Welcome to Saturday Morning Garden Blogging. This is Missys Brother filling in for Frankenoid. Today we will be making what I call dry and wet terrariums.
A terrarium is basically a sealed transparent globe or similar container in which plants are grown. The key word here is "sealed". The term "terrarium" in recent years has been used loosely on a wide variety of containers and their plants. Many are actually no more than dish gardens. As one who loves to push the limits of definitions, I personally use the term on anything that is grown in clear glass.
Let's get started as we'll be making the two wet and two dry terrariums shown below. Ask questions and please stop me if I go too fast.
We'll need some plants, potting mix, charcoal and stones.
Definitely sphagnum moss. Also some decorative moss if you wish
We'll use these glass containers but first let me quickly wash and dry them. (where's Kishik when I need her?)
Okay, let's start off making a wet enclosed terrarium. We'll use the candy jar above that a co-worker gave me as she had won it in a work fund raiser by guessing how many jelly beans were in it. First place stone in the bottom of your container as this will act as a water reservoir for your plants. I use a stone called Marble Maze River Gravel which bills itself as a decorative moisture retainer for plants. In other words, great for a terrarium. You can really use any type of stone. Next cover the top of the stone with charcoal as this will filter the water. Small bags of charcoal are available at most garden centers and these were 99 cents each.
Cover the charcoal with a thick layer of the sphagnum moss. The moss prevents soil from getting into the stones and charcoal. I also continue adding moss sometimes up around the sides of the container to hide the soil, like below. It's a matter of preference. I think terrariums look better with something natural like a rock, stick or fungus or some type of knick knack added with the plants. Here we'll use a metal copy of Manneken Pis.
Fill the center of the moss with a potting mix. I use a soil-less grow mix with peat and perlite. This promotes good drainage and does not compact. Again, this is readily available at your garden center. We'll place the taller Arabica "Coffee" plant in the back, a medium plant named Peperomia "Bianco Verde to the side and a low grower "Baby Tears" on the other side up front. I gave the plants a medium watering and then covered with the glass top. If too much condensation forms on the interior of the glass during the next few days, remove the top and let the terrarium dry out some. On the other hand, I would add a little water if no condensation is seen at all. You will have to play with it a bit to get the right amount of moisture. We've now completed our first terrarium. If you can't tell, it's really hard to get pictures of these with all the reflections and glare in the glass.
We'll now make our second wet terrarium which is my favorite of the four. We'll use the large terra-cotta saucer and glass dome. I filled the saucer with these pottery balls which will help retain moisture.
I quickly went through the yard and found one bird's nest packed with a mud center and the half of another nest. I removed the mud center. Then worked to intertwine the whole and half nests together. The nest was sprayed with Lysol until it was dripping wet and then once dried, placed on top of the pottery balls. You could wrap moss around the interior of the nest and place a potting mix but I just placed inside a plastic pot with a Club Moss plant. I wanted this terrarium to be serene so only added a dead bumble bee (shown below right) and a few branches from the yard before covering them with the glass dome.
I placed this one on the coffee table for a real pop of spring.
Next we'll make our dry terrariums. Basically the main differences are that charcoal is not needed as the tops are open and a cactus potting mix will be used as we're planting succulents. Below we will fill our glass container with about two fingers width of stone and top it off with a layer of sphagnum moss. We're using a succulent that I already had and removed from a garden dish. On top of the soil, we'll add a bit of sphagnum moss and the fossil that I bought last weekend at the flea market for twenty-five cents. I placed this terrarium in a sunny upstairs bathroom.
And finally our last dry terrarium. I liked the miniature jade shown at the top so much that I ended up driving to Home Goods to buy a 16" tall vase for it. Later I accidentally broke the top off the jade but that's okay as it will put out new growth. Again stone is placed and then topped off with the sphagnum moss. I decided to use the antique African-American ice skater that had been removed from some type of mechanical toy. The tall jade plant would make it appear that the skater was under a tree
Another moss cup was made to hide the soil. This terrarium looked great wherever I placed it.
I decided to keep it here in the library, next to the computer, so the dogs, cat and I can enjoy it more frequently. And that concludes making our four terrariums.
Some terrariums that I have previously made that are still thriving, include these created over two years ago in a local garden center class. Kenny Jose is their guardian.
The one above with a fern is still going strong. The photograph below on the left is the fern at one year old. On the right at two years old. I only water it maybe once a month. Terrariums are great for those who don't do well with house plants.
The asparagus fern shown in a Victorian fish bowl below has its soil hidden with small stones and has been happy here for around five years. The Baby Tears on the right is over two years old.
I scored last summer when I found this perfect terrarium container at the flea market. I finally planted it a couple of months ago. It contains ponytail plants, a Peperomia "Bianco Verde" plant, moss from the woods, white river stones and a bit of lichen. I've since added some fungus. These plants have been putting out new growth and Kenny Jose keeps the ponytails trimmed with his nibbling.
I do own one antique Victorian terrarium. Getting caught up with auction fever late one night, I spent such an outrageous sum that I've never told anyone the amount. It has a 4" tall pottery base made to resemble a tree stump and a 16" tall glass globe. I display in it an antique taxidermy Woodcock, a bird nest still on its branches from my yard, some eggs and moss. It's placed in a cabinet behind glass doors since I have two dogs, a cat and clumsy friends and relatives.
Two of my favorite books on terrariums are Terrarium Craft - Create 50 Magical, Miniature Worlds by Amy Bryant Aiello and Kate Bryant and The New Terrarium - Creating Beautiful Displays for Plants and Nature by Tovah Martin.
I would love to spend a little time talking about the fascinating history of terrariums including the Victorians love affair with indoor ferns. Perhaps another diary, some other time. There are many wonderful youtube videos on making terrariums and you can find some great inspirational photographs by just googling terrarium.
So terrariums are just one way that I keep my sanity during the winter months until I can get my hands once again into the warm outdoor garden soil. I hope I have spiked your interest in them and that you have enjoyed this. If so then please don't forget the tip jar as you go out the door as the kids need chew bones. So what's going on in your gardening world?