I found this stunning photo on Pinterest (where else?) a little while ago.
It’s of a sort of terrarium-slash-vase called the 1012 Terra glass vessel (you can buy it here) and is made by a Japanese duo called Daisuke Tsumanuma and Kenichi Yamada. I have been lusting for such wondrousness in my house ever since seeing it.
At around £60 per single vase and factoring in the need to post it from Japan, my dream of having a row on the mantelpiece seems a little unlikely. But that’s not the only problem with this picture.
See all those plants? All those succulents and cacti? With their roots growing right in the water? Hmmm, exactly. Succulents and cacti thrive in desert conditions with hardly any watering at all, so I was a bit surprised to see them sitting there, apparently healthy, in permanent deep water.
After a bit of Googling, I came to the conclusion (as had many others, it seemed) that the photo was simply that, a nice photo to sell the terrariums, rather than a serving suggestion for succulent growing.
But then I found one tiny little internet discussion thread that seemed to suggest you could, in fact, propagate succulents straight into water and they would then grow special “water roots” which would be different to normal roots and they could stay in the water forever. Could such a thing be true?
I plan to take some cuttings from my succulent collection and give it a go. The plan is just to suspend a leaf slightly above a glass of water and see if the roots happily go down and grow there. Nothing more complicated than that!
If it does work, then I shall move the water-grown succulents into my lovely new Monti by Monti vases, a present from my husband for Christmas. They’re gorgeous (see below!) and just waiting for the perfect inhabitant.
You know the string of hearts plant that I bought last week for my sister’s birthday and then fell in love with so much I became reticent to give it away?
Well, I needn’t have worried, for she is a sister of excellent taste and – at our joint birthday celebration last weekend – she gave me this.
A copper framed terrarium.
Isn’t it a beauty?
I’ve been lusting after a terrarium for some time now, and we both admired some excellent examples earlier this year at Grow London. Wonderful sister that she is, she remembered and bought me my very own.
But with such beauty comes great responsibility. I wanted to make sure I planted it up in a way that worked with its lovely exterior. And though I’ve been studying horticulture in one form or other for three years now, I am still fairly new to keeping houseplants. (Or at least, to keeping them alive…)
So as soon as I got home I jumped on Pinterest and started looking for the perfect planting choices to go inside this little gem.
Here are my three favourite options for terrarium plants:
Needless to say, succulents were the very first thing that sprang to mind. Most of the Pin-worthy terrariums that I’ve been lusting after have delicate little plantings of succulents on top.
This won’t work in a sealed terrarium (mine is an open version) as the succulents don’t like humidity and can start to rot, but with a bit of heat and a bit of air flow, they should stay pretty happy.
I absolutely love succulents at the moment (who doesn’t, right?), but after considering it for a while, I decided that my terrarium was too big for my favourite rosette-type and it would be a bit of a waste of all the vertical space at the top, which could better be filled with a taller plant.
Still, I’ve been feasting on pictures of these fat-leaved delights.
AKA air plants. This is another great terrarium option, for the obvious reason that they don’t need soil to survive. And soil in a nice glass container can end up looking a bit… …mucky.
In the wild, air plants grow in jungles or deserts, the roots attached not to the soil below, but to the trunks of other trees or rocks. (This can allow them to grow high up in the tree’s canopy and get to sunlight that wouldn’t reach the jungle floor below.)
In terrariums, you can place them onto whatever looks attractive: a few pebbles, a piece of wood, sand: anything that won’t retain too much moisture and cause the plant to rot. Then you just need to spritz it with water every now and again to keep it moist.
Having read up a bit on tillandsia, I am definitely tempted to buy a few, but not, I think, for my terrarium. I think those copper edges might not work so well with the fine, feathery leaves that characterise lots of air plants. And so, on to…
When I came across the photos above I knew that I’d found my dream plant.
I’ve had a passion for pitchers since an old flatmate strung one from our kitchen window when I was in my early 20s, but, I have to say, I have never succeeded in growing one myself.
I bought a lovely hanging pitcher plant from Columbia Road flower market years ago, but killed it off in record time (probably because I didn’t bother to water it with rain water…) Then, when we were living in Hong Kong for six months, I strung our balcony with a variety of different pitchers, but killed them all off before we moved out (probably because I didn’t bother to water them at all, thinking they would get water as they were outside. Of course, as we were in a towerblock balcony, there was no way they were getting wet in the rain…)
Still, I’ve learnt loads more about plants in the intervening years, so, fingers crossed, I should be able to keep them alive this time round.
After a bit of internet research I’ve found the brilliant sounding Triffid Nurseries in Sussex (www.triffidnurseries.co.uk) who specialise in carnivorous plants. I shall be making a trip in the near future and then will get on with planting up the terrarium. Promise to let you show you pictures once it’s done…
(Oh, and, just so you know, I couldn’t resist that string of hearts either. I went back to the shop I bought my sister’s one and got another for me. It’s sitting on my bookshelves and looking rather wonderful right now.)