Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Terrarium: a garden in miniature
Terrariums have made a big comeback. You see them in the pages of interior design magazines and do-it-yourself crafter websites. You can even find terrarium necklaces with tiny planted pendants.
The recent surge in terrarium popularity is easy to understand, says florist and terrarium enthusiast Jay Stolz. Terrariums give you all the pleasure of a garden without the effort or expense.
You can learn to create your own miniature garden in a terrarium workshop led by Stolz on Saturday, June 9, from 10 a.m. to noon at Duke Gardens. Stolz will introduce the basics of making both closed- and open-form terrariums—those with and without lids. Then each participant will select plants and build a terrarium in the glass container they bring to the workshop.
To assemble one at home, you need to do little more than fill an interesting clear glass container with layers of gravel, soil and plants.
Select a container with an opening through which you can fit your hand. Place an inch or two of pea gravel or sand at the bottom of the container. If your terrarium will be closed, add a thin layer of activated charcoal (the kind used in aquarium filters) over the gravel to filter the air. Add a layer of sphagnum moss as the next layer to lessen the draining of dirt into the gravel. Add two or more inches of potting soil. Finally, place your plants, lightly mist them and add the lid if you are creating a closed terrarium.
Low-growing plants generally work best. Try using a miniature African violet (Saintpaulia) or lipstick plant (Aeschynanthus radicans). Silver leafed pilea (Pilea cadierei), baby tears (Soleirolia soleirolii), small ferns such as button fern (Pellaea rotundifolia) and mosses are also great choices.
“Plant only half of what you think you need, to account for their growth,” Stolz advises. “You need to know how to space them, just as you would in your yard.”
As for care, that’s the easy part. Observe your terrarium closely for the first few weeks after planting and remove dead leaves and plants to minimize disease. If the terrarium seems too moist, remove the lid to dry out the container a bit. A closed terrarium only needs to be lightly watered every four to six months, an open terrarium perhaps monthly.
After that, all that’s left is the enjoyment of your very own miniature world.
To register for the Terrarium workshop or for more information on all the programs offered by Duke Gardens, please call 919-668-1707 or go to gardens.duke.edu. The cost is $70; $55 Gardens members and Duke staff and students.
Sarah P. Duke Gardens creates and nurtures an environment in the heart of Duke University for learning, inspiration and enjoyment through excellence in horticulture. The Gardens is at 420 Anderson St.
Jennie Carlisle is an events assistant at Duke Gardens. This column first appeared in the Durham Herald-Sun.