MESSAGE IN BOTTLE
A SIMPLE TERRARIUM CAN MAKE FOR A GREAT CHRISTMAS GIFT
The idea of moving economical crops around the world by the likes of botanical adventurers, Banks, Solander, Cook and Bligh was always facilitated by little (or large) ornate Georgian glass cases.
It could have been okra bound for Kew or Captain Bligh’s nemesis breadfruit from the Caribbean headed to Kew and on to other places in the colony to feed slaves. Or a rare collectable for m’lord’s estate collection.
The Empress Josephine Bonaparte was said to have had the world’s best collection of roses. She snaffled many of these by hijacking ships returning to Europe (mostly British) laden with glass cases of struck roses from China and the East and pirated the ship while at it.
Glass terrariums are a thing of evolution from these glass cases. The originals were sealed but had breathing spaces and a little soil, charcoal and maybe some light sphagnum moss for their journeys. They were then placed in a larger display case that allowed measured light in at different times of the day or artificial candle light by night.
The more recent terrariums are a bit like garden fads that came and went and were also attached to the macrame era of hanging a glass garden in a bottle with coloured sisal.
The terrarium is coming back into vogue as our living spaces are reduced and we rely on other items like smaller indoor plants for decoration.
The Bicentenary of the US in 1976 saw an explosion in larger blown glass demi john and large size bottles for the purpose of inserting a ship. However the terrarium enthusiasts cottoned on and set them up for some stunning displays.
Upright, side on, didn’t matter. The base still needed a layer of fine gravel, followed by a light covering of charcoal, followed again by a small layer of soil and then planted with tweezers or in some way to get into the neck of the bottle that would have everyone wondering how you did it.
Small seedling ferns, neanthebella palms, peperomia, dwarf Spathiphyllum, pilea, and many other soft tissue pants that can stand some moisture, light and shade will always make a nice garden under glass.
Sealing the terrarium is optional. But if open, it needs a misting spray occasionally. Sealed bottles should not be in the sun and need to be monitored for how much condensation they produce. So, big bottles are back in and if you need some stimulus check out Instagram and The Botanic Boys in the UK.