The term terrarium is derived from the Latin word terra meaning "land" and arium meaning "place" or "home". By definition, a terrarium is a transparent enclosure for housing or growing plants. Essentially they are filled with soil, plants, and a bit of water to create a miniature thriving eco-system. Traditional closed terrariums house moisture loving plants, while open terrariums are perfect for plants that prefer drier conditions. Closed terrariums are low maintenance and thrive with little to no care from it's owner. Amazing, right? So, how did this miniature miracle garden come about? And it all began with a caterpillar...
The first terrarium ever recorded was actually created by accident! The terrarium was discovered in 1829 by Nathaniel Ward, an English scientist and botanist. Ward was experimenting with a moth cocoon and placed it inside a glass jar with a bit of soil from his garden. After a few days he noticed green plants popping up from the soil and decided to document his findings. This came as a surprise to Ward as his garden in Wellclose Square was suffering from air pollution resulting from London's Industrial Revolution. Ward went on experimenting and hired a carpenter to build glass cases of various sizes to fill with ferns and other small plants. HIs plants continued to thrive in their new glass homes and became know as the Wardian Case. The revolutionary Wardian case allowed early explorers successful transportation of plants all over the world. During the Victorian era more elaborate Wardian cases were incredibly popular décor among high class individuals and the trend made it's way to America.
The terrarium was rediscovered during the 1970's as environmental issues became the hip topic of political debate. Today, the terrarium is making a come back in various forms. With the rise urban neighborhoods, office jobs, and constant connection to technology the farther we get from nature. Terrariums are the perfect way to bring the great outdoors inside and reconnect with nature. It's hard not to fall in love with these table top glass gardens because you don't need a green thumb to keep them alive. For the most part, they are self sustaining and rarely need watering or pruning. It's the ultimate solution for those not-so-green thumbs who are over the disappointment and frustration of killing plants.
Indoor Gardening - Hoobleer, Mulligan, & Mc Donald. Grosset & Dunlap Inc. 1975. New York.
Tiny World Terrariums - Inciarrano and Maslow. Stewart, Tabori, & Chang. 2012. New York.
Wikipedia- Wardian Case: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wardian_case