Monday, 5 August 2013

Making terrariums


Ever since I'd seen Kate's terrarium I'd put it on a list of things I wanted to do with my children over the summer. I showed them her post and then we spent a few hours on Pinterest discussing what our ideal dreamy-looking terrarium might include.

We waited until we were precisely one day into the holidays (I'd said we'd do it 'at some point' but I had as much desire for delayed gratification as they did) before eagerly gathering supplies and setting to work. Choosing the plants was an integral part of the making-a-terrarium fun and we ended up laying them all out on the floor of the garden centre and then putting them back one by one until we'd narrowed our choices down - there's something about the miniature and unusual appearance of succulents that makes them utterly appealing to children. The terrarium pictured below is the one my son made.


Once we'd returned home we spent the entire day in the garden in the hot sun assembling them. It will go down in my memory as one of the most enjoyable days I've ever spent with my children - they were so inspired by the plants and the images that we'd seen on Pinterest that they were bubbling over with unwilting enthusiasm for the entire day. We made lots of things that we didn't end up including in the final arrangement - such as miniature bunting strung between two sticks and signposts. We did include the tiny ponds we made, using vitamin bottle lids covered in Liberty print fabrics and then over-pasted with a few layers of Mod Podge (an amazing glue that gives fabric a lacquered finish) to help withstand the terrariums being watered.


I made the one at the front left of the above photo as a birthday gift for my grandmother...the same one mentioned in previous posts whom my sister and I made gnome gardens with over three decades ago. It's now safely in her own house and she was delighted by it.


My daughter made this fairytale-style terrarium with Rapunzel's tower as her inspiration - she's not a girly-girl, so it's a very un-Disneyfied version of the classic, with even the pond covered in a subtle sage green Liberty print that blends in with its surroundings (you can see the pond in the photo at the top of this post).

I also made a few to go around the house: one for the fireplace in the living room, using the beautiful cedar roses my husband found a few years ago. (the bowl doesn't have strange ridges on its lip - that's the reflection of the grate from the fire)


And another for the red fireplace...that erm...isn't red anymore! As suddenly as my wish for colour hit me, it vanished again. This fireplace might appear to be entirely cream...but it's actually far more interesting than that. The back wall of it is painted in a contrasting shade of stone that only highly colour-attuned people can actually see. Can you see it? It's only having forayed into being a person who uses a splatter gun to spray bold colours around the house (actually, it was only ever just one room), that I'm able to conclude that I'm totally happy being someone who surrounds herself in a neutral palette of creams and whites, even if that makes me a little boring.


Making a terrarium is a fairly expensive activity, so we spent some time sourcing the most reasonably priced materials. My children actually seemed to embrace this as part of the project as I'd told them at the outset that we could either make one joint terrarium if the cost was prohibitive or each make our own, plus make one for their great grandmother, if we could source reasonably priced materials. I was hoping desperately for the latter as I'm much more able to control my 'helpful-suggestion-tendency' if I have my hands busy with my own project. We found that we could buy succulents and cacti at the garden centre at Homebase for around 75p each (compared to £2.50 at our local independent garden centre...a saving of over £50 when you're buying around 30 plants! I usually choose to support independents, but on this occasion economy won) and after a lot of searching we found a source of beautiful large glass bowls and vases, mostly for around £5 or £6 each at an end-of-line outlet. The most expensive part of the project was buying the charcoal from our local aquatics centre, which is boring but essential as it will help to keep the terrarium fresh.


One interesting thing that came about when I told my mother that we were making 'terraniums' was that  she suggested that this word - which is commonly used to describe these gardens on Pinterest and produces over 60,000 search results on Google - isn't actually a word that exists in the English dictionary, but rather the word should be 'terrarium'. As soon as she'd said it, it made sense. Just like an aquarium that holds water, a 'terrarium' would hold earth (terra being latin for earth, and arium, although not being a word in its own right, commonly being an ending that describes a receptacle to put things in). And yet, most people seem to understand what the newly-created word 'terranium' means and it seems to have become a word in its own right because of its apparent misuse* over the internet. Either way, having initially taught them the incorrect word, my children have been most resistant to re-learning this word in its correct form as apparently it doesn't flow off the tongue nicely. I can see their point and I'm not against its wilful misuse because in some ways it feels nicer and as though it also gives a nod to the word 'subterranean' in sound which in some ways feels right for describing gardens that grow beneath the rim of the vase, like a secret garden.

If you'd like to make your own terranium or terrarium you can find more how-to details on Kate's blog.

And while we're on the subject of fictitious words, I should clarify that when I said in my last post that Timeless Fabrics are opening up a fabric shop in Milton-on-Sea in Hampshire, they're not. They're actually opening up a shop in Milford-on-Sea. I'm sorry if my invented place brought to mind images of a fabric shop against a backdrop of sterilising tablets floating on sea...or even the bobbing head of the poet John Milton amongst the waves.  And while we are updating on my last post, I have heard back from two of the three Simons (there were actually only two Simons, but I did suggest that a further one may be using a pseudonym) - one who expressed his relief at my having outed his double life, another who signed himself Simon & Simone. The third has remained eerily quiet.

