Living Art: How To Make a Terrarium

Terrariums are magical miniature pieces of nature that you can admire anywhere in your home. They are living pieces of art. You don’t even need to be a master gardener (I certainly am not) to put together and care for your own terrarium or dish garden, but you do need to know a few things about what kinds of plants need how much light and watering. Designing your own terrarium allows to you get creative and let your imagination run wild. You can include miniature statues of mythical creatures, little signs and pretty rocks. If you can’t find what you want, you can even make little mushrooms or animals out of oven bake clay.

Terrariums are enclosed, so the plants need to be small enough to grow inside of a glass jar, a small glass box or any clear container. Wide-mouthed glass containers with a removable lid are the easiest to work with because you have easy access to water and prune as you need to. You can even mount your terrarium on the wall in a light box or hang it from the ceiling in a glass globe. It all depends on your imagination and the things you can find. People have even made tiny terrariums inside old light bulbs!

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Tabletop Terrariums at Athopologie

You Need

A container
A group of small plant starters that will grow under the same amount
of light and watering.
Some sand or small pebbles
Activated charcoal
Spaghnum moss
Potting soil

You should plan out how you want it to look before you start collecting your supplies–make a sketch or just have a vivid image in your head. The first thing you will place in your container is a layer of coarse sand or small pebbles that is about one inch thick. This layer is for drainage and will keep your plants’ roots from rotting.

Next you will need to lay on a thin layer of activated charcoal–the same kind they use in aquarium filters to keep the air flow or water flow clean, so you can find this at the pet store. If you are planting in an open-air container you won’t need this.

Lay down your Spaghnum moss in a thin layer so that your soil won’t sink down into the charcoal and pebbles every time you water it.

Now you can add your soil. You can buy pre-mixed terrarium soil blends or you can just mix 2 parts regular potting soil, 1 part coarse builders sand (never use beach sand) and 1 part leaf mold (aka humus). You don’t need to add fertilizer because you don’t want the plants to grow very large and there is already a substantial amount in the potting soil.

Sometimes all your little plants require for watering is a good misting from a spray bottle to emulate rain. You should never place your terrarium in direct sunlight.

If you want to make a desert-themed cactus garden, this would be much easier to do in a dish rather than a terrarium. Since cacti and succulents need drier, sandy soil, you can use special potting soil
made for them or put your potting soil down and then place an equal layer of coarse sand on top after you plant your cacti. You don’t need spaghnum moss, charcoal or pebbles for a desert garden, but if you are using a planter dish with a hole at the bottom, be sure to put a small piece of screen over it so your sand doesn’t fall out. Also, unlike a terrarium, your cacti will need plenty of direct sunlight. Wear thick gardening gloves if you are working with sharp cacti!

Your cacti will only need to be watered about once a month. Always make sure you water your plants with luke warm water instead of cold water so you don’t shock the roots. Image someone throwing ice cold water on you on a hot day!

I hope I’ve sparked your interest for making your own terrarium! They make great little decorations and interesting gifts. Here is a list of a few small plants that would be good for a terrarium or dish garden but this definitely isn’t all of them. Do some research on the care of the plants that you want to use and let your imagination run wild as you plan out the look of your mini garden.

Irish Moss

Great for any tiny landscape and only grows to a max of three inches tall.

Miniature Peperomia

Stays small and and has tiny round leaves. Very easy to maintain.

Wintergreen

Grows to about six inches tall and is very hearty. Blooms tiny white flowers in the summer and smells minty.

Dwarf Japanese Sweet Flag

Tiny ornamental grass that resembles an Iris plant, but only grows to two inches tall.

Leptinellas

Looks exactly like an itty bitty fern and are often refered to as “mini ferns”. These are also easy to take care of.

Butterwort

Cool little carnivorous plant that attracts insects like a living fly paper and dissolves them with digestive juices on its leaves. Only grows to about one inch tall with sticky leaves but will bloom a pretty purple flower.

