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Homes Here's How To Create Your Own Miniature Biotope For Your High-Rise Apartment

Here's How To Create Your Own Miniature Biotope For Your High-Rise Apartment

Here's How To Create Your Own Miniature Biotope For Your High-Rise Apartment
By Sven Alberding/Bureaux
October 08, 2019
Living in a high-rise apartment doesn’t mean you can’t nurture plants to your heart’s content. Terrarium gardens are back in vogue!

It all began with one Dr Nathaniel Ward, way back in 1829. Ward was a physician in London and, like the rest of the empire, obsessed with collecting things. Colonies, animals, plants—Britain’s thirst for all things exotic was in full swing. Transport took long, often many months, and most birds, bees and trees didn’t make it to HQ London. Dr Ward kept moths’ cocoons in sealed glass bottles and by accident he found a fern had germinated, followed by some grass. And so the Wardian Case was born.

Through processes such as phytoremediation and transpiration,
the plants in indoor terrariums work to purify the air and increase its relative humidity
Through processes such as phytoremediation and transpiration, the plants in indoor terrariums work to purify the air and increase its relative humidity

CASE CLOSED

The premise of Ward’s discovery was simple: to grow plants in closed glass cases, where condensation provided moisture and humidity, while dead leaves and other debris supplied nourishment.

Ward found that the longer containers were kept closed, the better the plants grew! Finally, exotic plants were thriving, protected from the generally unsuitable growing conditions of Victorian-era London.

But the Wardian Case wasn’t just a tank of pretty flowers. Since most plants being shipped between continents died from a lack of fresh water and the constant salt spray at sea, the invention was immediately put to good use.

Terrariums are a great option for growing plants in low or no-light environments
Terrariums are a great option for growing plants in low or no-light environments

Wardian cases were installed on ships to travel the high seas. At first, tea plants were smuggled out of Shanghai and shipped off to British India, destination Assam. Then rubber trees left Brazil for the colonies of Ceylon and Malaya, which began a massive industry there.

Box 1: How To Make A Terrarium Garden

Don’t overcrowd your terrarium; it’ll have more visual impact and your plants will be healthier if you keep it simple
Don’t overcrowd your terrarium; it’ll have more visual impact and your plants will be healthier if you keep it simple

The great thing about terrarium gardens is that they are easy to install and maintain.

• Get started with any glass container of your choice with an opening that’s big enough to fit your hand through. Clean it properly and rinse off any soap.

• Begin with a base layer of pebbles, followed by some horticultural charcoal. The charcoal is particularly important in closed cases because it keeps the air clean of any fumes due to decomposing plant material.

• On top of the charcoal goes a thick layer of potting soil and voilà, you’re ready to plant!

• Also do add some moss in areas between plants to retain more moisture in the soil.

For a multi-plant display, select plants with the same temperature, light, and water requirements
For a multi-plant display, select plants with the same temperature, light, and water requirements
Terrariums bring nature inside which is a considerable benefit for apartment dwellers who might not have access to a yard or garden, and even business offices that lack windows
Terrariums bring nature inside which is a considerable benefit for apartment dwellers who might not have access to a yard or garden, and even business offices that lack windows
Use a mix of round-leafed sedum, echeveria, and rock roses (or any succulents you like), which require little water and full sun
Use a mix of round-leafed sedum, echeveria, and rock roses (or any succulents you like), which require little water and full sun
Enclosed terrariums only need water once a month or so, open terrariums need water slightly more often due to evaporation but not frequently when planted with sturdy succulents
Enclosed terrariums only need water once a month or so, open terrariums need water slightly more often due to evaporation but not frequently when planted with sturdy succulents

Box 2: What To Plant

Plants suitable for terrariums must fulfil three basic requirements: they must enjoy high humidity, low to moderate light levels, and they must remain relatively small. Here’s a list of the top 10 plants that will love a glass house:

• Ferns
Selaginella moss
• Miniature orchids
• African violets
• Dapo—air plants
• Carnivorous plants
Soleirolia—peace in the home
• Coleus
• Cyclamens
• Chinese Money Plant

With the current trend for all things green and growing, it's no wonder the terrarium garden has made a comeback once again

The houseplant section of y our local nursery is a great source for your tropical terrarium
The houseplant section of y our local nursery is a great source for your tropical terrarium
These miniature ecosystems put science up close and personal for an audience, allowing them to closely watch how plants grow and how the water cycle operates through the system
These miniature ecosystems put science up close and personal for an audience, allowing them to closely watch how plants grow and how the water cycle operates through the system

THE FROG WHO LOVED ME

The ‘70s saw a revival of the case, as what we now refer to as the “Terrarium Garden.” While macramé wall hangings adorned the lounge and bell-bottoms swept the disco dance floors, the terrarium garden was another must-have of the era.

However, the essence of the closed case was discarded during the ‘70s—it was more a decorative display in glass; a way to view roots and shoots in a contained environment. And with the supply of oxygen came the obligatory frog. Mostly green and feasting on flies supplied by the kids, he was part of the family and provided for endless hours of entertainment for all.

FAST FORWARD

With the current trend for all things green and growing, it’s no wonder the terrarium garden has made a big comeback once again. This time it’s not about the frog but about space. In today’s urban landscape, more and more people live in small environments confined by urban planning, with little access for proper gardening set-ups.

Terrarium gardens are perfect for mini-landscaping. We kept the lid off for most of our versions here but it’s entirely up to you if you want to control-freak a Wardian Case or let go in a mini-jungle where the sky’s the limit. Just follow the instructions on these pages and you’ll soon enjoy a biotope anywhere you please.

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