A World Unto Its Own

There is something about small scale replicas that fascinate the human mind. Perhaps it is the accessibility of compact things or the fact that one can easily take care of them or that they connote a simplicity in an otherwise complicated world. Doll houses, miniature train/car sets, tree houses, furniture, cookware, even miniature dogs are sought after and enjoyed by all ages. I’ve seen plenty of men have insane fun with train sets purported for their sons and lets face it, women get positively carried away with furnishing their little girls’ doll houses ( I speak from personal experience). I do believe it is also a matter of control – we can manage these things. While so much else overwhelms, Lilliputian items give us a sense of being in control.

Hence, it is no wonder that tiny gardens are so delightful. Easy to care for, can be observed in detail and, look elegant. Enter the realm of terrariums. I’ve always found them charming. A few years ago, perusing through Tovah Martin’s book on the subject revived my interest and had me purchase several Wardian cases. Understandably, planting up such ‘containers’ is not permanent. But then, what garden is? I’ve planted up my cases in ferns, in orchids, still life arrangements of found objects, whatever caught my imagination. But most recently, they lay empty and I wanted to try something different. The timing was perfect. My friend Pam had just started her terrarium business aptly named Terraria and it made complete sense that I ought to have her furnish my Wardian cases. It is not difficult to make your own terrariums but a fresh eye is always a good thing. An expert knows about suitable plants and conditions. Most importantly, they have access to the right sources.

Pam Wright is a talented gardener and her skills at making terrariums are impressive. Not given to doing anything in half measure, she is very knowledgeable about all the plants she uses, the care required and applies a seriously aesthetic eye on her creations. I’ve been fortunate to know Pam for years and feel very confident in promoting her. I recognize quality and authenticity. I don’t mean to gush and shall not say more. The photographs below will serve as testimonials. However, I do want to share a story. The smallest of the mini-Wardian cases I had given to Pam had the glass missing on one side. Very cleverly, Pam placed a small single Venus Fly Trap in it. It not only looks just perfect but the open side can, with any luck, permit entry to bugs that will be much appreciated by the carnivorous plant! To contact Pam – pam_wright@yahoo.com or call her at (914)260-9799.

Terrariums are diminutive horticultural worlds. Best of all, unlike gardening outdoors, you get to control things like light, humidity and temperature. What plants you select will dictate those factors and you create a whole new microcosm. Unless one is all for collecting rare or unusual plants, it is not a big investment and experimenting is rather fun. Making terrariums permits one to be child as well as creator. Yes, there is indeed a bit of ‘playing God’. But not in an arrogant way! The key word here is “play”. If anything, it is a reminder to not take oneself too seriously. Just give in to your botanical imagination and see where it’ll take you.

During the dark, cold, bleak winter months when we crave lush, green surroundings, having a terrarium or two to gaze upon can be positively therapeutic. As you go about trying to come up with interesting, beautiful gifts for family and friends this holiday season, do consider giving a terrarium. Get one for yourself as well. They make very good company – beautiful, interesting, low maintenance and very quiet.

Get motivated with these images: All by Pam Wright
Terrarium 1
Terrarium 2
Terrarium 3

My newly planted Wardian case

My newly planted Wardian case


The Wardian case with the top on

The Wardian case with the top on

I have more information on making your own terrariums and I plan to put them into a how-to page on this site. Stay tuned!
(c) 2013 Shobha Vanchiswar

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2 thoughts on “A World Unto Its Own

  1. How fun! What a lovely thing to focus on in the winter. I’m going to start looking around the house for potential containers. Years ago I used to make terrariums and relied heavily on local moss. Is that okay to do?

    • Its okay to use moss but the necessary conditions can be hard to maintain indoors over time. Moss also makes it harder to keep an eye on the wetness of the soil and consequently the water requirements of the other plants.

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