colors and designs.
Stands are available for them to sit on. The stands also come with varying degrees of ornateness and heights ranging from about six inches to those that would allow the fireplace opening to be about four feet high.
To use outdoors for a real fire, some retailers recommend adding a 2- or 3-inch layer of sand in the bottom. Place small logs or large chunks of hickory or oak wood on top of the sand.
A small fire starter log is recommended instead of using a liquid that could soak into the clay. As the fire starts to intensify, the outer edge of the pot will obviously get quite hot, which should be a warning to those with small children.
I prefer a smaller fire that helps keep the integrity of the opening of the fireplace pretty instead of charred. They are gaining popularity in deer hunting camps where hunters care more about keeping warm than if the pot is staying pretty.
One gentleman I know likes cigars, but his spouse has quite a different opinion. He now likes to light up both the chimenea and the stogie outside for a little getting back to nature.
I have not tried this use, but another man told me he likes to place a small grill over the chimney stack and cook a small steak every now and then.
Chimeneas are gaining equal popularity indoors but not for fires. They are being artistically placed with plants alongside and then used with large three wick candles. An aromatic candle placed inside the chimenea gives a flickering glow as if it had a small fire burning inside. It can really create a romantic mood.
Use chimeneas like strawberry jars in a sun room or outdoors in the summer by filling in the holes with plants. Keep your plant in its container and place it either on top of the smokestack or cascading out of the opening where you would place the wood. An asparagus fern or ivy could have a whole new look used in this manner.
Lastly, there is one other good use I know of but did not anticipate when I got mine. My cat Sinbad immediately took to the chimenea like a dog would to a doghouse. It is perfect for a cat to curl up in and feel secure and to make a quick retreat up the smokestack like Santa.
When I first saw them, I did not dream they would catch on like they did. I was amazed to see a house that resembles some small castle place three large chimeneas on the deck for ambiance and extend use during cold weather.
Gardeners now eagerly look for the next shipment of Chimeneas from Mexico. Take a look, and you will want one, too!