Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Middle South
February, 2010
Regional Report

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Fanciful glass containers set the tone for a trio of whimsical gardens.

Take a Shine to Gardens in Glass

Though the holidays are long past, the weather outside is still frightful. This winter, I'm bridging the gap to spring with one of my favorite indoor projects -- a collection of mini gardens made in a variety of clear glass containers.

My cupboards are crammed with sleek, cylindrical glass vases that are ideal for trendy centerpieces, but for this undertaking I want a more fanciful look. A faux antique apothecary jar and two 1940's footed compote dishes are lucky finds at a resale shop.

Unlike terrariums, which require charcoal for drainage and odor absorption, and a measure of potting soil for plant roots, these indoor gardens are a snap to put together yet still provide a long-lasting display.

Construction Basics
The key to quick and easy glass gardens is green sheet moss, a floral staple that is easy to find at most craft stores and garden centers.

To begin, wet several sheets of moss and put them aside for 5 to 10 minutes to absorb the water. Pull off a circle of wet moss large enough to line the bottom of a container, then gently squeeze to remove excess moisture. Place the circle of moss with its green side against the glass.

Lift individual plants from their plastic pots, remove excess soil, and wrap the remaining soil and root ball with moss (again, green side out) before situating them in the container. Fill any spaces between plants with more moss, and when all plants are in place, finish the top with a final sheet of green.

Select Compatible Plants
Miniature glass gardens use a host of small plants in a confined area, so compatibility is vital. Choose plants that have similar light and water requirements, and be sure to select a display area that provides an adequate amount of sunlight.

Remember, direct sun can burn indoor foliage. Most houseplants prefer bright, indirect light, but some may thrive even in low light.

Plant options include a variety of small ferns, ivies, vines, and tiny groundcovers and creepers. Most blooming plants do not tolerate closed containers, but orchids are an exception. Succulent plants and Rex begonias will work best in open containers.

Mix It Up
Within the boundary of compatibility requirements, look for a variety of plants to "mix it up." The most interesting displays will combine an array of foliage colors, varied leaf textures, and plant heights.

If a display will be viewed from all sides, put taller plants in the middle and smaller ones to the side. Containers viewed from one side look best with taller plants in back and shorter plants in front.

For extra fun and a bit of charm, look for rocks, twigs, gravel, and fairy garden accessories to complement the miniature landscape. Tiny benches, birdhouses, and watering cans will add a bit of whimsy, while lichen-covered branches and smooth stones will give a more realistic touch.

Care and Watering
Glass containers require careful watering. Add too much moisture and roots will rot, provide too little and the plant will die. Watering should be frequent and light, it's best to err on the side of caution.

Open containers, such as the compote dishes, will require a more watchful eye than a closed system, such as the apothecary jar.

Do not fertilize the mini gardens, but plan to renew containers with new plants as old ones fizzle. If plants grow too large, try pruning them with small scissors.

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