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« Winter BRUNCH tips from my WGN segment | Main | {scene} Sneak peak: "First Look for Charity" gala menu »
Tuesday
Jan312012

Your own patch of GREEN: How to make a TERRARIUM

Winter always gets me a bit stir crazy, so this year, I made my own little tropical paradise in a terrarium. These little gardens are only limited by your imagination, and are very easy to create and maintain!

To start, you'll need a container. Take a look around the house and see if you happen to have any glass vessels like an old vase, pitcher, brandy snifter or punch bowl. There are myriad options at your local craft store, but also check out thrift stores and resale shops.

I chose this vase for its fat bottom and bubbly glass.

You will need...
Drop cloth or newspaper for easy cleanup
A glass vessel that has no drainage
Pebbles or gravel – you’ll need enough to cover the bottom of your vessel to about an inch
Activated charcoal
Potting soil (preferably without added fertilizer)
Trowel or scoop
Snips or scissors
Small scale houseplants
Any other nifty bits like beach glass, pretty rocks, chipped china, or miniature accessories

 

First, give your glass container a quick rinse to clear out any dust or dirt. Also, rinse your pebbles and charcoal to minimize the dust. The charcoal dust can seep down into your pebbles and look black and nasty. You can use a strainer or a large bowl.

 

Layer your pebbles on the bottom of your vessel to the depth of about an inch. This creates the drainage needed so your plants don’t drown. I chose to do a mix of large pebbles and small gravel as I wanted to emphasize the natural look of the pebbles. I also picked through them and chose some of the prettiest to use as a final touch.

 

Sprinkle a thin layer of activated charcoal across your pebbles. The charcoal keeps your soil sweet and minimizes bacteria. You can find it and the pebbles at your local pet store in the aquarium supplies.

 

Add a layer of potting soil. Start with about an inch or two that you can add to later. You may want to create hills or valleys in your terrarium – go for it!

 

Plant choices: in general (unless you are doing a succulent terrarium) choose a variety of low light, high moisture houseplants. Ferns and mosses are ideal.

Pop your plants out of their pots. In my case, the variegated creeping fig came apart immediately, so I was able to split it and put it in several spots. Depending on the depth of your vessel, it may make sense to trim the roots or shake off a good deal of the existing soil. It can be a tight fit to get the plants planted, but the roots will be fine with a bit of cutting. Also, you may need to trim your plants down in size. With the rex begonia, I cut off a good third of the foliage to make it fit. Remember, this is a miniature landscape, so you will want to use small plants. We don’t want them to grow too much, which is why I suggest choosing a potting soil without added fertilizer.

 

After you get your plants snuggled in and topped off with a bit more potting soil, think about what other embellishments you may want to add. I sprinkled in my pretty pebbles, some hickory nuts, and an artfully broken black walnut. You can also add twigs, bark, shells – almost anything!

 

With all the plants and embellishments in place, water the terrarium thoroughly. If you are using an enclosed vessel, you will rarely need to water as the transpiration of the plants creates high humidity. You’ll have water dripping down your glass. Do lift the lid or the cloche now and again to get fresh air into your little environment as it can get too stale. With an open container, make sure that soil is evenly moist.

 

Wasn't that easy? In just an hour, I have a pretty new arrangement. Terrariums can be lovely additions to the home, but also consider creating one for the office. These little gardens can really brighten up a workspace.

Get more terrarium tips and ideas on my blog!

 

Gardening by Heather Prince

Part of the Second City Soiree Contributor Series. Heather is on Twitter @FearlessGarden. Read her full bio here.

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Reader Comments (1)

Great project! And wouldn't mini terraria (is that the right plural?) make perfect favors for a "green" wedding?

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