Terrariums are easy to build and enjoy

Glass jar. I paid $5.95 at T.J. Maxx.

Yesterday, I was at T.J. Maxx, and I found this lovely glass jar. Now, I could put M&M’S® in it, or dried cherries, or buttons, but . . . anymore, when I see a glass container, I want to layer soil, sand and pebbles to create a miniature world. Ever since I made some terrariums a couple of years ago, I can hardly stop myself. Although I have a few with open tops, it seems the closed environment works best for my laissez-faire, indoor plant care.

To put it another way, I seldom water. I am a terrible indoor-plant mother. Just ask my unfortunate, interior, foliar inhabitants. On second thought, please don’t.

When I discovered terrariums, it was a perfect marriage. With a glass top, you often don’t need to water for a year.

Rex begonia in a biscuit jar from shhhh . . . Wal-Mart

Yes, you read that right. A year.

Here is a prime example. This biscuit jar came from Wal-Mart because it was cheap, about $5.00 or $6.00. I can’t remember exactly how much I spent. It isn’t as graceful as the more delicate jars, but once I added soil, a few plants, and one rex begonia which later took over, I think it’s quite nice. I barely notice it on the sofa table, but there it sits, keeping me company through the long winter.

By my bedside, I have another jar which came from a small antique shop. You can find these jars almost anywhere. Just make sure  it has a large enough opening to get your hand down into it.

The finished product.

So, here’s what you’ll need:

  • One glass container. I like clear glass best myself. Lets in more light and magnifies the plant or whatever you place inside.
  • Potting soil, any good one you can find. I don’t buy the ones with chemical fertilizers. You don’t need much fertilizer at all so I just use a basic, potting soil.
Sometimes, I place a decorative plate on top of the open terrariums to increase the moisture for awhile.
  • Pebbles, rocks, tumbled glass, pretty sand or whatever you like. Michael’s has a great selection, but so does Hobby Lobby for that matter. I found this tumbled glass, the color of Coke bottles, at Michael’s. I need more to finish the terrarium above.
  • Plants. Choose small and try tropical ones which like a wet environment. I saw some cute little ones at our local nursery, TLC. I hate to give TLC a plug because yesterday, their marquee shouted loud and proud about pre-emergent herbicide and the elimination of broad-leaf weeds. Then, when I walked inside, the store reeked of chemicals. However, in winter, they are about the best place to go for small, interesting tropicals. Also, sometimes, Wal-Mart has them locally. I know, everyone hates on Wal-Mart, but I live out in the boondocks of Oklahoma. I don’t have that many places to shop. I did stop by Under the Sun and found two small plants. Under the Sun really should capitalize on the terrarium thing in winter.
  • Add anything you find interesting to create your scene. Two Green Thumbs has several cute things in various scales. I’m not much of a fairy gardener except when it comes to those under glass. There’s just something about putting small items inside which appeals to my little girl heart. Whatever items you choose, make sure they’re waterproof. Things get wet in these glass enclosures. A wee gazing ball would be nice.
  • A watering can or sink spray nozzle to gently water the interior. I found a copper, greenhouse Hawe’s watering can for nearly nothing on ebay.com.

To assemble. Wash your container and dry it until it shines. Place a layer of pebbles or soil in the bottom. After choosing plants, put between one and three in the enclosure. If something later dies, don’t worry. These plants cost about $2.50 to $4.50 apiece so you can afford to get another one.  Just replace, water and move on.

Next, place some pebbles, or make a small path of stones in your terrarium and organize it to suit you. Terrariums are creative spaces for those of us who miss the outdoors too much in winter or when we’re cooped up otherwise.

Gently water.

Top it with the lid, and you’re all done. Fun huh?

If you make one of your own, take a picture and upload it with your comment. I’d like to see what you’ve done.


Snowbound thoughts: Part I, terrariums

The first snowdrop with more to follow

Well, most of the snow melted in yesterday’s rain, but more ice and snow are predicted for Sunday and again next week.  I’m beginning to understand why northern gardeners go stir crazy in winter.

However, as Cindy From My Corner of Katy (near Houston), wrote, “One step closer to spring, sweet Jesus.”

Isn’t that what we’re all thinking on this sixth day of February? January is gone, and twenty-two more days of February, all gray and foggy, loom ahead, but onward and upward we march.

My first terrarium since 1975

Instead of more obsessing on the weather, let’s talk instead of terrariums.  You read me right.  Terrariums. Doesn’t the word just take you back to the 1970s, elephant bells, and macrame?  Well, my friends, terrariums have grown out of their pimply teenage phase and moved on to a beautiful indoor elegance.  Tovah Martin, author of many books, including Tasha Tudor’s Garden, is coming to speak in Oklahoma on February 13-14, 2010, so, last week, I bought her latest book, The New Terrarium: Creating Beautiful Displays for Plants and Nature.  When I spoke to her on the phone yesterday, she said she wanted people to have “nature at their elbow” because it increases their intimacy with plants.

“A terrarium makes nature accessible to everybody,” she said.

Diva likes this one because the glass is more beautiful, and she likes the blue rocks inside. I like how the striped patterns on the glass echo the Dracaena deremensis 'Janet Craig Compacta' inside. I will probably have to repot this at some point, but I'm enjoying it now.

She has over 100 plants in her home, nineteen of them terrariums.  She had more, but she sold some.  She said that for those gardeners who have “a brown thumb indoors” terrariums require little care and reap large benefits.  Glass enclosures keep the temperature and humidity more constant, making it less likely you’ll kill the plants inside from neglect.  Just don’t water them too often or too much.  Also, choose plants which like humidity.  Tropicals fit the bill, as do many shade plants, but stay away from desert lovers.  They will succumb to too much moisture.

In part II of my interview, I’ll share more about Tovah’s thoughts on garden stewardship (her topic for her Oklahoma City presentation), but today, I wanted to highlight terrariums.  Before reading her book, I used to tease my friend, Elizabeth, of Gardening While Intoxicated and Garden Rant, about her indoor plant menagerie and her terrarium.  This winter, I’m an enthusiastic convert.

Faced with more snowfall, I just had to get my hands into warm soil, and I wanted to create something beautiful.  I found small plants at the nursery and placed them within their glass containers just as I would in the garden.  Different heights, different textures.  I added pebbles and a bird nest to complete the scene in the one at top, along with Sagina subulata ‘Aurea’, chartreuse green Irish moss.  I love this little plant, but the summer always incinerates it in my outdoor garden even in the shade.  We’ll see if it will thrive under the moderating effect of glass.

Cloche over an African violet

Then, there’s the African violet covered by a cloche making it a focal point on a buffet or table.  As Tovah said, “It’s about intimacy with nature . . . in sparkling glass, and all of the sudden it has value.”

“Little bits of treasure.  Encased in glass making them a phenomenal work of art.”