Back in the day, when space was not yet a luxury, people almost always had homes with large gardens and lawns. But today, with urbanisation, houses barely accommodate people, forget plants and animals. As cities expand, cluttering landscapes and skylines with steel and concrete, it becomes increasingly harder to find these once-common green patches. Enter terrariums — tiny capsules of garden, offering a welcome green spot to your workplace or home.
Tanuja Rajasekaran can teach you how to make one of these little gardens in glass containers, embellished with miniature mushrooms, deer figurines and ladybirds. An engineer and terrarium expert, she does her own little bit for the environment through her venture ‘Little House of Terrariums’.
At a recent workshop on terrarium-making in Chennai, she introduced horticulture enthusiasts in the city to this art form. Rajasekaran says she inherited her love for plants from her mother. Anyone who visited them would say that her home looked like a forest, she recalls. “It was always filled with plants”.
As homes contracted, leaving smaller spaces for house plants, she began her first foray into terrarium-making. She remembers wiping down an empty Ferrero Rocher box, placing a few plants in it and decorating it. “It got me a lot of appreciation,” she says, adding that she began experimenting with different sorts of plants.
Today, it’s an important part of her life and a great creativity outlet, she says. “It’s my hobby and my passion which fills up my weekends,” says Rajasekaran, who also organises workshops in Bengaluru through ‘Bloom and Grow’.
A jar of green
Terrariums were discovered in the 19th Century a trifle serendipitously when Nathaniel Ward, an English doctor, found fern sprouting out of a sealed glass bottle that contained cocoons of moths. He then went on to build a closely-fitted glazed wooden case, discovering that the ferns he grew within them thrived. These Wardian Cases went on to become what we today call terrariums. These glass containers filled with plants are of two types — open and closed — depending on the sort of plants chosen.
“The former has a higher survival rate and is easier to maintain. It can be trimmed and personalised,” says Rajasekaran, going on to make an open terrarium.
She explains how to create the different layers of the terrarium. “It starts with gravel, whose purpose is drainage. When we pour excess water, this layer will absorb it.” The next ingredient is activated charcoal, whose purpose is to keep pollutants and decayed plant material out, mitigating unpleasant odour. Then comes the soil — a composition of red soil, perlite and manure. “It has to be light, so as to keep the plant from sinking,” she says, topping the soil with coco peat, a natural fibre made of coconut husk.
Excess fertilisers will make the plant big, and it will outgrow the glass box; hence that is not required. For the weather in cities such as Chennai and Bengaluru, plants that belong to the Haworthia or Sempervivum or Graptosedum genus are ideal. The Bengaluru weather enables the growth of more varieties of plants she says, adding that she also makes fairy gardens, wherein she uses Echeveria, Aralia and Senecio plants to aggrandise her bio-space. Additionally, there are customised decoratives called sedums, which include the Japanese grass seed, Angelina sedum, which is fluorescent in colour, among many.
Terrariums, apart from adding beauty, are rather easy to maintain. Rajasekaran said, “They all require the morning sun for nourishment. People start understanding their terrariums and accordingly feed them.”
So make your abode green and beautiful by adding these small, detailed bowls of Nature.
How to make a terrarium at home
Dry a fish bowl and line its bottom with a layer of rocks and activated charcoal.
Pile on the coco peat.
Sprinkle a layer of soil.
Place the plants inside the bowl and cover the roots with soil.
Top off with colourful soil, decorative figurine, shells, stones.
Use a syringe to sprinkle water on them every five days.
Up in the air
Tillandsia or air plants grow without soil and get their nutrients from the air. For that reason, air plant terrariums require 0% gardening knowledge and make beautiful home décor greenery.