Several weeks ago, while digging through the interweb curiously looking up the plants Kate suggested, I found myself on the Glasshouse Works website fighting the urge to buy a fern I'd been eying, as well as some other plants with interesting and unique foliage. Since I can only play with my seedlings for so long before we get bored of each other (think watched pot philosophy), I lost the fight and ordered a a caterpillar fern, asparagus fern and a dwarf cousin of horsetail rush. Most of them arrived healthy and happy, unfortunately the caterpillar fern looked a little raggedy, but had new fronds coming off, so maybe it will perk back up. These new goodies spawned my first attempt at creating my own personal bio-dome (sans Pauly Shore, thankfully).
So, are you ready to build your own little glass house for your plants? The major key to success is keeping your plant's water requirements similar. Succulents are easy to care for plants, usually requiring little water, so you wouldn't want to put them in a soggy, bog-like environment. On the other hand, a lot of ferns like the densely mulched, moist soil of the forest floor. Think about where the plants were originally found, and keep similarly sourced plants together.
Find a glass jar, vase, candle holder, cloche--and carefully wash it with warm soapy water. Really starting with a clean container is good advice for all planters, because even though you can't see it, it doesn't mean it's not there. The cheapest source is the thrift store where you can find cheese domes for 50 cents, old fish bowls, big jars and more for next to nothing. I also love these gorgeous little glass bubble terrariums from Orquivalle.com--for a DIY approach, you could definitely do something similar with these hanging planters from Lynn's Crafts.
The many aspects of wet: Since this was my first attempt, I decided to keep it easy and pick plants that won't throw a fit if they keep wet feet. Without a drainage hole, you'll need to provide your own drainage. I used an ample layer of river stone (found in craft stores, pet shops, or hardware stores) and filled in the voids with sand. Make sure you purchase sand suitable for an aquarium or terrarium--playground sand can be treated with herbicide and beach sand can be too salty for most plants. Some people prefer sphagnum moss (found at the hardware store) to fill in the voids and keep their rocks in place. Another pretty drainage option is Recycled Art Glass' tumbled glass. Also, if your container is going to be closed at the top for a truly self sustaining environment, you should apply a layer of activated carbon over your rocks, simply add a layer of sphagnum moss, a layer of charcoal and another layer of sphagnum prior to adding your soil.
Time to add some dirt and plants! Use sterilized, well draining, potting soil. I'd like to emphasize sterilized so you don't bring in mold or fungus, which means from a new sealed bag, or baking older dirt. I, personally guessed the ratio of dirt I used, by adding a shallow layer, then placing my plants on top and filling extra dirt around them.
Arrange your plants on a counter top to make sure they'll be visible and interesting in their new home. Make sure your plants won't grow too big for your planter, because if they're especially happy in their new space they'll outgrow it even quicker. I picked plants that appreciate a nice, moist home. Later on today (if the April showers ever stop) I'll go on a hunt for moss. But if you're not interested in being a hunter or gatherer, you can find moss on etsy! Fluffn' Flowers has some of the gorgeous green fuzzy ground cover.
Once the planting and placing is done, water your new garden. The soil will settle some, so be prepared to add more along the way.
Step back and enjoy! (And watch a frustrated kitty try and get to the goods!)
Need some extra inspiration? You can find plenty, as well as evidence of the addictive nature of building your own beautiful little worlds, in the flickr Terrariums pool. I love all the toy critters and figures that have made their way into so many of them!
1. Teacup Cloche from Life in Sugar Hollow; 2. the damp posse from Grey Birds; 3. Terrariums from Sarah Ivy; 4. Terrarium from K8tron; 5. Oh, Deer! another beauty from Sarah Ivy; 6. Terrariums from Ex. Libris; 7. tiny terrarium from Vintage Chica; 8. Terrarium from Maize Hutton; 9. terrarium from Justin and Elise.
Other cool links in hopes of regaining cool points post Pauly Shore reference:
Inhabitat's tutorial for building a terrarium;
Jill Bliss' Forest Coral terrariums as seen on the Adorn Blog;
Joy's terrarium post on the Bluelines Blog;
Gennine's gorgeous Terrarium print;
and another of my absolute all time favorites: Paula Hayes' terrariums are absolutely sublime.
Renee Garner has a passion to make things grow, although her brownish thumb wants her to believe otherwise. When mud pies aren't on the menu, you can find her doodling the days away at Wolfie and the Sneak.