Mini Bonsai

Would be a cool addition to a dish garden but would be hard to maintain in a closed container because they need to be trimmed and trained into the bonsai shape.

Earth star AKA Starfish Plant

It stays under six inches tall and grows a rosetted star shape of long, spiked leaves. It is easy to care for and is perfectly suited for a terrarium because it loves humity.

Succulents

Cacti and other succulents like Aloe Vera and Jade grow very slowly and will eventually outgrow whatever container you put them in. Plant them when they are small and you’ll be able to enjoy your mini desert garden for quite a while.

Power Animals: What is Yours?

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“I think I could turn and live with animals,
they’re so placid and self-contained,
I stand and look at them long and long.
They do not sweat and whine about their condition,
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins,
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God,
Not one is dissatisfied,
not one is demented with the mania of owning things,
Not one kneels to another,
nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago,
Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth.”
~ Walt Whitman , “Song of Myself”

Animals have been admired, revered and even worshiped throughout the history of mankind. They are so beautiful and powerful that I sometimes think that we envy them, in the ways that we strip from them their coats and skin, or how we try to mimic their physical features. Although I’m not much for the skinning, I do love the cat-eye eyeliner effect.

You may also feel a special connection to a certain species, maybe even a sense of kinship. Do you find yourself enamored with fascination at the sound of a wolf howling, or have you ever stopped to look up at the sky as a hawk or eagle flew overhead? Is there a certain animal that stalks your subconscious mind and maybe scares you a little? Many indigenous cultures around the world believe that different animals all carry a lesson for mankind. An “animal totem” (also known as a “power animal”) is an animal spirit that watches over an individual or a group–looks out for them and teaches them what they need to know to survive.

I’ve always been fascinated by wolves and thought they were beautiful creatures. I started learning more about them and found out that they are very family oriented and support the other members of their pack. The females all help each other with the birthing and taking care of the babies, and I love the fact that they “sing” together by howling at the moon in an eerie chorus. They are also one of the few kinds of animal that mates for life, which really signifies to me how intelligent they are.

Like the loyal and family-oriented wolf, there may be an animal that reflects your own personalty traits, or represents to you a trait that you value. The beaver is an animal that works hard to build a sturdy structure for him and his family, a home that he can pass down through the generations. The eagle flies high over head so she can see for miles around, but she can still see when a field mouse peaks its head out of a tiny hole in the ground. After you learn more about your favorite animal, you might even discover that you admired them for a trait that you value that goes way beyond the physical.

The connection you have with a certain animal doesn’t always need to be spiritual. If you admire a certain animal for their physical traits–such as the antlers on a male deer, or the eyes of a cat or the paw prints of a dog, you can incorporate these symbols into your wardrobe or your home decor. The animal may even be so close to your heart that you feel compelled to get a tattoo related to them. Recently, an image of a piranha kept popping into my head, and it wouldn’t stop until I sat down and drew a picture of this animal. I think this particular animal was showing up in my subconscious because it represented my fears toward a certain situation, and I had to face that fear before it could stop tormenting me.

If there is an animal that wants out of your subconscious, let it roam free and howl or roar or whatever it wants to do. Let your inner doe run gracefully and silently through the trees. Try to see the world through your hamster’s eyes by getting down on his level. Imagine weaving a net-like home for yourself, suspended in the corner of a dark basement, waiting for your dinner to fly in. Animals represent our inner, primal natures that sometimes get repressed, and this is a side of ourselves that we should explore so that we can come to fully understand ourselves and the world around us.

Here is a short list of animals and the things that they generally represent:

Spider

Weaving illusions, writing or creating art.

Bear

Strength and protecting your family and territory.

Cat

Courage, agility and being able to see into the mysterious.

Dolphin

Playfully joyous and lovers of life.

Frog

Adapting to a situation and knowing when to leap.

Falcon

Knowing when to take swift action.

Dog

Loyalty and selflessly protecting loved ones