Terrariums: Glass Gardens

By definition, the word terrarium means “a place of earth.” In actuality, a terrarium is a miniature indoor garden under glass. It contains a collection of plants that belong to the same plant community and need the same amount of water and sunlight. If you wish to cultivate a terrarium, it is important to group the same plants that need the same conditions for them to grow well together inside a small container.

Within a terrarium’s space, biochemical reactions occur such as photosynthesis, carbon dioxide formation, and the water cycle. A terrarium, therefore, has its own ecosystem and can support other living beings like a small animal or two.

A terrarium is also considered as a plant hospital. If you put an unhealthy plant inside a covered terrarium, you will see how it would revive and survive. This is because the covered glass container keeps the plants from drying out and protects them from sudden changes of temperature. Hence, terrariums can also make for an excellent way of transporting rare plants from faraway places.

Like many important scientific discoveries, the idea of the terrarium was the result of an accident.In 1829, Dr Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward (1791-1868), an English physician who had a passion for botany, placed a chrysalis inside a glass jar with some moist earth to watch it develop into a butterfly. After a few days, he noticed that a fern began to grow in the moist earth. Inspired by the discovery, he began to experiment extensively by cultivating many varieties of plants in glass containers. Later on his glass gardens became popular and were known as the Wardian case, the direct origin of the modern terrarium.

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