21st Century Terrariums

A dozen women gathered in my kitchen last week to create intimate tropical environments under glass. It was a snowy January day, and there couldn’t have been a better way to spend a morning.

It’s amazing how useful a kitchen can be for garden related activities, especially for gardeners attempting sanity through the manic ebb and flow of a warming planet’s confusing winter weather.
I am blessed with a kitchen bathed in natural light and a large indestructible counter.

The head horticulturalist of our local Garden Education Center, Lisa Beebe, supplied theterrarium plants plant material for us – gorgeous plugs of five fern varieties, orchids, succulents, and epiphytes. I was so excited, I couldn’t hold the camera still.

Assembling a terrarium requires planning.
First, you have to find a compelling container.
A classic terrarium, cloche, old jar, fish bowl, or any clear glass container will do; your home probably has several promising vessels. If not, Michaels or Home Goods has inexpensive choices.

You’ll also need potting soil, gravel, sheet moss and charcoal.

Now you’re ready to begin…. except for the objects to include in your terrarium that will make it special to you.

I have a box labeled ‘Terrarium Treasures’, filled with miniature objects that I’ve brought home from special outings.

I can’t walk on a beach or in the woods without admiring little things along the path. My pockets are often filled with nuts, feathers, bark, or shells….
Sometimes my pension for taking home nature in my pocket is problematic.

Terrain, a local gardening store, moved into our area last spring, and is a treasure trove of containers, terrarium plants and pretty stones.

I went there for inspiration.Little World and found it.

My friends arrived with their containers, eager to learn and create a miniature environment.

A traditional terrarium is first lined with about one inch of small gravel for drainage. Then a generous scoop of charcoal over the gravel, and cover the base completely with sheet moss.
The charcoal protects the terrarium from odors that will naturally occur as plant material breaks down within your mini eco-system, while the moss prevents the potting soil from mixing with the gravel. Fresh potting soil is spread on top of the moss.
Some terrariums are really shallow, so you may only need a very small amount of soil to support very small plants.

One woman lamp terrarium planted within a glass lamp.

Another planted in a zinc pie crust plate, encased under a beautiful glass dome.Dome terrarium

This compote dish showcases plants suitable for an arid environment, and is therefore left uncovered.
Triffle dish Rather than soil, she used black sand, which contrasts beautifully with the plants and shells.

One woman received an unplanted terrarium for Christmas from her son, purchased from Restoration Hardware. It became the centerpiece for her husband’s birthday party dinner table with a Baltimore Oriole theme, using his favorite player’s figurine as a focal point.

I began with a square walnut platform, added a mushroom I found at the Bronx Botanical Garden, some interesting stones and a cluster of rabbits.

mushroom and stones
Then I added a small begonia and fern, removed their pots, wrapped
the roots in sheet moss secured with waxed string, and set them around the mushroom.
Begonia and stones The glass top is on the left.

These small containers were languishing in the back of a cabinet, but a few shells, a branch off a dormant curly willow, a few plants, and they have found their home next to the sink in my son’s bathroom.
glass terrariums

This terrarium doesn’t need much adornment.
Moss terrarium

We still have a lot of winter to come.
Plant a miniature garden under glass.
It will lift your spirit and carry your soul to spring.

I’m hoping for one good old fashioned snowstorm, when we’re forced to stay home and bask in the beauty and stillness…the wonder of winter.

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