Monday, March 14, 2011

Terrarium DIY

Since I am not a craftster, or really a maker of things that turn out well (but I have a whole bag of yarn that used to be mis-shapen scarves), I imposed on a friend to tell how she made kick-ass terrariums recently. Today's Guest Post is by Jenn.

My fiancĂ©e and I acquired a modest little bungalow two years ago (thanks, housing market crash, for screwing the world and yet making it possible for me to have to worry about things like sewer lines and property taxes). At first, we attacked it with an almost manic zeal, trying to erase the ghosts of the previous owners, who continued to visit us daily with bad decorating decisions (Yes, put that poop brown tile in the bathroom. Oh, what I’d really love is for this room to have wood paneling, sponge-painted orange faux brick, and seafoam green trim, while THAT room – I think that dark eggplant color would be good. No, no I told you that we need wallpaper with FRUITS ON IT.). Then a couple things happened. We ran out of steam, and after a few unexpected plumbing, electrical, etc.-related disasters, we were running out of funds.
After months of a depressing decorating stalemate, I realized with the help of the Internets (specifically – and even you non-mid century inclined folks should check out Morgan at The Brick House that scouring eBay and Etsy for beautiful vintage furniture and vignettable sundries was only one of myriad options before me. Tapping into my inner hipster, I looked for craftier, budget-friendly solutions to assuaging my boredom. One of the things that I knew I wanted to attack was the overblown cost of owning succulents in twee glass containers. I mean, really, you expected me to lay down a couple hundred bucks so someone in Brooklyn could ship me a tiny cactus in a jelly jar? Oh no. You didn’t.
The beautiful thing about making your own terrariums – in addition to how cheap it can be – is how freeform and lackadaisical you can be about the process. I’m not one of those people who can crochet a 3d sculpture of Abe Lincoln for my foyer, so I’m just going to get real with you: I need – and you need – something simple. I can’t quite figure out what it is about the terrarium that makes it seem beautiful no matter what – I think right now I’m inclined to say it’s the mystique of the glass container plus the aesthetic superiority of succulents as opposed to some frilly vomitous carnation or what have you.
Here’s what you need, and this is how you do it:

Ingredients – Activated charcoal (odor control), cactus potting soil, decorative landscaping accoutrement, PLANTS, glass container.
Sourcing – Never, EVER pay more than $5 for a glass container. Go to Salvo or Savers and get creative. One of my terrariums is in this sort of fish bowl situation, and the other one is in something that used to hold a potpurri scented candle, no doubt. Even weirdly shaped containers will work. With regard to soil and succulents, wherever you feel comfortable shopping. We indulged in a trip to a fancy greenhouse (so these are not so frugal), but I have since gifted very frugally made terrariums. For the charcoal and the decorative layer/base drainage layer, I recommend going to your home store OR local aquarium supply (think river rocks, that kind of thing). We picked up white sand for some (not pictured), as well as some lava rock.
Step 1 – Put in a layer of activated charcoal. I have no idea how much you should put down, I just put a good amount. Think of it like that box of baking soda you have in the fridge.
Step 2 – Put down a layer of rocks for drainage.
Step 3 – Put down a layer of soil. Stick to the rule of thumb you may have heard some pretentious person utter down at the community garden and give it as much depth as it’s been growing in the pot.
Step 4 – Dig little holes for the plants (if the mouth of your terrarium is narrow, I would highly recommend using the business end of a screwdriver to arrange rocks/soil/dig holes). The handle is great for smoothing out the edges once you’re done, and positioning the plants.
Step 5 – Put in your plants, surround with a layer of rocks, and voila. You basically live in Williamsburg.
Estimated time: 15 minutes (not including shopping). Cost: You can do this as cheaply as you’d like, but I would say that $5-10 is a good materials cost outlay per terrarium, less if you’re doing more than one at a time since you’ll already have the materials on hand at that point.

1 comment:

  1. I've always wanted to make a light bulb terrarium (, but this seems so much easier to try first! The link also has other good reusable uses for light bulbs.