December 27, 2011
Gardening under glass has a mystique all its own. Intriguing micro-climates of miniature glass gardens never fail to elicit a comment or a second glance. Some terrariums can stop you in your tracks as fast as any brightly colored jewel or objet d'art to which you are drawn. Every one of us has his or her own personal passion and for gardeners, terrariums are a treat to the senses. In the midst of a New England winter, a terrarium glows on a windowsill or table with serene green growth so very absent in the outside landscape. A terrarium is, typically, an enclosed glass container for growing plants. Not all plants are suited to the rain forest atmosphere of a terrarium but many will thrive in an uncovered container where the humidity levels are more moderate. I made four for Christmas gifts this year. They were fun to make and the biggest problem is finding plants which are small enough for available containers. I started with three glass containers and one small cake stand. Two had no covers and two had lids. While all of the glass containers have moss, two hold only moss and moss benefits from a bit of air circulation so a container without a cover can be a good choice for a moss garden. The cake stand was planted with all moss and instructions were provided to remove the lid occasionally. This container was shallow and really should be thought of as a temporary dish garden. You can read more about moss gardens here. I cleaned the containers and added colored glass to the bottom area where water can collect. Next I added activated charcoal which serves to filter the water and help prevent fungal diseases which can occur in overly moist containers. I then added a good quality potting soil which is usually a soilless mix. This one was bagged by a reputable nursery and contains perlite, peat and perhaps vermiculite. It matched the soil of the plants I added. One aralia and one wide leaf fern were added to different containers. Moss was used for a ground cover and stone, pieces of moss covered wood and lichens were added for more interest. Nature in a bottle. The cake stand was offered at a Holiday Yankee Swap and it traveled the room until the last person to play ended up with it. Choosing a gift which moves about the group is always desirable and while this was a group of gardeners, one of the husbands was overheard to say 'Who would want that?' That made me laugh. Not everyone sees things with the same level of desire. If you have a bit of time on your hands, a glass container and the desire to create a living ecosystem, try making a terrarium. They can thrive in our homes which have low humidity in the winter and they can allow you to expand your palette of plants. I did receive a new book for Christmas, 'The New Terrarium' by Tovah Martin. I always enjoy reading anything by Tovah Martin. The author of several books, she is well known for her horticultural knowledge and she writes in an easy, informative and engaging style. This book contains wonderful pictures in addition to instructions for making a terrarium. It also informs the reader as to which plants will thrive in the humid atmosphere of an enclosed terrarium along with those that benefit from a bit more air circulation. My next attempt at terrarium making will be that much more informed after I digest the contents of this book from one of my favorite gardeners. Have you made a terrarium lately?