Saturday, 17 March 2012

My terrariums….oh dear!

Last month I decided to have a go at making some terrariums, after reading about this new craze on several people’s blogs. The photos I saw looked so nice and the whole idea of a closed ecosystem that only needed minimal watering a few times a year really appealed to me. I even considered giving my son one, as something like this might have a fighting chance of surviving a bit longer than the couple of pot plants I have given him. So after a thorough research and a quite extensive shopping round to get all the necessary bits and pieces I made my terrariums, two large and two small. You can read about the process in my post from 19th February. One month on I thought I would tell you how they are doing.

Can you see what this is? No?

What if I zoom out a bit then, can you see what it is now??

What about from this angle then? Well, it is the largest terrarium I made, with a beautiful primrose, and it is completely, utterly DEAD. So much for a closed, self-supporting ecosystem… I realise that a primrose possibly wasn’t the best choice of plant, as my bedroom probably is too warm for a plant that is meant to be outside during the winter, but it was difficult to find plants that were small enough for my containers. Perhaps that’s why it died. Or perhaps it died because the ecosystem thingy didn’t work. The soil is still wet, so it hasn’t died from lack of water.

Here is the other large terrarium, still alive, but still steaming up, even if I have had the lid off now and then. I can’t really call this a thing of beauty, as I can’t actually see much of what’s inside! Neither the lovely plants nor the expensive decorative stones I put in are that visible through the glass and drops of water. But it is still alive, for now.

The more successful ones have been the tiny glass jars, with a few leaves of Peperomia each. They are still going strong, so much so that I think they will need a pruning again soon! But you can’t really see much of the plant here either, just a glimmer of green through the glass.

I guess the ones I like best are the leftover glass jars I filled with golden stones and sand and red potpourri. They look quite nice. But they are not exactly terrariums….

Here they are, all five of them, one large terrarium, two small and two filled with potpourri, displayed on my living room window sill. I think I will go hunting for a large fish bowl and some nice new plants and start all over again. I still have enough sand, gravel, moss and charcoal to make a large open terrarium, and I think that will be a better solution. That means no water-once-a year self-supporting ecosystem then, just a nice big glass bowl with some lovely plants. And these three? Ehmm....I got room in my compost bin for them! They would then be joining the big terrarium from upstairs, it went in the compost bin yesterday. So that was my first attempt at making terrariums. Some lessons learned, some experience gained, and my next attempt will hopefully look better and last longer!

On a slightly more positive note, we had 19 degrees Celcius Thursday, and the tulip I had a photo of on my GBBD post which had barely pinked up opened fully, followed by two more! It is amazing what can happen in just one day of glorious warm spring sunshine :-) Here they are, Tulip 'Albert Heijn', and with more days like this, the tulips in my beds will soon be flowering too.

Doesn’t it look amazing, this close? Funny how I don’t really see these details unless I go close with my camera :-)

That was all for today, how is your terrarium doing?? Have you got a closed or open one? If you have a closed terrarium, how long have you managed to keep it alive and what plants did you put in it? I’d love to hear from you and gain some more experience before I give it a go again! Until next time, take care.


  1. My grandfather used to have a terrarium, but I was quite young when he died and only remember general things about it. Maybe they'll be helpful to you anyway. It was larger than the ones you've done--fishbowl size or a little smaller, and as I recall it had a hinged or maybe vented lid. He grew VERY small plants in it, so the terrarium was about 3/4 air--maybe that would make a difference for you? I remember mosses, miniature African violets, and something on the lines of baby's tears; he'd made a little garden from them. I'm sorry your first endeavors weren't what you had hoped for, but that is all too often the way of first endeavors! I'm sure your second endeavor will come closer to your vision.

  2. That is too bad about the primrose!

    All my terrariums are somewhat open, but I do have to water them weekly. The little button ferns are doing the worst - I think they would probably like a closed terrarium. The mosaic plants and polka dot plants are quite happy with the arrangement though, as long as I don't forget to water them!

    I hope your next terrarium works a little better!

  3. Ah well, you cant win them all, go on try again. Or, Eliza from Appalachianfeet is asking us to show some ugly stuff for a change.

  4. I tried a terrarium quite a while ago, and as I recall I didn't have much success with it either. I seem to remember that it did require watering occasionally.
    I think the main reason I gave up though, was that dying foliage had to be removed regularly and not allowed to rot. This meant that the terrarium required more attention than growing ordinary house plants.

  5. Never tried a terrarium, but I'm interested - thanks for showing us yours. Maybe you can get it all figured out, and *then* I'll start one! ;)

  6. I had a terrarium when I was a kid -- and it's something I would like to attempt again. By the way, I adore the close-up of the tulip. Well done -- and please don't give up on the terrariums.

  7. Thank you all for your kind and helpful comments, I promise I will have another go some time! But I think I will choose an open terrarium next time, just a nice big glass bowl and some nice plants. Think I will spend some time trying to find small plants, miniature plants that stay small….a quick search via Google revealed a long list of suggestions, now I just need to find an online UK supplier that stock and deliver some of these without making me bankrupt in the process! Will probably be something for when my garden slows down again next winter, I will keep you all posted :-)

  8. As you know, I'm pretty new to Terrariums, too. I put my Cyclamen in a closed jar and it died. :( But my big goldfish bowl terrarium is still looking great. I've had to adjust the watering and air flow a bit. I think it takes a while for them to hit an equilibrium. Actually, I don't water it at all. I just spritz it with a mix of peroxide and water about 1-2 times a week. And I put a sprinkling of activated charcoal granules around the top of the terrarium, too, because a little mold started. But the charcoal and the peroxide seems to have taken care of that problem. One of these days, I'll do another post about it. It's bee pretty easy care for me.

  9. can offer no real advice - had the big green bottle garden years ago and one by one all plants died. Might be better away from radiator but still light and warm? Nice try though