What comes to mind when you think about terrariums? 6th grade science project? Think again. Terrariums have surged in popularity no doubt because they are easy to make, eco-friendly and entertaining (I don’t mean in the tap-dancing sense, though.)
Having dabbled over the years in terrarium making, my children mBf and JDB surprised me at Christmas with a gift certificate for a class on the subject at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. One of my favorite lessons from the class was discovering the variety of terrariums you can create.
First and foremost, making a rain forest terrarium is EASY. Like the cooking technique mise en place, once you gather your ingredients, the rest is fast and simple.
Gather Supplies and Plants – Mise En Place
Cover your work surface. Place your container on a lazy susan if you have one to make turning the container to evenly spread the layers easier. Before you begin, plan your layers carefully, comparing the size of your plants relative to your container. No more than 25% of your container should be filled with the layers; you don’t want to crowd your plants. Add the layers in the following order:
Layer 1 – Rocks or Stones
Tocks and stones provide good drainage.
Layer 2 – Sand
Sand offers additional drainage.
Layer 3 – Horticultural Charcoal
The charcoal filters the terrarium condensation and keeps it fresh-smelling.
Layer 4 – Moistened Potting Soil
The quantity of potting soil depends on the size of your container. This will be your thickest layer.
Layer 5 – Plants
I purchased these small plants at Strange’s, plus I transplanted a small green plant from another terrarium. Vary your plant height, color and texture.
Arrange the plants – still in their pots – for approximate placement in the container. Remove them from the container and discard their plastic pots, cleaning off excess soil and roots to make planting easier.
Use a hand weeder to make your holes and pop the plants into the soil.
Layer 6 – Moss
Cover the soil with moss, then dust plants with a small soft brush.
Layer 7 – Decorative Touches
Place decorative elements in the container if desired.
Finally, wipe the dirt off the sides of the container with a moistened paper towel, cover the container and admire your handiwork. Place in a spot where it will receive filtered sunlight.
The rain forest container garden requires very little watering, conserving a precious resource. Because the container is covered, the interior develops its own eco-system, recycling the condensed water vapor from the soil and plants back into the soil. This type of terrarium requires a spritz of water on the rare occasion. If condensation develops, remove the lid for a bit to let the water evaporate.
Entertaining, you say? Sure! Why not invite friends over for a terrarium making party like this creative pinner suggests. Tell your guests to bring their own container and plant away!
Terrariums make lovely additions to entertaining tablescapes
and can double as party favors and name card holders.
This wine glass holds a miniature succulent garden which does not require a lid. Succulents need different soil; consult your garden center for the proper mix.
Resources and Inspiration
Our instructor recommended this book for inspiration and more information about terrariums
The New Terrarium by Tovah Martin and Kindra Clineff
HomeGoods carries a nice selection of covered glass containers at reasonable prices,
and I spied a simple Victorian container from IKEA.
West Elm offers one-stop-shopping for building a succulent terrarium in its stores.
If live succulents aren’t your thing, look to Pottery Barn for faux provisions and inspiration.
I never dreamed my 6th grade science project would morph into such a hot topic. Let me know if you have any questions before you start your terrarium. If you’re a seasoned terrarium-maker, please do share your advice.
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