Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Terraria Mania



I suppose its not really a mania if it's only two terrariums (and wouldn't it be a manium in the singular anyway)? But the title sounded fun so I'm going to leave it.

At any rate, I've been reading about making terrariums lately and I finally made two of them this past week. I had found an aquarium at Goodwill for $8 right before Christmas, and had entertained thoughts of trying to fashion it into a sort of Wardian Case, but trying to make an inexpensive glass roof for the tank was not as easy as I had hoped (I learned something about how to cut glass in the process, but not how to do it very well, let's just say).

So I decided to make a simplified version and just added a bit of embellishment to the aquarium (I glued ornamental metal ribbon around the top and base of it to dress it up a bit). Then after having read several very clever and amusing books on making terrariums (Tiny World Terrariums and Terrariums: Gardens Under Glass were two of the most inspiring and helpful titles), I thought about what would be fun versions of terrariums, and came up with a few ideas. I bought about ten tiny starter plants from a local nursery, and also, because I have been reading about moss gardening, during a thaw last weekend I gathered some moss that was growing in one of our windbreaks and included that in the larger terrarium.

I also looked around at my son's collections of rocks, fossils, toy dinosaurs and other small toys (the Smurfs were left over from my brother's and my own childhood collections, so they have a special -- and fairly silly -- place in my childhood memories). After picking up some large bags of gravel and some horticultural charcoal (which aerates and cleans the soil), I got to the fun part: playing with dirt, plants and toys.

For those of you who haven't made a terrarium before, it's pretty simple:

  1. Find a container, either one that is open at the top or with a lid (although it's best if the lid does not completely seal, because some air flow prevents mold from growing).
  2. Put a 1-2" layer of gravel at the bottom of the container for drainage.
  3. Place a piece of paper on top of the gravel to prevent soil from washing down into the gravel.
  4. Add a little horticultural charcoal on top of the paper.
  5. Top with a couple inches of soil.
  6. Plant a selection of tiny plants into the soil, adding more soil as needed.
  7. Add non-biodegradable decorative items for amusement.
  8. Mist the soil around the plants as needed with a spray bottle, and remove the lid if the glass becomes fogged up. 


It's a bit hard to see inside because of the multiple glass reflections, but here's the large terrarium I made: A forest scene populated by Smurfs going about their various leisure activities.



Here's an aerial view that's not affected by the reflections.



And a closer view... The plants, from left to right are (back row): Butterfly Syngonium, Begonia, Autumn Fern Dryopteris, (center): Baby tears Soleirolia and Polka Dot Plant Hypostes. The groundcover is one or more kinds of moss I found growing in my windbreak.

I thought this little guy was the funniest of all, intent on chopping down the Begonia. 

And Smurfette is hiding among the plants on the other side of the terrarium, which include a Pteris fern, Club Moss Selaginella, Heart Fern Hemionitis, and a miniature Phalaenopsis orchid (the tiny orchid is planted, pot and all, below the soil line). 

An overview of the terrarium with the partial lid on. I placed a humidity sensor inside for a while to see how humid it was in there, even with only the partial lid.


Since I had a few plants left over and I also had a lidded glass jar that I wasn't using for anything, I decided to make a second terrarium, with a dinosaur theme:


 Two toy dinosaurs and a fossil accompany the ancient ferns and other plants in this 
smaller terrarium. Again, it's hard to get a good photo through the glass.

A clearer photo from above. The plants in here include what I think is probably a miniature Alocasia, a Lemon Button Fern Nephrolepis and another Club Moss Selaginella.

This project was a lot of fun and just the sort of thing to occupy a northern gardener during the winter months. The process of making it and figuring out where to put the plants and toys was the best part, but I'm also looking forward to seeing how the plants grow (or fail to thrive and then die, as also happens sometimes) in the terrariums.

Before this winter, I knew almost nothing about indoor plants, but I've slowly been learning a bit over the past few months. Making and caring for a terrarium is yet another part of indoor gardening that I've enjoyed learning about.

I highly recommend making a terrarium -- it's fun to do and the plants require less care than other house plants, because they don't need to be watered as often due to the higher humidity, which also results in healthier plants than the dry, centrally-heated air in our homes does. And if you have children or grandchildren, they often find terrariums as fascinating as we do.

Thanks for reading! -Beth

15 comments:

  1. Indeed, such fun, no scary snakes or other reptiles in the terrarium, no fishes and water in a may be leaking aquarium, but a world of Smurfs and dinosaurs with some beautiful greenery. It looks very pretty!

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    1. Thanks, Janneke -- I'm glad you think they're fun! Thanks for visiting, -Beth

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  2. Adorable! I really love the moss, and the Smurfs! Good job, Beth!

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    1. Thanks, Beth -- I'm glad you like them. The moss is kind of fun, looking like grass, Smurf-size. Thanks for stopping by! -Beth

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  3. You are inventive. Mad on plants as I am, I never thought of making a terrareum. What fun!

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    1. Thanks, Chloris -- it was a lot of fun. I hope you make one. -Beth

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  4. I can see that you've been very busy indoors over the last few weeks, Beth. I like your upstairs bathroom makeover done in white with the touches of green accessories and, of course, the plants. A restful colour combination. Your terrariums are delightful. I think you must have a big kitchen so that you can place them on an island counter to enjoy as you work there. I also enjoy my indoor plants and would like to get some ferns to add to the collection.

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    1. Hi Linda, Yes the terrariums weren't nearly as much work (and a lot more fun) than painting the bathroom. I'm glad you like them both! I hope you are able to get the ferns you want for your house -- they're pretty cool plants. Thanks for reading! -Beth

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  5. I have a glass jar just like yours that I have been eyeing for a terrarium.

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    1. Donna, this is just the time of year to make a terrarium, especially if you already have a container. I hope you have as much fun as I did making mine! :-) Thanks for stopping by. -Beth

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  6. I love how you've decked out your aquarium terrarium! I've made a terrarium in an old aquarium before, but never really liked how it looked because, well, it looked like an aquarium. What a great and creative way to jazz it up! I love terrariums, especially because they require hardly any care!

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    1. Hi Indie, I'm glad you like the terrarium and how I dressed it up. I bought the metal ribbon at Hobby Lobby in case you want some to fancy up your old aquarium and give the terrarium another shot. Thanks for visiting! -Beth

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  7. Beth, this is so much fun! What a great project to do during the winter months and they look really beautiful. I really love the axe wielding Smurf! Lol! Hope all the plants do well - I'm sure they will!
    Enjoy your week.
    - Kate

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  8. Kate, I'm so glad you stopped by! And that you like the terrariums. Best, -Beth

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