I have never been one of those mystical people who have ‘hobbies’. I usually associate the having of hobbies as either a little bit weird/sad or exclusively the domain of those with something I have never possessed called ‘talents’.
So, unimaginably uninteresting in my hobbyless state, I have drifted along thus far in life, buying presents for people instead of making them lovingly by hand, adorning my home with things that other, far more creative and interesting people have made. That is, until I made my first terrarium. Yes, you heard it here people. I am now a fully-fledged terrarium enthusiast.
In case you haven’t been paying attention to the visual merchandising in cool boutiques or doing the rounds of hip design markets over that past few years, terrariums are huge (metaphorically, of course) at the moment.
Even though terrariums were actually invented in the mid-1800s, the 1970s is when they really had their heyday. I can remember having one in our house when I was really little, a ‘proper’ one, with ferns and moss that was like a real forest in miniature. I can remember being super confused but also really impressed at the way that little guy could take care of himself. I tend to favour the modern terrarium, which doesn’t have a lid so tends to house more ‘dry’ plants. Little succulents and cacti are not only well suited to the terrarium environment, but are also the perfect plants for beginners, as they are virtually impossible to kill. I don’t know about you, but I sure as hell don’t want murder on my conscience. Just give them lots of light and don’t over-water them and they will love you long time.
What you will need:
A glass container to house your terrarium
A selection of plants
Small spade or similar (I use an old spoon)
Polystyrene pieces (break some off old packaging). These will help you to hold prickly bits when you are transplanting cactus.
You can use any glass container that takes your fancy, but visually speaking some work better than others. You can find interestingly shaped jars, vases and bowls in second-hand shops, discount stores, homewares stores and in Nanna’s cupboard – some of my best ones have been found in places like Ikea, Spotlight and the South Melbourne Market. Just try to match the shape of the container with the type, shape and size of the plants you are working with.
Clean your glass vessel on the inside (the outside will probably get a bit dirty as you hold it so clean that later).
Pour in sand, rocks, or both into the bottom of the terrarium. The reason for this is that plants need drainage. Big time. The one thing that will definitely kill your plants is overwatering, which leaves the roots sitting in water.
Fill the vessel with soil – put in just enough to accommodate the root system of the plants you are putting in. A couple of centimetres should be enough, as you will top it up once your plant is in place.
Plan the layout of your terrarium. Think about where it will be displayed and whether it will be viewed from all angles. Aesthetically what seems to work is to put your tallest plant in the centre and surround it with the other plants, but if your terrarium is against a wall you might want to put the tallest at the back and create a ‘foreground’ of smaller plants. Half the fun is playing around with the little guys to create the look you want – I could quite happily spend a whole afternoon just lining up all the little guys, grouping and regrouping them, matching them up according to colour, species, size…ahhhh, the serenity.
Once you have committed, decide what order you are going to plant them in. Hint: don’t plant the massive spiky one first, as you will prickle yourself every time your hot little hand goes in there. Dig a little hole, grab the plant by the base using either your fingers or the little pair of tongs, and wriggle it out of its pot – it might help you to squeeze the pot and tip it on its side. Make sure you are outside or have newspaper down or you will be finding dirt all up in your grill for weeks to come. Stick the plant in the hole root side down (seems obvious doesn’t it? You just never know though). Using the old spoon, cover the roots with soil and try your best to compact it so that the plant stands up on its own. Repeat this step with all of your remaining plants, putting more soil in and compacting it down, until all of your plants are in the position you want and are nice and firm.
Water your plants in, just enough to wet the soil but not too much so that water collects in the bottom of your terrarium.
Optional – Step Seven:
You can decorate your terrarium using a layer of rocks on top of the soil, a few scattered rocks of whatever size you like, miniature animals or people. You can get miniatures online or in shops where weirdos hang out (miniature train and warhammer enthusiasts, I’m looking at you). I looooooove what Petite Green do in theirs, creating miniature crime scenes and alien landings, its genius!
Give your glass a final clean, step back and bask in your own glory.
The best part about DIY terrariums is that they are so versatile/flexible (you will love this if you are indecisive). Decide later that you don’t like one of the plants? Change it! One of the little guys kicks the bucket? Replace it with another one! Outgrown the container? Swap the plants over! It’s a pretty cost-effective craft project really, as (a) its alive, (b) it reproduces itself so that you can make more, (c) it encourages the recycling of old glassware, and (d) you can take cuttings of not only your own plants, but the plants of friends, relatives, acquaintances and complete strangers!
So go for it. Get a jar, stick a plant in it, and prepare to be amazed. Welcome to the world of miniature gardening.
Thanks Jade, you gorgeous human! Easy peezy and a RAD pressie to give!