Saturday, May 16, 2009


To me, terrarium-owners have always been like some kind of cool club that I want to join but can't get into. I can barely keep the hardiest of houseplants alive, so the idea of creating a delicate ecosphere of ferns, mosses and ivies on my tabletop seems out of reach. But our latest book The New Terrarium: creating beautiful displays for plants and nature by Tovah Martin has inspired me. She seems to speak to me when she writes "In the past, you might have been all 'brown thumbs' when it came to houseplants, but this is different". She holds out the promise that with a well-prepared container (potting soil, pebbles, charcoal and moss) and a little forethought (just how big are those fern seedlings going to grow?) I can create a self-contained, self-maintaining miniature garden. I just have to keep an eye on it to detect problems before they escalate (ah, there's the rub!).
She offers lots of suggestions for containers (my favorite is the covered cake plate), reminding the reader to think about the ability of light to penetrate the thickness of glass, the level of air circulation in the container, and drainage. As Martin points out, a terrarium doesn't have to be covered, and it can have drainage; you simply modify your watering schedule to accommodate your setup. Martin also has a helpful list of terrarium-friendly plants, as well as examples of what you don't want in your container (cacti being on the 'don't bother' list).
The photographs are what really sell the book, however. Photographer Kindra Clineff has filled the book with beautiful color photos of glass cases, cloches, dishes and glass display boxes stuffed with vibrant green plants. With Martin's flair for composition and design, this book manages to elevate the soggy, sweaty terrariums of the 1970's back into the realm of miniature Victorian art where they originated. Very inspiring...

1 comment:

The Fern and Mossery said...

Great book!

Terrariums can be quite easy to make with things you can find around the house. Check out my blog for tips and links to how-to pages.