Victoriana revisited

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 June, 2012, 12:00am

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If you are lacking indoor space, but want to surround yourself with plants, a terrarium could be the answer.

The miniature, private worlds occupied by lush greens and tiny figurines have begun gaining favour with young design enthusiasts and creative types.

But today's terrariums look nothing like the fish-tank structures and kitschy miniature greenhouses popular in the 1970s.

Now they marry the present rage for Victoriana, with the growing interest in handmade crafts and all things do-it-yourself.

Terrariums were first perfected by the Victorians who were obsessed by ferns.

Today, they also mix budget-friendly decor and low-maintenance gardening, and part of the appeal is that it does not require a great deal of gardening know-how. While regular house plants can demand considerable attention, terrariums offer a piece of nature in a contained, easy-to-care-for way.

Once a closed terrarium reaches a state of equilibrium, in which there is neither too much nor too little moisture in the container, it can more or less sustain itself. They look great hung on walls or along shelves or windowsills.

You will need a glass container with a large enough opening for placing plants inside. Try using old apothecary jars, cake stands with domes and decanters.

Other requirements include small stones for drainage - gravel, pebbles, broken pottery, or river rocks work well - crushed charcoal, sand, soil, plants, fun landscaping accessories, a funnel and chopsticks, helpful tools for incorporating and placing the different elements into containers with small openings.

If you want to grow sun-loving plants, an open container will work well. Plants that thrive in high levels of humidity should be placed in a closed containers.

Start by cleaning the container thoroughly to prevent bacteria growing. Place drainage at the bottom then add a thin layer of crushed charcoal to keep the soil fresh.

Incorporate different kinds of sand on top of the charcoal for a layered effect and add the soil, making sure to create a hole large enough for the roots of each plant.

Pay close attention to sand and soil levels around the edges, as this is what you will see from the outside.

Finally, place plants in the soil, largest to smallest and lightly pack the soil.

Consider the negative space for other landscaping opportunities such as dried flowers, groundcover, moss or small figurines.

Terrariums only require misting once or twice a week. Water only live plants and avoid moss and dried flowers.

For an open terrarium, the soil should always remain barely moist, never bone dry. Closed terrariums rarely need watering.

Prune dead foliage or overgrown plants as needed to prevent rotting.

Terrariums thrive in natural, indirect light so avoid placing in direct sunlight or other hot areas as you can 'cook' the plants or burn foliage that is touching the edges of the vessel.