How to make your own terrarium: a miniature garden under glass
PUBLISHED: 11:35 01 June 2016 | UPDATED: 12:03 01 June 2016
Copyright 2016. All rights reserved.
We get in touch with our inner green thumb ahead of the GROW London garden show with a DIY terrarium workshop from London Terrariums.
DIY step-by-step terrarium
Fill your glass container with clean, smallish stones. These will provide a firm base and allow for drainage. You could even use pebbles from a special place like a favourite beach to create an original memento.
Add a sprinkle - about a teaspoon's worth - of activated charcoal. This will act as a natural air filter for your terrarium.
This is the messy part! Scoop in handfuls of compost to cover the rocks and the charcoal. A small plant pot with a cut up one side makes the perfect funnel. You want to use compost that is suited to the plants you plan to use in the terrarium. Here we used Fittonia plants from Peru, so the compost wasn't too rich.
Use a cork on a long stick to poke through the neck of your bottle to use as a tool to tamp down your compost. You need it to be packed tightly to provide a firm base for your plants.
Use a radiator brush (or a normal brush with a 45 degree angle added) to gently brush the compost off the insides of the glass container. You want a clear view of your plants!
Use a stick to poke and wiggle a hole in the packed compost for the plant. Gently un pot your plant and separate out a section of plant, removing as much excess soil as possible from the roots. If there are any leaves near the base of the stem you might want to prune them off. Drop the plant into the bottle and use your stick to gently manoeuvre the roots into the hole youve made. Be patient! This is the trickiest part and a good test of your dexterity. You can always use another stick like a chopstick to reposition the plant.
Make another, wider hole in the compost with your stick. Tear off a little chunk of moss, give it a spray with a water bottle to moisten it and plop it in to your bottle. Use your stick to reposition it. Even if your moss has dried out a little in the process it will soon turn a lovely bright green when it's settled in its new terrarium home.
Add another plant or two. Dont overcrowd your miniature garden in a bottle, but dont worry about it getting out of control. The plants will eventually adapt to grow miniature leaves to perfectly fit their new home.
Spray down the sides of your bottle, about 10 to 15 good squirts should do it. This is the initial watering period, and afterwards you shouldn't need to water the terrarium again apart from the occasional top up if it begins to look dry.
Pop your cork in the top to finish. Don't worry about hermetically sealing your environment, there should be space for fresh air to circulate in to the bottle. For the first few weeks as the gases settle you'll want to take the cork out for a few hours at a time, but after that you can sit back and admire your new terrarium.
I never thought I’d become the gardening type, but since I moved to grey and greasy London two years ago I’ve discovered a latent love for the green stuff.
Maybe it’s the inspiration of the gorgeous green spaces that lurk around every chaotic corner of the capital, or perhaps it’s the sinister knowledge that just 20 minutes spent hurtling through the subterranean tunnels of the tube is equivalent to smoking a cigarette.
Cultivating an urban indoor plant collection in my (vastly expensive and shoebox sized) room of my own is one of many small gestures to competency and maturity I’m keen to semaphore on my stumbling journey to millennial adulthood.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, though: this is more of a green fingernail than a green thumb. I’m the proud plant parent of three cacti, a basil plant and a nondescript leafy thing that cost me the princely sum of £2.50 from Tesco.
I’m more likely to Instagram my plants than remember to water them. But when my entire worldly possessions are able to fit into the back of a friend’s car, having my own collection of portable plant totems is reassuring.
I’m not alone in this newfound love of all things gardening. Generation rent may not be able to spend Sunday afternoons out in the garden working on their mature rose garden, but we appreciate the appeal of a houseplant or three more than our homeowner parents.
If I’m just an acolyte, Emma Sibley could be the patron saint of greenery loving millennials. Her terrariums, best described to the uninitiated as plants in a bottle, are living and breathing works of art.
She founded her start-up, London Terrariums, along with her boyfriend and business partner Tom Murphy. The creative couple work out of their studio in Peckham, bottling beautiful plants to order, running workshops and cultivating an artisanal screen printing business on the side (naturally).
Her encyclopaedic knowledge of the history of terrariums is matched only by her enthusiasm for the craft, and her light-hearted workshop was a fun, albeit messy, trip into the world of terrariums.
Originally popularised by the eponymous Nathanial Bagshaw Ward, the ‘Wardian case’ was used to pioneer the moving plants across the world. By sealing specimens planted in soil inside glass, delicate plants are protected from damaging changes in humidity.
Victorians went crazy for the cases as ‘terridimania’ gripped polite society. Ever more extravagant and intricate cases – complete with miniature hanging baskets and working water features – became an indicator of social status.
The craft saw a revival in the 70s, and is now coming back into fashion once more amongst urban dwelling plant enthusiasts who appreciate their vintage feel as much as their practicality.
The beauty of the terrarium, besides their inherent aesthetic appeal, is that they exist in their own self sustaining microcosm. The evaporating moisture in the bottle condenses on the glass sides of the bottle, keeping the plants moist and negating the need to water them.
Above you’ll find a step-by-step visual guide to DIY-ing your very own terrarium, but if you want the full experience you can build your own Demijohn Terrarium at her workshop with GROW London in June.
Dubbed ‘horticultural hipsterville’ by ethnobotanist James Wong, the contemporary garden show will be bringing style and substance to Londoners and their green spaces, big and small.
GROW London runs from June 24 – 26 on north London’s most iconic green space, Hampstead Heath.
Ham and High readers can get tickets for half price at £8 (plus booking fee) as opposed to the on-the-door price of £16, valid for any day excluding the Garden Party Charity Preview, using the code: HANDH16.