Tag Archives: building terrarium

Today’s Terrarium Trend

It was evident last summer that parts of my lawn, if you could call it a lawn, had serious problems.  It was becoming overrun by moss, wild violets and clumps of tall fescue.  The wild violets, I don’t mind.  I actually think they are pretty and after the white and purple flowers finish their bloom, the glossy leaves are nice and green.  Moss is lovely, in the right place but not in the middle of the lawn.  And the clumps of tall fescue were just hideous.

My lawn was talking to me and it was saying it needed lime.  One of the most useful books I have, “Taylor’s Encylopedia of Gardening”, reads in part “What Lime Does: Rainwater is generally somewhat acid.  It therefore tends to leach out of soil some of the necessary calcium, as well as other soluble materials.  If too long continued, this process results in what the farmer calls a sour soil, unfit for clover and for many other crops…”  That’s what I had, a sour soil.  It continued “Besides the purely chemical action, lime of the right sort has the peculiar quality of making heavy clay or silt soils more workable.  This action is apparently purely physical, for it results in the amalgamation of extremely fine soil particles into somewhat larger units, which allows far better aeration and drainage.  On this core alone lime is of the greatest value.”

 My friend Alan said the lime wouldn’t even reach the soil with the carpet of moss out there.  So he, and then we, began moving the moss, piece by piece, and placing it under a maple tree close to the barn.

Transplanted Moss

Transplanted Moss

And then Alan dug up some of the tall fescue and artistically placed it near the moss.

Tall Fescue

Tall Fescue

I was so pleased with the way the moss and fescue looked that I emailed a couple of photos to my daughter, Christine.  She responded that the moss would be good for a terrarium and terrariums were all the rage now; in fact she was teaching a course on creating terrariums later that morning.  She asked if I would be selling some of my harvest on Etsy. 

Well I had no idea that terreraiums were in vogue again.  I have sold hawthorn and yew branches on Etsy as well as some rocks from my property…why not moss? I looked on Etsy to see how many shops, if any, were offering moss for sale and to my surprise I found that quite a few were…and at reasonable prices.  It didn’t appear to me that Etsy needed another shop selling moss.

I started to think about terrariums and the different components that go into creating one. I was even inspired to make a Polyvore set:

My Polyvore Set

My Polyvore Set

This set was picked by Polyvore as one of their best “Home” sets.

It seemed to me that terrariums most likely were popular back in the 1800s at the same time ferns were all the rage (I’ve published a separate post on ferns entitled “Pterodomania”).  Researching this a bit I found www.terrariums.net which provided the following: 

“The ferm case was discovered accidentally in 1827 by Dr. Nathaniel Ward, a London physician with a passion for botany.  Dr. Ward built a fern rockery in his backyard, but the ferns kept dying, poisoned by the fumes from the city’s factories.  Ward was also studying moths and caterpillars and, while experimenting with a cocoon in a covered jar for observation, he notice that several plants had grown in the bit of soil at the bottom of the jar.  Among the bottled plants was a fern, and, unlike the ferns in his garden, it looked healthy.  Dr. Ward concluded that plants could flourish in London if they could be protected from the city’s polluted air.  Ward pursued his discovery in miniature greenhouses, which he named fern cases, and which are now known as Wardian cases or terrariums.”

And “Taylor’s Encyclopedia of Gardening” contains quite a bit of good information on terrariums:

“A terrarium is a transparent container, tightly fitted with an adjustable glass cover, in which plants are grown in earth instead of water.  It is known also as a fernery, Wardian case, bottle garden crystal garden, and glass garden.  Terrariums may be bought in any number of sizes and shapes, or more at home by fitting pieces of glass, cut to the proper size, to a planting pan.  The edges may be bound together with silk adhesive binding.  Glass aquariums, fish globes, cracker and candy jars – in fact, any glass receptacle with a tight-fitting top can be used.  The tight cover is to prevent the loss of interior humidity, as the terrarium actually answers the purpose of a miniature greenhouse.

“The uses of the terrarium are many: for house decoration, plant propagation, nature study, scientific observation, centerpiece, and table garden.  Experiment with different sizes, shapes and planting materials will produce many odd and beautiful results.  The size of the case will limit definitely the choice of the materials, but of more importance are the requirements of the plants.  Woodland plantings of lichens, moss, trailing arbutus, violets, anemones, partridge-berries, trilliums, bloodroot, and wood ferns are desired by many as winter house decorations.  But steam-heated living rooms, with temperatures of 70 to 75 degrees, are much too warm for these cold-loving plants.  These natural woodland plantings can be had, of course, if the temperature can be kept low enough, or the plants replaced easily from time to time.  If moss is used, place it face down in the container, so that a free green carrpet will be visible from the outside.  Then arrange your woodland plants and fill in around their roots with rich loam and more moss.  Natural scenes may be copied from the woods, using stones for large boulders, a lichen-covered stick for a log, and a seedling evergreen for a tree.  Colorful effects are obtained by the addition of bits of tree-growing fungi, twigs with incrusted growing plants, and low-growing flowering plants to force into bloom.  Artificial furnishings should be used with discretion.

“Sand and large pebbles may be used instead of moss as the drainage layer, with a little charcoal for sweetening.  Above this spread an inch or more of topsoil.

“Tropical plants with their wealth of color and love of heat and moisture are ideally suited to terrarium culture.  Among the best of these are crotons, hoffmanias, all of the warm-house ferns, begonias, African violets, oxalis, peperomias, selaginellas, and creeping philodendrons.  Tree-moss, liverworts and creeping nettles make excellent carpets.

“Terrariums require very little care.  Watering must be done in moderation, perhaps once in ten days, unless the rooms are excessively hot.  No water must be left standing around the roots, or the soil will become sour and soggy.  If mold appears, increase the ventilation and it will disappear.  If the lid fits very tightly, and the terrarium is given plenty of water, it may safely be left for a number of weeks without attention, as the moisture will condense on the  cool glass and drip back into the garden.”

Using a terrarium for winter house decoration especially appealed to me.  I certainly had a yard full of potential candidates for terrarium use.  Maybe later in the year I’ll make one!  If I do, you can be sure I’ll be blogging about it!

I did put some of the moss in an old shallow planter. 

Moss Planter

Moss Planter

The moss is much greener than the photo shows.  That’s taller, darker moss towards the back.  It is rust colored with bright green tips.  I think this planter would be an excellent focal point for mediation.  You can see there are so many tiny variations in the moss…you can really get lost in it.  Moss meditation!