Nothing Finer than Living in North Caroliner

Nothing Finer than Living in North Caroliner
Blue Ridge Smoky Mountains

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Day 166 - Terrariums and The Purple Thumb

I've been thinking about making my very first terrarium.  The bringing of the art of the terrarium is generally credited with a man called Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward.The story of how he first discovered the terrarium is rather interesting and Ward tells it in his book. He had the desire to watch an insect chrysalis transform into an insect so he placed it, along with some [moss] in a capped wide-mouthed glass bottle. He observed this bottle on a regular basis and noted how, because of the sun, moisture would be drawn to the top of the bottle during the day then circulate back down to the [moss] and soil in the evening.

But his big surprise came when quite unexpectedly a seedling fern and a sprout of grass bloomed inside the bottle. He was very surprised by this because he had been unsuccessfully trying to grow these very things in his garden. He had surmised that pollution from local factories had been hostile to the plants and was killing them. This made him believe that the plants were doing well in his little bottle because they were sealed off from outside influences and protected from contaminants. He placed this bottle outside the window of his study and the plants inside continued to thrive for four years with no watering or outside intervention at all! From this he devised further experiments and thus his pursuit, and the science of the terrariums, was born. For a very long time these small glass enclosures were named Wardian Cases after him and even though the term is still in use today it is generally not well known and we just call them terrariums. 


It is a cheap process that even wildflowers from along side the road can be used.  I got all my tips from the website  First I needed the container, I didn't want a small one because I wanted my guests to enjoy the view of the terrarium as much as I would. (I know its hard to view when people just drive by and wave from the highway when they pass Florida but just in case they do come!)  I know it will be placed in the front room where there is a lot of indirect sunlight.  I am not that good at keeping plants alive aka a purple thumb instead of green one. I usually kill them off slowly by not watering them enough or over watering them after I've forgotten about them for a while.  I do try, really.  The terrarium however requires little maintenance, so I set out to do it.

Another White Elephant!
Sure enough on my normal coke cap run during the recycling routine, I found a perfect round globe with a hole cut in the top that someone threw out in the trash.  I really wanted my first one to be glass but I researched and found plastic will do.  Steve had also found an old fish bowl at a second-hand store made of glass so we will try both.  Now neither of them have a top so I had to find how to enclose the terrarium.  They are supposed to be self-contained.  Self-sufficient.

Imagine having everything you need inside a bubble.  Not like a bubble boy from Seinfeld but like an island all your own or living in the country with your own garden and canning.  Reminds you of the earlier generations that came before us doesn't it?  I dare say that with a waterfall, I'd be fine.  No wonder people buy islands for themselves when they have enough money. There is a saying that people outgrow old friendships.  I imagine the only way to keep them all intact is to keep them self-contained with a lid on a terrarium dependent on each other for a balanced ecosystem.  One of the people we met on the plane to SLC was a forest ranger and her e-mail has a quote...Don't tinker with the ecosystem unless your ready to pick up the pieces.

The next step is to pick out your plants...they mentioned to research the maximum height of each plant that way they won't outgrow the container.  Each terrarium is supposed to last four-five years without any maintenance. I noticed when I got the plants that each of them said they were "angel plants" which are specifically meant for terrariums. I'm going to show you photos of mine and hope that you'll do it too!  It is very easy. The hardest part is getting all the parts prior: plants, dead wood, activated charcoal, rocks, screen or bis quine, potting soil and water.  I had gotten a free stool from a garage sale last year and realized if we take the top off, turn it upside down, it would be the perfect stand for the globe. The rocks were from Steve courtesy of the Slot Canyons of Utah!

Put a layer of bisquine or screen or moss

1.5-2" layers of charcoal or rocks, I used both

My first terrarium, the wood is from the Bryce Canyon!

The rock from the Slot Canyons

Aerial View


A view from all sides, a path in the woods.

Smaller Terrarium, not as good as I'd like, the plant is too big for the container

Showing the levels of charcoal, rock and soil

Closeup of the Driftwood

A small graft from the Mother-in-laws or Snake Plant
It's no good trying to keep up old friendships. It's painful for both sides. The fact is, one grows out of people, and the only thing is to face it. ~ William Somerset Maugham

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