This post marks a first at the Masters of Horticulture. Today, I bring you my first ever guest author. Today’s author is an incredibly intelligent, beautiful and charming museum professional. She is also my daughter. Heather is the Tour Programs Coordinator for the Museum of Fine Arts Houston (MFAH). Heather is a young professional that shares my love of writing, gardening and saving money. When I saw what she had I done with these terrariums, I wanted to do a post about them. I was thrilled that she volunteered to write it. So, without furhter ado, here is Heather:
While browsing through a magazine article about gift giving, I came across a description of terrariums that contain tiny vignettes (see examples here: http://twigterrariums.com/photos). I thought they were very cute. As a frugal shopper, and the daughter of a DIY gardener, I was inspired to create my own glass container gardens, with just as much character as those in the magazine, but without the big costs. With just $30 and a few hours of time, I put together 8 terrariums that will make great holiday gifts.
Here’s how I did it: After some research, I made my shopping list of the few key ingredients that I would need to create my terrariums:
- Glass Containers with or without lids
- River rocks or gravel
- Spanish Moss
- Character additives
To find my terrarium containers, I hit my favorite local thrift store, St. Vincent DePaul’s Resale Shop. Most thrift stores are full of unwanted glassware, and I found perfect vessels priced from $0.25 to a whopping $2.50. As usual, signs in St. Vincent’s remind you that “If you steal from St. Vincent DePaul’s, you’re stealing from Jesus.” Since I paid my bill of $7.50 in full, all was well with the Lord.
Next I went to a home and garden store and bought a few plants. For some of my terrariums, I purchased small succulents, choosing varieties that included multiple plants in single pots so that I could split them into multiple containers later. I also grabbed a few easy to care for ivies, like Fig Ivy and Devil’s Ivy. You really don’t need a lot of plants per terrarium and I had more than enough plant material from just 6 single 4” containers. I also picked up a bag of dry Spanish moss. Finally, I needed river rocks. I found them in the potted plant area. A small, one pound bag of beautifully packaged “decorative” river rocks was listed at $5. I then visited the gravel and mulch area, where I found a 40 pound bag of the exact same river rocks, in less attractive packaging, for the same price. The large bag provided more than enough rocks, and I’ve used the leftovers for other garden projects. If you have decent gravel or pebbles around your house, you wouldn’t need to buy rocks at all.
The last item on my list, character additives, were mainly things I had around the house. I did find one small Asian-warrior-with-a-sword sculpture at St. Vincent’s for $2. I also used a small robot bought in Chinatown during a trip to NYC, some sculpty sculptures that I has made previously, and two small ceramic chickens inherited from family. You can use any small sculpture that will bring a little story or personality to your terrarium. For example, in my robot terrarium, dubbed “Stranger in a Strange Land,” a small lonely robot has wandered into a rocky alien wilderness of ornamental cabbage and Aloe Vera.
To assemble the terrariums, I created a bottom layer of river rocks. Not only do the rocks provide a decorative element to the terrarium, they also help with drainage. Next I added a layer of Spanish moss. The moss ensures that the soil in the next level up, does not filter down into the rock layer. The terrarium doesn’t require much soil. An inch or two will be more than enough for the third level. It is this third level in which the plants are arranged. In your own terrariums, you can make infinite plant combinations. Plants with different textures will be most interesting when used together; just make sure that they all have room to grow. In some of my terrariums, I added a final layer or moss or rocks for visual interest, and then placed my robot/chickens/sculptures where they fit best in the final “landscape.”
I am a beginner terrarium creator, and my 8 new terrariums are only about a week old, but they seem to be doing really well so far. I plan to continue experimenting as I make more terrariums for the holidays. There are lots of great websites that can provide more information. I’m sure some of my open air “terrariums” aren’t quiet self-sustaining, but nevertheless, they are attractive and fun to make and give as a gift.
So this Christmas, if your list is long and pockets are shallow, why not head out to local thrift shop and nursery? With a little effort and creativity you can make a very creative, gift that will continue to brighten someone’s home for as long as they continue to add water.