You’d think, with all the Latin I took, that I’d know the difference.  But no.
When it’s terrible outside– and the Midwest just got socked with snow again— I like to build myself little plant-scapes so that I can pretend it’s not an uninhabitable moonscape out there.  I’ve had a terrible track-record with plants– I get ’em, pot ’em and proceed to kill ’em when the greenhouse bug bites me, but this year I actually did some research on the plants I bought at the Farmer’s Market in the fall in the hopes that I might not water them to death or let them shrivel to dessicated stumps. 

And then I came across a lovely book while filling holds at the library, called The New Terrarium.  It was so pretty!  And it was like a recycling and re-purposing DIY manual for making interesting glass jars and cases into tiny greenhouses.  

The New Terrarium, by Tovah Martin and Kindra Clineff

I have lots of jars just because I like them, and I started to think about keeping plants cased in glass.  I came across a really cool Wardian case at a boutique on my block and decided to give the whole terrarium-building thing a try.  This is what I came up with: 

Wardian case, in situ on my dining table

blurry close-up of my newest plants

 The contents of my terrarium are a small fern, a cyclamen (that lovely purple-flowered thing), and a tiny pot of groundcover similar to an Irish lace fern… the girl at the greenhouse wasn’t sure what it was, since it was in a baragin bin of tiny, half-dead plants.   (I pride myself on the fact that it looks pretty good now.)  We’ll see if I can manage NOT to kill this project (fingers crossed these might live longer than an ailing gerbil). But even if I do manage to enact the plant genocide yet again, at least I have this case now– and it cannot be killed

It reminds me of Phipps Conservatory in the Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh, which was built in 1893 by Henry Phipps as a gift to the city and part of the City Beautiful Movement.  Every time I go there, I wish, just a little, that contemporary design was a bit more like the turn of the century, that more things were made of wrought iron and glass and dark wood, and that houses had bigger gardens with footpaths, and even the most modest homes had beautiful architectural details.   

I’m happy to have a little chunk of that in my house now.  Even if it is filled with doomed plants.  

Phipps Conservatory


2 responses »

  1. Lauren says:

    A wardian case is a great way to become familiar with the terrarium ecosystem process. I am sure your plants will love their new container.

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