Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

Terrariums ‘are wonderful closed garden spaces’

As greenhouse growers will be well aware, it can be tremendously satisfying to get to work with plants in a controlled environment.

This is particularly the case in colder times of the year such as those that are being experienced right now.

Indeed, the gardener will have a much greater degree of choice when it comes to what plants they are hoping to nurture. Temperature, levels of light and shade, irrigation, fertilizer application and atmospheric humidity are just some of the key factors that the individual will be able to dictate.

However, they are not the only form of enclosed garden that can be taken advantage of. Terrariums are a wonderful variety of confined space – and they are on a much smaller scale than a full-blown greenhouse.

They are a type of vivarium – and their purpose is given away by the Latin etymology of the word. It literally translates as 'place of life' – and they are typically used to keep and raise small animals like stick insects or plants.

A portion of an ecosystem necessary for the survival of the creature or plant is recreated on a miniature scale. They are characteristically used for observation or scientific research purposes, but they can also make an excellent extra hobby for gardening enthusiasts – and the potential appeal to greenhouse growers is obvious.

Indeed, terrariums are a kind of vivarium that is usually small enough to sit on a desk or tabletop – as opposed to larger structures that can hold winged creatures.

Furthermore, they are typically associated with the recreation of dry environments, like a desert or savannah. This is not a strict rule, however, as they can also be used to create a jungle-like habitat, or even a relatively temperate woodland climate.

Items like pebbles, leaf litter and soil can be used to facilitate the creation of this – and a natural water cycle can be introduced by simply misting the terrarium, as the confined space will allow the lid to generate precipitation.

Ken Marten, creative director and founder of indoor planting specialists Hermetica London, offered some of his top tips on how to get the best out of a terrarium. In an article for UK national newspaper the Daily Telegraph, he described the enclosed gardens as wonderful – and noted that they were very popular in the 19th century.

"The key to making beautiful enclosed gardens, which aren’t just a jumble of green leaves sweating behind glass, is to have space around the objects and plants and a sympathetic sense of scale," he commented.

"Wood, moss, stones or other natural objects are important to give context in among the plants. They can mimic a full-sized landscape but in miniature," the expert remarked – and he also acknowledged the importance of garden tools.

"Terrarium gardeners soon learn how to adapt tools for working in confined spaces," Mr Marten explained, adding: "Long tweezers without too much spring, tiny forks or trowels taped to bamboo canes, chopsticks, a length of hose and a funnel to add composts and grit, all are simple to obtain or make."