How To: Welcome to the Terrarium
With house plants - in particular succulents - continuing to trend, Olivia Judge of The Manor Florist, Burwash Manor, shows us how to create an open terrarium step by step
You will need:
A clear glass container (other colours won’t provide sufficient light)
A selection of succulents: Olivia uses Fenestraria (colloquially known as babies’ toes), Lithops (living stones), Echeveria ‘Miranda’ (rosette succulent), Portulacaria (elephant bush)
An air plant: Olivia uses Tillandsia ionantha
Growing media: either a proprietary succulent mix or John Innes No. 3, preferably peat-free
A selection of gravel and larger stones
Dried moss: Olivia recommends Tillandsia usneoides
Finishing touches, to add interest and personality: Olivia uses weathered wood and toy jungle animals
Clean and dry your container thoroughly, to make sure it’s free from any bacteria, and add a flat layer of pebbles, about 2.5cm deep. Using handfuls of different-size stones, start to build up around the sides of the container. You don’t need to go all the way up, as you’ll block the light - the aim is to conceal your soil layer.
Place a layer of succulent mix in the middle of the container, between 3 and 4cm in depth, levelling it with your fingers. Gently ease your plants from their containers, and carefully clean their roots, freeing them from their original soil.
You’re now ready to start planting. Working from the back, so you don’t damage the plants while you work, excavate a small crater for each plant in turn, setting them in and anchoring the roots by firming the succulent mix with your fingers. Think about the ‘landscape’ you want to create, putting the tallest plants - such as the Portulacaria - furthest back.
As you position each plant, put a ring of small stones around its base; most succulents prefer a collar of gravel, as it aids water drainage. You can use the gravel to get creative, too: Olivia puts a little ‘river’ of stones through the middle of her display, edged with the Lithops.
Once all your succulents are in place, you can position your air plant. Create a cushion of dried moss for it to sit on, and set it towards the outer edge of the container so it will get plenty of light.
It’s now time to add any finishing touches: Olivia adds a few pieces of dried bark, for texture, and a couple of toy jungle animals, for fun. Your open terrarium is now complete! Set it on a windowsill, so it gets plenty of light, and take care not to over-water. In winter, once a month is likely sufficient, but it’s worth looking up the plants you’ve used to check how best to care for them. The air plant will need to be removed for watering: it will need to be fully immersed, then allowed to fully dry before returning to the terrarium.
Walk into The Manor Florist any day of the week and you’ll see something beautiful being made: as well as doing the delivery bouquets and wedding flowers you might expect, the team do displays for Cambridge colleges, Newmarket Racecourses and even the set of ITV’s Grantchester - on the day Velvet visited, they’d just finished a set of period-perfect arrangements for filming in the village church.
Led by owner Dawn Hookway - who also runs a sister enterprise, The Manor Gift Shop, just across the courtyard at Burwash Manor - the team are running a series of workshops this autumn/winter. The first is a chance to create a harvest or Hallowe’en pumpkin arrangement: running on Saturday, October 19, 10am-noon and Tuesday, October 29, 1pm-3pm, places are priced £50.
Next month, the topic is open terrariums - like the one pictured on these pages. Sessions run on Thursday, November 21, 1pm-2.30pm and Saturday, November 23 10.30am-noon, and places are £55.
Then, in December, you can make a festive door wreath on Tuesday, December 17, 6.30pm-8.30pm and Thursday, December 19, 10am-noon. Places are £65.
Places on all workshops must be booked by dropping into the shop at Burwash Manor, Barton, Cambridge CB23 7EY or calling (01223) 260049. Visit flowerscambridge.co.uk for more information.