Thursday, June 10, 2010

Exotic Terrariums!

A tale of my mass plant genocide en route to self contained exotic orchids and such.

A new terrarium craze has been swelling for the past few years, and I have seen amazing specimen of miniature worlds enclosed within vintage bottles and unused goldfish tanks. Worlds of moss and stones and miniature ferns accompany little colored mushrooms and even smaller figures in their own, closed off atmospheres.

Moss is beautiful in and of itself, and I admit to having one moss terrarium, but what interests me most is enclosing tropical plants under glass. For as long as I can remember, I have been obsessed with orchids: buying them almost as quickly as I killed them. By the time I turned 17, I quickly outgrew the phalaenopsis and oncidium orchids you could find in a grocery store, and became fascinated with miniature cattleya and bulbophyllum species which I hunted down on ebay and hung on my walls. A few years ago, I discovered Andy's Orchids in California. Andy sells tropical orchids of all types and sizes, on sticks! Yes, any miniature orchid you could think of, blooming size, mounted to a stick or a piece of wood.

Most orchids are epiphytes (grow on trees in nature), and receive water from gentle showers filtered by the leaves of the trees on which they reside. Reproducing this setup allows for certain, more moisture loving orchids to reside happily in a high humidity environment, since the roots are not surrounded by moist bark, which may cause rotting. Thus orchids become perfect candidates for terrarium plants.

Orchids generally require some air circulation, which is a challenge in a terrarium setting, and I have spent a lot of time hardwiring tiny fans into bell jars to try to provide air, but at this point, I am just choosing plants that are more likely to survive with little air movement.

Plants that have worked for me:
Orchid Paphiopedilum henryanum and most solid leaved, waxy flower hybrids.
Orchid Haraella odorata, a beautiful micro mini orchid
Air plants do very well, I water mine once a week and allow them to dry out before replacing them in their enclosure.
Succulents do very well, but my apartment does not have enough light for most.

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