Posted in category: Terrariums.

Building A Terrarium – Supply Gathering Fiasco

I was determined. I was going to build a terrarium. Mom had one back in the 1970s and considered it an abysmal failure. But, I the smarter one; OK, the one who had access to a world wide web full of advice; was going to going to make it work. After all, the web is full of beautiful plants, terrariums and tiny green gardens. Those other folks can do it, so can I, by golly.

the-obviousOK, so let me tell you right now, I did this oh so wrong. It was something out of Keystone Cops. I hope the Girl Scouts don’t come and take away my gardening badge. Being prepared? Who needs it?!

I needed something like this fun sign picture. Sometimes we just need to be reminded of the obvious. And, it’s been a long time since I made such a mess of things and ran around like a ninny.

I did my research. I knew I needed a container, stones, dirt, some sort of intermediary stuff between the stones and dirt, and a container. And, I needed plants and decorative elements. No problemo. Yeah, sure.

This story falls under the don’t do this at home category of how tos when it comes to building a terrarium.

Buying my Terrarium Plants

I decided on a Friday that Saturday was to be plant day. Came rain or shine, we were going to find some place that had miniature plants. We called our local specialty garden center…”oh, we’re kinda low right now. We have a few ferns but that’s about it.” Our local Ace, which has a lovely fairy garden in their greenhouse, a week earlier had some of the saddest looking plants we had ever seen thereĀ – it looked like their plant person had quit or something. We called an Ace in a nearby town…had a few ferns and miniature violets that was about it. OK, spreading the search further, we called B.B. Barnes in Asheville. Oh yes, they said, we have ferns and violets and terrarium plants and, and, and. Sigh, OK, it was off to Asheville.

We must have spent 3 hours there.

They had a lovely selection of miniature ferns, terrarium plants, mini african violets and succulents. And, they were on sale, buy 2 get 1 free. The outdoor garden area had end of season herbs and I picked up a few thyme plants too. I spent the most on a small pot of creeping thyme.

Now’s where we get to the whole, don’t do this at home part or terrarium building.

Buying Rocks

I need rocks, I say. Mom says we have plenty. I say OK.

The rocks? Well, they’re outside, she didn’t tell me that when we were still in Asheville. The ones she had in mind have green moldy stuff growing on them that does not seem to come off with washing. Nope, not gonna use them.

Gotta buy rocks now too. Building a terrarium was going to have to wait for another day.

Plants on the Kitchen Table

Meanwhile, my terrarium and fairy garden plants sit on the kitchen table; drying out. The overgrown, end of season $1 plants are getting even more overgrown. Put the whole group of plants in a casserole dish and watered them well.

From the learned the hard way category…creeping thyme hates wet feet. For a while, it looked OK other than stretching a bit to get to the sun. Then there was a little black patch. Knowing it was a creeping plant, I figured that little bit was dying. Perhaps the roots had been in a neighboring pot in the store and well; denial is a grand thing until it’s over. Within days, the whole plant was turning black. I tried transplanting bits and pieces – some went in the terrarium (before I knew it hated being wet) and some went into a pot. None lived; it was a total loss.

Moss Hunting

Oh, but I want some moss and maybe a little wild fern for my terrarium too. So, when I was out gathering the unusable rocks, I found a half-dead little fern in a walkway and a bit of moss here and there. The lucky moss became part of my moss gardening experiment, the unlucky moss and little fern were left in a shallow bowl for planting in the terrarium.

Container Shopping

The next Saturday comes…I know what I want. They have it on Amazon or we can drive up to Brevard, hit the KMart and get it RIGHT NOW!!! Off we go. Now I’ve got plants and a container. Make a stop at the Dollar Tree and I’ve got rocks too. Ready to go? Nope. KMart didn’t have activated charcoal or carbon. And, once we got home we realized theĀ little bit of potting soil left in our stash would not be enough for my terrarium.

Who Knew?

Activated charcoal or carbon is used in pretty much every water filter known to man. Surely, it would be in stores. Well, it was. Problem was it is sandwiched in filters that cost quite a bit of money for only a little bit of carbon. Called several pet stores and the garden center Monday morning. Only two pet stores in town carried the stuff. Off we go, again, to go shopping. This time to get granulated charcoal and dirt.

I had read on one site that you shouldn’t fertilize plants in terrariums. Their logic? You really want them to be healthy but not actually grow all that much. They also suggested using potting soil with organic ingredients but no added fertilizer. OK, that sorta makes sense. Off to Lowe’s we went. Hmmm, no bagged dirt without added fertilizer. Next stop, Home Depot. Oh, well, gee, no dirt there without fertilizer either. At this point, I waved the white flag and grabbed what looked like the cheapest bag they had and said “Don’t care anymore, this is what it is and what I’m buying.”

Everybody in the Pool

So, finally I’ve got everything together – container, plants, rocks, dirt and charcoal. Finally, I will be making my terrarium. It would be several more days of procrastination before things got going but…I did actually put all of the pieces and parts together and shared my experience in How to Build a Terrarium. It’s not like most tutorials on the subject, I share where I went wrong so hopefully you won’t make the same mistakes.



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