There are some disadvantages to living in New York. Not many, but a few. And no, it’s not the trash on the streets – that’s called charm. Unfortunately city living means if you want to grow your own produce, raise chickens à la Martha, or even just have an herb garden, it’s pretty much impossible. Even with a Martha-sized bank account, the one thing we don’t have in the city is fresh air. So it’s no wonder we leave the city in droves at the weekend. We can’t breathe! And neither can our plants.
Which brings us to the terrarium: the fabulously chic climate controlled indoor garden. Albeit a miniature one. Developed by botanist Nathanial Bagshaw Ward in 1829, these “Wardian” cases were elaborate mini greenhouses, showcasing ferns and other tropical plants. Not surprisingly, the Victorians were obsessed with them! (And we are obsessed with the Victorians!)
There are two types of terrariums:
suitable for creating a dry environment, like a mini-desert. Great for succulents and cacti, or other desert plants. Requires lots of sunlight and very little water.
suitable for creating a humid environment, great for ferns and other types of tropical plants. Requires in-direct sunlight and watering.
Here are some tips from our first try at terrariums.
1). Be patient – the little plants are surprisingly fragile, and should be handled delicately.
2). Don’t be fooled by the size of little cacti – those little needles are no joke and are very prickly! Handle with chopsticks or oversized tweezers. Ironically the tiniest cactus was the one giving us the most trouble! Some sort of plant Neopolian complex perhaps…
3). Use a spoon to carefully layer the mini rocks, soil, then toppings, either moss, sand or woodchips.
4). The do need a little water, a small spray bottle works wonders.
5). When choosing your plants, make sure to stick to plants that require similar environments, ie. succulents and cacti together (dry), or ferns and moss together (moist).
6). Some people add quirky toys such as Matchbox cars or mini godzillas. But godzilla lives in the city so we would stick to the original rule of keeping everything environmentally accurate. An old neon Hotel California sign (miniature of course) or muscle car would make the Victorians proud.
Our final terrariums will serve as centerpieces for an upcoming private dinner party, where we hope they will become great conversation starters!