A bowl of joy

A bowl of joy

Growing green

A bowl of joy

Cramped city spaces make it nearly impossible to have pets and plants, so any thoughts of landscaping a garden or decorating an outdoor space are out of the question. But there’s no need to be disheartened. Instead of trying to fit in a bunch of tiny pots in an even tinier balcony, one can use their creative juices to make and maintain a terrarium.

A cousin of the aquarium, it is an alternative to growing and landscaping greens of various kinds. It even allows for pets (that aren’t fish). And just like their popular relative, terrariums are low maintenence and nearly self-sustaining. All one needs is a glass bowl to start with.

Mona D’Silva, owner of ‘Pretty Patio’, a start-up that giftwraps greenery with a neat bow, calls a terrarium a “living eco-system in a glass bowl or jar”. She spends much of her time landscaping them. “The plants used are of low maintenance, shade or semi-shade lovers which are also slow growers and humidity resistant. Terrariums are perfect for people who don’t have a green thumb or the time to care for a garden, but still like a little green spot in their homes or offices,” she says.

To simplify it further, terrariums are enclosed spaces for animals and/or plants that are terrestrial, and are maintained with high levels of humidity. Paludariums, another cousin, are a mix of a terrarium and an aquarium — they have an almost equal share of land and water. A vivarium, on the other hand, is an umbrella term — while aquariums, terrariums and paludariums are vivariums, not all vivariums fall under these categories. They are usually enclosed areas that try to resemble the natural habitat of the creatures in it.

All of these methods of cultivating life are low-key, cost-effective and the end result is a beautiful miniature garden. For those who have a keen eye for landscaping but don’t have the space, it is the perfect way to indulge their imagination. Winnie Kinger, a student, started working on her terrarium almost two years back. “I saw a terrarium somewhere and I thought it was a beautiful way to indulge my creativity,” she says. Mona experimented for three months before she was happy with her terrariums. “I played around and experimented for over three months, working on any container I could covert into a planter before putting them up for sale. The whole idea of a self-sustaining planter was what made me curious to learn the working of a terrarium.” Calling them “magical”, she adds, “Growing plants in containers with little or no care for a long period of time is what interested me the most.” 

But how does one go about making one such tiny scenery? “I pick out an unused or any glass bowl or container with an opening that I can stick my hand into easily. Picking the right plant is very important, I usually work with succulents as they are my favourite plants and come in different colours and textures. I use a good mixture of potting soil, sand and pebbles and layer them at the base of the container. I envision the arrangement before I plant them in the bowl, working with different levels, and using pebbles to add more character. I also use accessories like shells, large pebbles, hand-painted stones, miniature statues of Buddha etc. Once completed, it is important to clean the bowl with a tissue and use a paint brush to dust off excess soil,” says Mona.

Apart from potting soil, a glass container, shade-loving plants and pebbles, one can use various other accessories. When one picks up a smaller container, Mona advises them to use pluckers, chopsticks, tissues and more. They can be used as gifts and decorative items at one’s home and office to brighten up the day.

Winnie says that they make a room look chic and bring out one’s creative side. Her terrarium is more water-based and she has aquatic plants growing in it. She recently brought home a colourful shell from a trip and has placed it in her bowl. “The grass has now grown two inches long and it will soon be ready for fishes and baby shrimps.”

Whether it is the common-place aquarium or the more exotic vivariums, they all seem to have a therapeutic effect on their owners. Shilpa, who has an aquarium, says that she would definitely be interested in owning a vivarium because it’s calming to watch the combination of water, plants and animals in a small space. She says that she sits in front of her fish when she is stressed. Winnie, too, calls the activity relaxing. “They look and (make you) feel healthy, and spruce up the room.” But make sure you don’t give them a sunlight overdose, because they won’t survive that!