• No matter how creative, resourceful one is, there are at least a few countable occasions when one is stumped.

    A spate of recent events found us at that juncture. Agreed, one is thoroughly spoilt for choice – given the availability of a wide range of merchandise to suit every occasion. But we were still at sea, trying to settle for the appropriate gift.

    While listlessly browsing the internet, seeking that magic solution, we saw it. And fell hook line and sinker for it. With utmost commitment and single minded perseverance, we actually made  a few and gave them away as gifts. Two parts green, two parts total satisfaction. All in all the most rewarding, do-it-yourself project that is thoroughly enjoyed by both the receiver and the creator.

    So what exactly are we talking about here? Scroll through the pictures first. We’d like you to get acquainted with the terrific Terrariums.

    What is a Terrarium?

    It is a miniature landscape with living plants and soil. Glass jars of different shapes and sizes (even fish bowls) make very attractive holders to the creations. Often times, a terrarium is embellished with toy animals, shells, colourful sand, pebbles and figurines to mention just a few.

    The making of a terrarium is very simple; the whole process – once you have gathered all the necessary things – will barely clock an hour.

    Here’s how we got the various materials together.

    We bought our fish bowl (a diameter 8. As we were making the terrarium, we realised that the bigger the bowl, the better the finish) at an aquarium in Mylapore. Costs vary with size, you can expect it to average between Rs. 80 to Rs. 300 depending on size and quality of the glass.

    One can also find glass jars at Poppet Jamal, Curriemboys, Life Style and other similar stores in the city.

    The decorative pebbles also came from the same aquarium (pebbles, stones, gravel, shells etc can be sourced from aquariums or any shop that has home decor products. For the shells, head to the beach, of course!)

    One of the key components is activated charcoal (it is also referred to as activated carbon or horticultural charcoal and is normally supposed to be available at pet stores or plant nurseries. But as luck would have it, we couldn’t find a place to buy it from. Thanks to a very resourceful staff at Manjari, the nursery at Kotturpuram, we found a way around this tricky situation. She suggested we substitute the activated charcoal with Coco Peat. She mixed soil, coco peat and used that mix in the place of soil and activated carbon. Coco Peat is available at most nurseries across the city.)

    Also from Manjari, we bought a plant variety called Monda Grass (Rs. 30), which reigns pretty much close to the ground. Great choice for a terrarium, as there is no fear of the plant outgrowing the container. (Feel free to consult with your gardener or experts to incorporate any other plant well-suited for this project that you can pick up from the local nurseries.)

    The decorations came from a shop in Mylapore (but you can find them anywhere in the city – right from the road side plastic toy carts to discards from your kids!)

    To bring about a nice contrast in soil colours, we went around looking for white sand, but couldn’t find any place that stocks it. So we went ahead with sand from the Elliots Beach. After we made the terrariums, we saw the elusive sand packaged in small bottles at the Life Style outlet in Express Avenue Mall. But it was too late to make it into this project!

    Basic Steps to Get Started:

    1. First of all, wash the jar and dry it out completely.
    2. Line the bottom with a layer of rocks/pebbles.
    3. Next, pile on the coco peat mix.
    4. Sprinkle a layer of soil and make small depression in it to place the plant -root down.
    5. Take the plant from the pot / bag it came in. Shake off excess soil from roots. Trim roots, and cut off wilted or damaged leaves. Also separate a clustered bunch of plants and place the roots individually in the designated holes made for them. Cover the roots entirely with soil.
    6. Depending on the intended visual appeal, place taller varieties or differently coloured plants behind the first one.
    7. Top off with colourful soil, decorative figurine, shells, stones etc.

    A Few Things to Remember:

    1. There is no hole at the bottom of the container to drain off excess water. So you rather spray water on the soil only when you think the soil is getting dry. Just enough water to keep the moisture in.
    2. Terrarium plants do not need to be placed in direct sunlight.

    Try it. Be enriched by the experience. Certainly google terrariums for more on the subject. And share your experiences with us.