Friday, January 23, 2009

experiments in terraria.

the moss plate was threatening to dry out. i knew this would happen. so yesterday, aitor and i had a brief outing on the hunt for the last couple of materials we needed to make a terrarium or two (namely charcoal and sphagnum moss).

i have been dreaming up terraria for while - actually, ever since aitor went on a plant splitting spree and gave me a small butterwort. he still has two thriving in his big wardian case while mine was pluckily struggling on our bathroom windowsill. so i started looking around for appropriate containers. that's when i found the one above, which was a serious thrift score. of course, you can't just plop a lone carnivorous plant into a big jar like that all alone. so a hatched a plan to collect some mosses out west (which also acted as a bid to bring a small part of the farm home with me). well, that plan snowballed, as plans are often wont to do, and i ended up with quite a bit of mossy materials.

in the end, the butterwort didn't end up figuring into the big glass jar at all. it's very easy to overcrowd these things and my maximalism really comes out in these situations. this little guy might be a lot to take in for the tastes of others, but i just see a million things to stare at. those stringy red things dance around when misted, which i can never get over.

with the remaining smaller bits and the butterwort, i put together these three smaller containers.

i imagine they are intended for some kind of wild alcoholic beverage (if you know, please fill me in) but they make perfect tiny terraria. i had orginally intended to give these ones to friends, but i think i need to hang onto them for at least a little while. after all, this is all experimental for me so i would it would serve me to observe the trials and successes of these little ecosystems.

after just one night, i can already see condensation on the glasses, the moss has perked up and the lichen have reverted to the softer forms that they had when i met them in british columbia; they had taken on a much more rigid demeanour when just lying around in the open of our dry apartment. the butterwort even ate some bugs that crawled out of the moss! let's hope it starts to look more like its happier brethren soon.

also, if anyone in the city has another large glass-topped jar or container that they feel like getting rid of, i would give it a good home. i have one big chunk of moss left with a couple of ferns growing in it and am trying desperately to keep it happy and healthy. my recent thrift store outings have yielded nothing of use. such is the plight of the impoverished artist who takes on opulent victorian hobbies.

although there is more extensive information on building your own terrarium elsewhere on the web, i will quickly run down what i did to make these:

a) washed and sterilized the glass containers.

b) filled the bottom with loose river rocks.

c) mixed in charcoal (i found it keeps the dust down if you rinse it first and lay it into the glass wet).

d) soaked the dried sphagnum moss and applied a healthy layer over the rocks.

e) placed moss samples in with gentle downward squeezes.

f) laid lichen-encrusted twigs and little pine/alder/cedar cones on top.

g) watered.

h) replaced lid.

i) marveled.


shannongerard said...

i kill these kinds of plants (the real kind), alas. yours are a marvel.

Ghostface Knittah said...

Nice work! I've always wanted to do this, where'd you find the charcoal and sphagnum?

sweetie pie press said...

shan - i bet you could keep one of these alive. having the plants enclosed helps.

ghostface - i went to a place called sheridan nurseries near yonge and lawrence. there may well be somewhere closer but i couldn't find anywhere. the ore downtown garden centres all close up in the winter. but i have lots of each if you ever find yourself wanting.

shannongerard said...

hrm, i think i could TRY-- We want to try something more ambitious in Willy's window terrarium, but I'm always so devastated when I fail.

karyn said...

mmm.. i LOVE your mossiness! it's truly delightful. i bought my charcoal at an aquarium place on dundas west near keele... florists usually keep moss in stock - so you could always ask a a local flower shop for some sphagnum... (i really like saying that word)

toronto craft alert said...

you did it!
you work fast, girl.

sweetie pie press said...

that's a good charcoal call, karyn. also, that poppies store on queen and dovercourt has sphagnum. but they just use it for arrangements (i don't think they have it packaged for sale) so you might have to make them an offer for a bit.

Bethany said...

Gorgeous. Perfect. Love your:
I just made a my first few recently. And marvel is definitly the right word.

eve said...

sweet collection! love the 2nd photo!