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Gardening under glass

Terrariums are back and more beautiful than ever!

Created date

September 25th, 2012

Every so often, a craft takes the nation by storm. Remember scrapbooking a craft so big that people had parties where guests cut up cherished family photos, put stickers on them, and taped them into books? How about the year we applied really expensive glitter to just about everything? Unlike fine art, a craft can be executed by even the most color-blind and fumble-fingered among us. Creative talent helps crafters of course, but it isn t necessary to be successful. Some crafts are perennial like soap making, candle making, and anything that involves beads. Other crafts come and go. Perhaps as a reaction to our current screen-centric lives, people are reviving the old-fashioned homey crafts of yesteryear. First, there was the cake-decorating comeback, followed by the decoupage deluge. And grandmas everywhere enjoyed sharing their expertise with the younger generation when knitting suddenly became hip again. Now comes a totally new retro craft that is forcing all those recovering scrapbookers back into the craft store terrariums! These terrariums bear little resemblance to the multicolored sand creations popular in the 1970s. Today s terrariums are beautiful, whimsical, or even comical scenes that reflect the modern sensibility of today s crafter.

The terrarium ladies

Leading the terrarium movement are two avid crafters, Michelle Inciarrano and Katy Maslow. As the story goes, the two friends met weekly to get crafty. Many bookmarks and greeting cards later, Michelle came across an antique glass cruet and was inspired to create a terrarium. The design of her tiny garden was important to her, but so was the integrity of the eco-system, so she contacted her college chemistry professor to make sure all the elements within the glass cruet would help her tiny garden thrive...and thrive it did. Terrariums captivated Inciarrano and Maslow like no other craft had. Soon, they started populating their works with miniature figurines to create enchanting scenes. When they opened a terrarium booth at the Brooklyn Flea (a market for local artists), customers couldn t get enough of their fanciful worlds. Before long, they were being featured in theNew York Timesand chatting on TV with Nate Berkus and Rachael Ray. The two friends now run Twigs Terrariums, a quaint store in Brooklyn, N.Y., and they have a website ( where you can order do-it-yourself kits or even beautiful pre-made creations. The terrarium ladies share their expertise about the wonders of small-time gardening, inTiny World Terrariums: A Step-by-Step Guide to Easily Contained Life(STC Craft/A Melanie Falick Book). Just as the title promises, the book contains everything an aspiring terrarium designer needs to know. Beyond that, it s packed with Robert Wright s spectacular photographs of the most amazing terrariums.

Give it a try

Tiny World Terrariums inspired me to give terrarium design a try. I already had a small round container well suited for cactus or succulent plants. (Moss or other water-loving plants should be planted in a container with a lid.) I made a quick trip to my local garden store to select my plants and get rocks, potting soil, and sphagnum moss. While local hobby stores may have a limited selection of miniatures, online sites like,, and have a huge selection. Search the keywords model train figures or miniatures and you ll find pages of tiny figures. Model trains come in a few different scales. I like the HO scale figures, but, really, any scale works. Materials in hand, I was ready to design my tiny world. First, I filled the bottom of the bowl with some rocks, topped the rocks with sphagnum moss, and poured potting soil on top of the moss. Now I was ready to get creative. Inspired by the originalPlanet of the Apes movie with Charlton Heston, I buried a small rubber Statue of Liberty in the dirt. Then, I planted a few cactuses and a viney succulent known as sedum album. Once the plants were in, I poured white sand on top of the dirt so it looked like a beach. Finally, I placed three tiny men in prison garb near the statue and behind one of the cactuses, I hid a giant ape. The scale of the ape is a lot closer to King Kong then Cornelius, but in the context of my terrarium, I think it worked fine. Terrariums are a great way for people who don t have a lot of outdoor space or prefer to stay indoors to enjoy gardening. They also make wonderful gifts create a fishing scene for an avid fisherman or a jungle scene for an animal lover. Let your imagination run wild!