Wet terrarium (flickr.com)
There is something about nature that brightens up our lives, and with a terrarium — a miniature garden in a glass — you can bring nature into your home or office.
Aquariums have long been a feature in many homes, bringing a sense of serenity to go with the aesthetic pleasure. And what aquariums are to water, terrariums are to earth, now making their way into many homes as more and more people embrace the “go green” concept and seek to get a little closer to nature.
Gardening is popular as a creative and relaxing pursuit — and a miniature garden is not different. If the weather isn’t right for gardening, or you simply have no space, a terrarium gives you the chance to indulge your green thumb and bring a touch of nature into your life.
“If you love gardening but don’t have a lot of time or the space for an outdoor garden, a terrarium may be an ideal option for you,” says Indonesia’s terrarium pioneer Anie Kristiani.
Filled with plants, figurines and colorful rocks, terrariums are a delightful way to bring the enchantment of the outdoors inside, no matter how small the space you’re living in, she points out.
And because these pretty miniature gardens are enclosed in glass, you can control everything from moisture to lighting with relative ease.
“Sure you can bring plants in conventional plastic pots into your home, but most of the time, they’re dirty,” Anie says during a workshop. “Besides, they’re less artistic and you can get bored with them pretty easily.”
Terrariums, on the other hand, “are dirt-free and can be great way to add a beautiful decoration to your home,” she adds.
And not only for your home: If your office needs a touch of green, terrariums can make lovely desk ornaments there too.
Before making a name for themselves as home décor and hobbies as they are today, terrariums were used in laboratories. Dr. Nathaniel Ward, an English physician and amateur botanist, created a terrarium by accident in the early 1800s. After going out gathering cocoons and plant samples, he placed the cocoons in a covered glass jar. Several days later, Ward noticed that there were tiny plants growing in the jar, next to the cocoons. Enthralled by what he saw, he began to construct terrariums to study ecosystems in miniature.
But you don’t have to be a scientist to make a little world of your own. Today, terrariums are for everybody, everywhere, because they bring the twin delights of gardening and creativity and are not difficult to create. Even children can do it, creating their own tiny dreamland in a little jar, while learning about ecosystems at the same time.
Life in miniature: Indulge your green thumb and your inner artist with these delightful miniature gardens (photobucket.com.jpg)
The first thing in making your terrarium, Anie says, is to decide on the type of glass container you want your plants to grow in. If you’re a beginner, or prefer simplicity, you can choose a small glass, jar or vase. For a “sexy” option, you can choose a wineglass or even a bottle. If you want a bigger terrarium, a fishbowl makes a good option.
The next thing to do is to prepare your mini gardening tools: chopsticks, plastic fork (use it as a rake), water sprayer and brushes. Then there are the planting mediums, in this case horticultural charcoal, moss, compost and zeolite sand — all of which can be found in any gardening store.
These mediums each have slightly different properties, Anie explains. Moss works to absorb excess water. Charcoal does the same, but has the extra job of absorbing toxins. Zeolite sand consists of volcanic minerals that absorb air from the surroundings. The compost, which Anie says should be made from plant not animal waste, works as a natural fertilizer.
Once you’re set up, you’re ready to get creative, with the “landscaping”. Designing your terrarium garden will provide you with hours of entertainment as you decide on its theme and how it will look. You can choose all kinds of different themes: under the sea with seashells; spring garden with bugs, butterflies and birds; colorful playground full of figurines; or a warm dessert with a cactus or two. Decide how you will arrange the plants, flower, rocks and other decorations.
At this stage, Anie says, it’s important to decide what kind of terrarium you prefer: A wet one, or a dry one. The difference between the two lies in the types of plants. If you prefer a dry terrarium, you would choose cactus, cryptanthus (or earth stars) and succulents like aloe vera and sansevieria.
A wet terrarium, on the other hand, is for plants that thrive in humid conditions, such as small leafy plants like calathea and maranta (both are popularly known as “prayer plants” because of their habit of folding their leaves closed each night, like hands joined in prayer), miniature ferns, small palms, dracaena, fittonia, gesneriaceae, peperomia, scindapsus and synogium (or arrowhead vine).
There are as many options as there are gardeners. You could even combine water-loving plants like bamboo with alyssums, or miniature African violets. Or look around and see if you can find some ultra-mini roses. If your terrarium is large enough, you can try growing herbs such as parsley.
“For terrariums, look for plants that are slow growing with rather small leaves,” says Anie, author of Membuat Terrarium: Taman Mungil Dalam Wadah Kaca (Making Terrariums: A Tiny Garden inside a Glass). The reason for this, she adds, is to prevent smothering. “You’ll want to find plants that are tolerant of living indoors and small enough to fit comfortably in your terrarium.”
Besides, “Plants that grow slowly mean we enjoy the beauty of the terrarium for a long time,” she adds.
Because of the artistic nature of terrariums, they add something extra to your existing houseplants, Anie says. And if you’re smart and creative enough, you could even consider turning it into a small business.
But if you simply admire terrariums for their beauty or just for the pleasure of creating them, you can keep them for yourselves or give them as unusual gifts such as for birthdays or company events.
Everyone will admire them because, as Anie says, along with their beauty, “terrariums are stress relieving.”
As is any garden, even one in a glass.
Terrarium workshop and private courses
Cristata Home of Terarium
Jl. H. Amar No. 16, Curug, Pondok Kelapa, East Jakarta 13450
Tel: 021-93446720 (or Shanti Savitri on 0812 9629241)