Thursday, September 13, 2012

The World in a Jar...

In August the effervescent Tovah Martin came to the Sharon Audubon Center to share her enthusiasm about the little worlds she creates and celebrates in her book “The New Terrarium”, published by Timber Press. 

By recruiting an army of terrarium converts, one in each office cubicle, Tovah believes the stress of work would be greatly reduced and we would all be happier. 

She compared the terrariums of the 1960’s which were like science experiments to those of today which are works of art – miniature worlds of calm.  As you see all sorts of containers work for her, many of which she finds in thrift shops for pennies.

When Bride and Groom came for Labor Day weekend, we hiked the Appalachian Trail and made terrariums.  They are fun and simple to make.  Above are our containers and Tovah’s book.  It is best to work with a container you can put your hand in easily – we aren’t building  ships in a bottle!

The ‘ingredients’ are not hard to find: stones, horticultural charcoal, organic potting soil, plus plants.

Given the small diameter of our containers, we used mostly plants from 2” pots.  Terrain in Westport CT features terrarium containers and plants as well as Tovah’s book.  You don’t need specialist plants, however, it is very easy to split a larger plant into two or three.  The supermarket often has small plants.

Let’s start with the layers. First the stones – a layer of 3/8” stones will allow best the circulation of water.  Add a small handful of horticultural charcoal and mix it in. This will keep the water sweet.  We mixed this separately and then put a one inch layer in the container.

Two inches of organic potting soil goes on top of the stones and is leveled and lightly tamped down.  

The planting is just like planting outside.  Make a sufficient hole, plant and firm up.  Do the ‘tug test’ to make sure it won’t pop out.

Our plants were well watered before planting.  Simply add water and a little misting.  Once the lid goes on the container, you are setting up a little biosphere.

On the Appalachian Trail we collected (shhh!) some pretty stones, cones and pieces of bark.  These we added to the terrarium for contrast. What a souvenir of the day!  There is no end to the kinds of little objects you might want to include.

You may soon become an addict, finding all sorts of containers and plants to use.  Best to buy Tovah’s book and really learn how to do it – a great project for school kids or a garden club workshop…. and be sure to have fun!


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