Florence x

* Is this right? Do you have a dictionary that declares 'terranium' to be a word - I've searched the online ones and can't find any evidence of it. But I'm wondering if it may exist in some obscure scientific dictionary.

27 comments:

  1. Oh these are stupendous. I especially adore the little wooden buildings - we have several sets of these. Right, this may well be one of our holiday activities - thankyou!

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    1. I'm so pleased! And aren't those wooden villages lovely - they seem to have been made unchanged for the last 30 years - I had an identical set when I was about 4.

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  2. Oh wow, Florence! They are GORGEOUS!!! Definitely something on my to do list for the girls once they're a little older (think being 2 is a bit too young for that activity! ;) ).

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    1. Two possibly is...but I enjoyed making them myself too!

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  3. These are fab. My 9 year old girly was rather taken with the succulents on sale at the Wilmslow show a few weeks ago and after much deliberation, bought a flower shaped one.
    This is a great idea to put it in to a proper display. Off to find out what to do...
    Hopefully I will manage to keep a terrarium/terranium alive.
    I don't have much success with other plants, much to the husband's amusement! :-D

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    1. Yes, that's my worry - I'm not overly skilled in that area either - apparently the trick is not to let them become too damp, which is a great thing for one prone to forgetting to water plants!

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  4. So glad you enjoying making them Florence, mine are a constant source of pleasure to me. Watch the plant in the second picture in the bottom left corner as the one in my terrarium did rot a little on the bottom leaves. I love the house and path.

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    1. Thank you for the tip. Are you watering yours with a watering can or using a spray?

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  5. These look so sweet! Good to know about Homebase - my two local garden centres are prohibitively pricey for me, alas. I've seen "terranium" around the web lately too, but I shall never accept it! And, by the way, my dictionary says you may also keep some "small land animals" in your terrariums/terraria...

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    1. Homebase is generally a source of lovely inexpensive plants. You have to go knowing what you want though as the staff in my local one are less knowledgable than they might be at a proper nursery. I tend to buy basics like Hebe there.

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  6. These look like magical fairy houses!

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  7. What a really lovely post, I love reading your blog and regularly check it (daily) for updates! I can't wait to try making these terrariums when my little ones are older. x

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    1. That's so lovely to hear - thank you! Unfortunately, I have not been very forthcoming on updates over the summer holidays!

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  8. Wonderful, what a great idea. My little people are always after cacti and succulents, and I just happen to have a huge green glass bottle in the cupboard. I've always called them terrariums - I hadn't heard the term terranium. A great tip about buying them at Homebase as well. Thank you for this great post.

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    1. How fantastic - you sound like you're all set up to go. We used special compost for succulents, as well as the charcoal. We also used some white gravel in the bottom of ours for drainage

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  9. Yours are wonderful. I have never heard the word terranium in my entire life.

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    1. Oddly, it's used in proper shops as well though - Pets at Home sell 'terraniums' for lizards on their website, so its misuse isn't just confined to Pinterest.

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  10. They are lovely :) My two girls (5 and 4 years old) love gardening and would love to create their own mini gardens. Ikea are quite good for mini succulents too - as well as very reasonably priced large glass bowls and vases.

    We have a set of those wooden houses too, they do seem to work perfectly in the bowls.

    I have to say, that my brain hadn't registered the fact that you (or anyone else) had written 'terranium'. I've been reading it as terrarium the whole time! I do admit to being a bit of a spelling/grammar Nazi though, so it was probably a touch of denial on my part.

    Is it just me that thinks of terrapins when hearing the word terrarium? It always makes me think that they should be filled with mini turtles of a rather grumpy nature :)

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  11. I didn't know Ikea sold plants - I'd love to have one nearer, but unfortunately my nearest is a motorway away.

    Yes, I totally agree about terrariums and terrapins - if we could have found a miniature one then I'm fairly sure that would have gone in there too.

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  12. What a splendid day you all enjoyed together! And your creations are magical, which is a key quality of all successful terraria :)
    On the vocabulary question, I've always said "terrarium." I have never heard or seen the word "terranium." Of course now that I've written that, I will begin to see the newly-invented word everywhere. Drat. ;)

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  13. This is a brilliant idea and something I am definitely going to do in the future when I have a bit more time!!

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  14. Love your terrariums. My mum gave me a book on terrariums for my birthday but I haven't made one yet.

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  15. Thank you for sharing this. I'm a primary school teacher and this has given me some great ideas for what I can do with my class, perhaps using plastic drink bottles cut in half and growing seeds inside. I like the theme idea too, the children could spend time designing their miniature gardens. Love this, thanks again x

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  16. I think there might be some Microsoft software component that goes under the name of Terranium, but what you have there are definitely terrariums!

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  17. I must live under a stone as I have never heard of "terranium", only of terrarium. I "auto-corrected" the word until you wrote about your Mum's musings. I might have done that before reading on the internet. X

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  18. We love going to Milford-on-Sea during the off season (too hard to get there this time of year traffic-wise!) Will have another reason to go now. Things for the heads up on the fabric shop!

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Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a message - it's always really lovely to hear from people.

I now tend to reply within the comments section, so please do check back if you've asked a question or wish to chat.

Florence x

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