Okay, so having been an ardent follower of Tanner Serpa of the YouTube channel “SerpaDesigns” I thought I would give terrarium building a bash! I had wanted to try this at the flat but found space hard to come by and the price of legitimate, real terrariums was ridiculous! Surely a jar from Ikea would suffice for a start:
Well, like you would imagine, I forgot to take a photo of the empty jar. So to the left <<< is a photo of one I’ve erm, borrowed. My model seems to have something of a dodgy latch / catch mechanism but given that this is meant to be a terrarium I should only be opening this once or twice per year. The first task was to lay what is known as a false bottom, why is it called false when it really does sit at the bottom? Don’t know! What is it’s purpose? To take away from the planting media the water that has been provided. Why? Because otherwise things can get all sorts of stinky with stagnant water sitting around. But doesn’t water stick around anyway, it’s glass and there’s no escape? Well, no, once water gets to this point it begins its cycle back up the minute ecosphere and evaporates. That’s clever! Isn’t it just! Anyway, The first layer on top of the bottom glass (the false bottom) is gravel / stones, Tanner often uses a sort of carbonated filter foam material, Tanner has a lot more money than me as this material is stupidly expense – like over £11 for something that would just about cover the surface area of the average lunch box! When I get some kind of competence in this as a hobby then I might be able to justify such an outlay, for now…some alpine grit from Briarlee Garden Centre will do just fine. The next step of the process is to add activated Charcoal – again, this must be very much on trend as it’s also rather costly, I think mine was around £5 or £6 for less than half a kilogramme of it…which I then duly forgot that I had because I had bought it for adding to compost for my house plants. Essentially this was for the same purpose though as it serves as kind of a water cleaner, this stuff is in most aquarium filters.
So, here’s what the project looks like now:
The observant of you will notice a microphone, that is in fact behind the jar, I just did not stage the shot very well, the microphone is to play no further role in this project!
Next comes a layer of Sphagnum Moss. “And why?” I hear you ask… don’t know! This is what Tanner does and he seems to be really good at this sort of thing so I followed suit! A further google around reveals that Sphagnum Moss is quite remarkable at holding on to that water which we want to get rid of…this hobby can be a bit counter intuitive! Again, I had purchased this months ago to use in house plant compost – I think this had been Serpa-inspired so a self fulfilling prophecy (for want of a better phrase). I now had to mix some compost to use…as compost because my normal indoor planting media utilises Perlite which would look a new level of stupid in this tiny environment and would probably resemble microscopic bacteria or fungi. I went for a Coir / Orchid compost, 60/40 mix which should be a bit airy and reduce that awful clogged up wet compost smell. I kind of like messing around with soils and composts, which may well suggest a deep rooted psychological issue, being male, we’re sort of messy! Getting this into the jar was kind of fun because at some point someone (Who? Don’t know!) had bought me these indoor gardening implements:
Women will refer to these as ‘adorable’, until now I had thought of them as somewhat piss-taking! They served this purpose well…kind of…I had other aqua scaping tools from one of my former hobbies to hand but I thought I’d use the former ‘tools’ just on the off-chance that they’d come in handy, which they did!
I had struggled to make a decision regarding which plants to put in this little world, Tanner is a fan of mosses and liverwort – I didn’t have any of that to hand and we now live quite some way from anywhere that I could liberate some. I had bought a tiny fern to try out but in my heart of hearts knew that was never going to remain at its current size and would quite soon just die and rot. Fittonia on the other hand, might just suffice! I had bought some (Fittonia verschaffeltii ‘White Forest Flame’) to go with the none-usable fern as it had a light colour and tiny leaves. Also, whilst at RHS Harlow Carr (ahem, name drop much?) I found a few more varieties to try out, I think there was about six different ones, so I got two and some creeping fig which I had wanted after watching…Tanner’s channel (keep up will you?). To be fair I now have a good old Fig collection:
- Benjamina – both the normal weeping and variegated forms
- and now Pumila Arina, although I hasten to add it is not the more attractive variegated form.
But … I decided to leave that until my next foray into terrarium building, or even the one after that (sorry to yank you around haha!). So the decision was eventually made to plant the Fittonia verschaffeltii White Forest Flame and Fittonia verschaffeltii ‘Joly Josan’.
This was not easy. It’s a long time since I had to do something so fiddly, well excluding fitting watch straps and batteries but they are inanimate and don’t object to being handled brutally, plants get all squashed and oozy! Of course it goes without saying that even though I started off wanting one plant to go near the centre, all four ended up being right next to the glass and sort of leaning in. I’ll have to check these every so often as a plant in a state of near constant wetness, by being trapped on the glass, is going to rot. They’re fragile little things are plants.
Tadah! The finished product, with all kinds of reflections abound! Nobody said I was a good photographer and nobody was correct in their assessment! I watered the bugge…plants in with the remainder of my deionised water which had been reserved for my oh-so-fussy Calathea collection and some rain water harvested during the previous day’s downpour – there was not half a litre, I need funnels or a water butt! For now I have left this on the windowsill as this is north-facing so they should not get over exposed, although my Fatsia truly hated it there so who knows? I have plans to convert a wardrobe’s shelf into a staging area but that’s going to need a hole cutting so I have to wait until Chris is out of the house. There’s scope here for me to get really into this but for the fact that the plant material is not hugely available, my local garden centre, Dobbies, is not big on small house plants although they do have literally every kind of Cactus and Succulent, there’s much more revenue in large plants sales if you ask me. This leaves me relying on internet shopping for resources and is a world I’m not rushing to get into. For now I might just schedule a trip to Anglezarke where I know there is an amazing moss scape that I’m sure could spare a few pieces to go into my recycled Nescafé jars!