I have a confession – I killed my last terrarium. It was not any fault of the amazing maker who I bought it from in Brighton about five years ago, it was all my own doing. During one of our many rearrangements of this house, I left it in a darkened corner with no light and its lid sealed on. So when I got invited by Fiskars to create a new one with botany guru James Wong at the Sky Garden last month – I said yes, please!I was super excited to be invited along to this masterclass up above the city, almost touching the autumn clouds. Having been a user of Fiskars awesome scissors all around our home for general purpose for as long as I can remember and cutting fabric for sewing since I was in college! Plus my most used gardening item is a pair of their loppers which I prune and fell a LOT of shrubs with every year, I wouldn’t be without them in the garden. I can’t believe I had no idea that they had been making amazing tools since 1649.At the top of the world in the Sky Garden London, I met up with a gorgeous gang of plant loving bloggers, the Fiskars team and James to learn all sorts of gardening facts over lunch and then get our hands in the soil making terrariums after.As you can see below, the pristine table soon became a forest of tools, compost and plants. With a backdrop of St Paul’s and other famous London landmarks flanked by all the amazing ferns and foliage in the Sky Garden – we planned, planted and spritzed.The history of the terrarium was one of the most facinating things of the day – ‘Historically terrariums or Wardian Cases were 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 noticed 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.’‘For the first time, horticulturists were able to bring back sensitive tropical plants in Wardian cases well-protected from salt air and changing climatic conditions during the long sea voyage. Ward’s terrariums also became popular for growing the plants, and it became, in various guises, almost a domestic necessity. The poor had to content themselves with inexpensive rudimentary versions, but there were no limits for the rich. Wardian cases grew into miniature Taj Mahals and Brighton Pavilions, perfect vehicles for the contemporary love of elaborate ornamentation as well as living plants.’ These excerpts were taken from – A little history of Terrariums. Green fingers at the ready and feeling like you’d like to create the perfect terrarium for your home? If so keep reading!Building your perfect terrarium (this is so much fun).
1. Start by putting a couple of inches of clay pebbles (I think Ikea sells a version of these) in the bottom of a glass bottle, jar or bowl to create space in under the soil for drainage – this prevents the soil getting sodden and roots from becoming too wet and rotting.
2. On top of the clay pebbles (or gravel) lay a thick layer of compost on top – 2, 3 or 4 inches – as long as it is plenty deep enough to plant your chosen plants so the roots are covered and the soil comes up to the base of each plant.
3. Next decide on some architectural elements that will fit in and around your chosen foliage bringing height and structure to your mini garden. A small branch or wooden form, large rocks, shiny stones, crystals or shells.
4. Choose plants that thrive in slightly damp or humid conditions like most types of ferns, some begonias, nerve plants, philodendron, moss and other small versions of tropical plants that enjoy a damp forest floor. Plant them as above and remember to leave them space to grow.
5. Fill any gaps under and around each plant with a layer of moss or gravel and even some small figures if you like! My deceased one had a camping scene inside – you can take a peek here.
6. Finally, brush away any stray gravel or compost that is on the leaves with a soft, artists paint brush then water to moisten all the new plants and soil.
Terrariums are easy to maintain, so don’t worry. Place your jar or bowl in a bright spot out of direct sunlight and just add a little water once a week or a fine misting if the soil is still damp beneath but the leaves look dry.Below, I was excited to meet the lovely Stephanie Donaldson who for sixteen years was Gardens editor of Country Living magazine and now blogger over at The Enduring Gardener. Stephanie is also another East Sussex local, her terrarium was a beauty!If sealed with the right conditions inside – your terrarium will create its own ecosystem and water cycle. Moisture from the plants and soil evaporates due to the warmer temperature inside the glass container and then forms condensation on the inside of the glass which then falls back down onto the plants and soil. Remember that some of your plants might not survive and that’s not the beginning of the end, gardening is all about trial and error and plants will always do their best to thrive with a helping hand. But there will always be some casualties along the way to gardening success! After our miniature garden masterclass, we wandered through the beautiful Sky Garden a bit more to take it all in, before heading home with all kinds of gardening tools to use at home.Thanks to our lovely hosts I am enjoying some new tools to tend to my plants, these little snips above are perfect for delicate pruning and once it’s time to trim up our apple tree I will be out in the icy January air with my new pruning saw.My miniature green world in a bowl fits in nicely with all our other green friends and I will keep a closer eye on this one to ensure its survival! Ooh and remember – most houseplants actually are killed with kindness by generous over waterers!