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 can see, all sorts of containers work for her, and many of which she finds in thrift shops for pennies.

When the 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 that you can easily get your hand in – we are not 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 the plants as well as Tovah’s book.  You don’t need specialist plants, however, just split a larger plant into two or three to use in containers.   The supermarkets often have little 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’ve mixed this together before putting a one inch layer in the containers.

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. However, we also added some water and a little misting.  Once the lid goes on the container, what you are setting up here is a little biosphere.

On the Appalachian Trail we collected (shhhh!) some pretty stones, cones and pieces of bark.  These we added to the terrarium for contrast. What a delightful souvenir of the day!

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






About Susan

Susan Detjens is a former landscape painter, she lectures, demonstrates and runs workshops on floral design for museums, horticultural organizations and garden clubs across the US.
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