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Brandon Sun - PRINT EDITION

Gone Gardenin' - Mini-garden in glass will keep your green thumb busy

The above container contains several varieties of peperomia and a cute 
ceramic frog.

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The above container contains several varieties of peperomia and a cute ceramic frog. (ALBERT PARSONS/FOR THE SUN)

The photo above right shows a large clear glass vase used as the container.

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The photo above right shows a large clear glass vase used as the container. (ALBERT PARSONS/FOR THE SUN)

In one of the clear glass gardens I saw at Newdale’s fall show, the plants had entirely filled the vase — it was getting pretty crowded.

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In one of the clear glass gardens I saw at Newdale’s fall show, the plants had entirely filled the vase — it was getting pretty crowded. (ALBERT PARSONS/FOR THE SUN)

This photo from a catalogue shows hanging containers available in the marketplace — one holding plants planted in soil, one with a single plant in its pot that is hidden by decorative stones, and one with a plant simply growing in the water.

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This photo from a catalogue shows hanging containers available in the marketplace — one holding plants planted in soil, one with a single plant in its pot that is hidden by decorative stones, and one with a plant simply growing in the water. (ALBERT PARSONS/FOR THE SUN)

I am a little slow on the draw sometimes.

I come upon a great idea but I do not immediately recognize its merit. The idea has to sit in the back of my mind for a while and it has to be reinforced by further encounters of the idea in the real world before I finally twig to the fact that, yeah, this is a great idea.

Such was the case when I judged at the Newdale Horticultural Society’s annual fall show and saw terrarium type gardens that had been planted by the junior gardeners.

Many of them were not true terrariums because they did not have lids — in fact, some of them were rose-bowl type containers.

I went home thinking what a neat idea it would be to try such a project. Later in the fall, I was in the Green Spot and found several such gardens, perhaps a bit more elaborate than those I had seen in Newdale, and planted in clear glass containers obviously made for just such a purpose.

Finally, I went on a search and found that, yes, there are many such containers available for sale, including ones that can be hung.

Then I remembered my collection of quite large, clear glass containers that I have had stored away in a basement cupboard for several years, and I also remembered that at the Newdale show, I had also seen some gardens planted in large clear glass vases, and the light finally went on in my head!

I am going to try this project — and you might like to as well. You will not necessarily have to spend a lot of money. Although you might think made-for-this purpose containers are too expensive, thrift stores have clear glass containers of all descriptions.

Choose a container that suits the location where it will be displayed. If you intend to hang the container, choose one with a wide enough lip — like a rose bowl shape — to allow it to be hung.

I think hanging terrariums are so striking and I can envision several hung as a group in front of a window, perhaps a north-facing one — you have to be careful when exposing terrariums to sunlight as the plants might "cook" inside the glass container.

I think invisible fishing line could be used to hang the containers, or even attractively coloured cord. Specially designed containers with hanging apparatus are available, so you may wish to purchase "the real thing".

Besides a container, you will need pebbles, marbles, gravel or sand (coloured if you prefer). Remember that everything you put inside your terrarium will be visible through the clear glass sides of the container, so take care.

You may wish to place a small container with no holes in it into the bottom of the container and surround it with decorative stones or pebbles. Then you can simply slip an already potted plant into the container buried in the decorative material.

You may decide you do not want to use soil and simply wish to grow the plants in water. If you do, remember that the roots will be visible through the glass unless you choose to add pebbles or marbles — which may not completely hide the roots — or use an opaque container.

Some possible plants to consider are coleus, spider plant, pothos, ivy, lucky bamboo, tradescantia and small leafed philodendrons.

If you decide to grow the plants in soil, put two or three centimetres of gravel, sand or pebbles in the bottom of the container to provide some drainage, add the soil on top and then plant your plants into the soil. The soil surface can be covered with decorative pebbles or marbles if you like.

I think an uncluttered garden is best, so use small plants and limit the number of plants you use so that the form of each individual plant can be appreciated. By limiting the number of plants so that they are spaced out from each other, you are able to add some decorative objects to contribute interest and colour.

If you use a large vase that is quite tall, you might like to use a plant or two whose top will reach the opening of the container. A lucky bamboo or a small umbrella plant comes to mind.

You will have to be careful about watering the clear glass garden as humidity will be high within the container and excess water can easily collect in the bottom of the container, causing algae buildup and rot problems. Use only enough water to dampen the planting medium.

If watering seems like a chore, plant a single cacti or bromeliad in a container buried in pebbles as previously described. The plant will only have to be watered infrequently, and sparingly when it is watered.

I think creating a garden in a clear glass container is a neat idea to try during the winter when we are looking for interesting gardening projects to keep our green thumbs in shape.

Whether hung or placed on a table, in a large vase or smaller rose bowl, lush and tropical or sparse and desert-like, your project will give you pleasure both while putting it together, and when it becomes part of your indoor landscape.

You might even consider assembling the materials into a "kit" as a great Christmas gift for a gardener!

Albert Parsons is a consultant for garden design and landscaping who lives in Minnedosa.

» communitynews@brandonsun.com

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition December 5, 2013

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I am a little slow on the draw sometimes.

I come upon a great idea but I do not immediately recognize its merit. The idea has to sit in the back of my mind for a while and it has to be reinforced by further encounters of the idea in the real world before I finally twig to the fact that, yeah, this is a great idea.

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I am a little slow on the draw sometimes.

I come upon a great idea but I do not immediately recognize its merit. The idea has to sit in the back of my mind for a while and it has to be reinforced by further encounters of the idea in the real world before I finally twig to the fact that, yeah, this is a great idea.

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