Terrariums, miniature gardens in glass, are much more than a decor trend or hobby. In her article for The Atlantic titled “How A Glass Terrarium Changed the World,” Jen Maylack wrote, “The glass terrarium . . . changed food, botany and commerce in the industrial era.” Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward, a London physician and gardener, serendipitously discovered the terrarium in 1842. Originally known as Wardian cases, horticulturists initially used terrariums as scientific tools to assist in the collection and intercontinental shipping of plant specimens. The word “terrarium” derived from “aquarium,” substituting “terra” meaning “land.” The tiny greenhouses grew popular in the 1970s, and are enjoying another renaissance according to Brian Tepp, owner of Wild Flowers in Denver.
“Terrariums are a trend for decor. Social media has given terrariums another revival recently,” says Tepp. “I think the popularity of terrariums is connected to the whole COVID thing with people being shut in and wanting to do something. And even the younger generations have a great interest in terrariums.” Wild Flowers hosts hands-on terrarium workshops as corporate team-building events or entertainment for wedding showers, birthday parties, and family reunions. Groups bring in birthday cake, champagne, or other party fare. “We also have groups of people with cancer who want to get their minds off chemotherapy treatments and have a way to bring tranquility,” Tepp says.
Terrariums are easy to build, and—once established—even easier to maintain. “The appeal of terrariums is that once moisture is controlled, they are self-contained and require very little maintenance,” Tepp says. “For people who travel a lot or are not home much or have a hard time growing plants, terrariums are a really good option. Once established, they can go a month or even two without watering.”
The terrarium-building process begins with a glass container with a top made of glass, cork or wood. “We offer about 15 different terrarium jars in all sizes and shapes,” Tepp said, noting that some people bring in their own containers. Tepp noted two types of terrariums: closed or open. “Succulents won’t grow in a closed terrarium because it’s too moist for them,” he says.
In workshops, participants observe a demo, then create their own terrarium. “We monitor it, but everyone can take creative freedom on how to decorate their terrarium. If we have 10 people in a workshop, every terrarium will look completely different,” says Tepp. “Some people add a miniature Buddha for a peaceful feeling in the room. Kids like to add little glass or resin animals. Making a fairy garden is very popular right now,” he says. “Adults use decorative stones in different colors to fit a room’s design.”
The miniature environments make a big impact in a space. “This tiny, living environment is a connection to earth and plants, and that’s strong right now; our connection with nature. A terrarium brings that into the home,” Tepp says.