The Simple Things - - HOW WE LIVE - Emma runs ter­rar­ium work­shops; lon­don­ter­rar­i­ums.com

Emma Si­b­ley, right, of Lon­don Ter­rar­i­ums ad­vises on grow­ing plants un­der glass in­doors

Ter­rar­i­ums were in­vented by a Vic­to­rian en­to­mol­o­gist Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward. He dis­cov­ered minia­ture ferns grow­ing in a sealed jam jar in­tended for a moth chrysalis and re­alised that it pro­vided the ideal environment for trop­i­cal plants. They pro­tected the plants from dust and pol­lu­tion, main­tained a high hu­mid­ity, and reg­u­lated the tem­per­a­ture, so plants could pho­to­syn­the­sise, be self-suf­fi­cient and water them­selves.

Any clear ves­sel is suit­able

for a ter­rar­ium. It shouldn’t be air tight, though, eg, re­move rub­bers seals from Kil­ner jars. Open ter­rar­i­ums need to be wa­tered and misted to stop plants dry­ing out.

The se­cret to keep­ing plants alive

in a ter­rar­ium is not to water. Ter­rar­i­ums are self-sus­tain­ing: plants pro­duce heat and oxy­gen which con­denses on the glass which is enough to keep them alive. They will need sun­light to pho­to­syn­the­sise but not di­rect light. You may need to take the cork out oc­ca­sion­ally to dry the plants a bit and de­crease hu­mid­ity but this will be rare.

The best plants to put in a ter­rar­ium

are those from trop­i­cal, hu­mid and damp cli­mates. Ferns, minia­ture palms, Fi­cus pumila and Fit­to­nia, which is na­tive to the jun­gles of Peru, all work well.

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