"T" is for Terrarium (How to Make a Whimsical Terrarium)

Despite my brown thumb, I have dreams of being a crazy plant lady, so when my friend, Jess suggested we attend a terrarium workshop at Crown Flora Studio, I was all in!

Currently our house is a bit of a graveyard for plants, so I was eager to get some advice on what I was doing wrong (Apparently, I'm guilty of over-watering and my drainage is insufficient.) and spend a little girl time making something pretty.

I'm going to include as much information as I can remember to help you make your own terrarium at home, (Because, since the workshop, Jess and I have been joking about how much we wish we could just make terrariums all day.  I could see this becoming an obsession.) but I highly recommend this fun workshop for any of you who live in the GTA.  We both had such a great time that we've been texting pictures back an forth of the terrariums we've been making at home and the workshop itself was so much fun, that I just had to share it with all of you!

Crown Flora Studio is a lovely little shop in trendy Parkdale and owners Adam and Davis exude a welcoming vibe.  Between the gorgeous terrariums, beautifully made bags (Davis makes them) and lively chit chat, Jess and I could have stayed all day.  Adam explained that he began making terrariums when a small apartment limited his plant options and he was soon giving them to friends as gifts.  Eventually, friends were commissioning him to make them for their friends, and his business grew from there.  Don't you just love hearing about people who have turned their hobby into a job?

The workshop included materials and lessons to make two different types of terrariums: a hanging air plant terrarium and a mason jar succulent terrarium.  There were unlimited supplies to decorate each terrarium, so everyone in the class went a little crazy.  I hoarded the best plastic animals like they were going out of style... it would have been more embarrassing if others hadn't been doing the same thing.  "OMG Jess, they have dinosaurs!!" "Tay, I think I need more of these gold rocks for mine..."

And the best part, may have been the selection of plants!

We began with the air plant terrarium, because it was easiest.

Air Plant Terrarium

You Need:
- Glass Vessel
- Air Plant
- Sand, Gravel or Rocks (optional)
- Moss and Decorations (optional)

1. Line the bottom with sand, gravel or rocks. (optional)
2. Decorate the vessel. (optional)
3. Place air plant inside, careful not to bury the base too deep.

Spritz twice (as in two pumps of a spray bottle) with water (preferably distilled) every three days.  Keep in indirect light.

See why we started with this one?  It's really easy because air plants don't need to be buried or attached to anything.  You could literally just place one in an empty jar and it could survive with just a little water because they get nutrients from the air.

I think my mistakes with air plants in the past have been over-watering and placing them in direct sunlight.

Because it was so easy, we experimented with some fun reindeer moss and plastic animals.  Here's mine:

Jess used some pine cones, as well as a moose, hippo and gorilla in hers.  I was only a little jealous that she found a hippo.  

Once our air plant terrariums were finished, (Adam kept track of time, since we were all having so much fun.) it was time to move on to the succulent/cactus terrariums.  We all used succulents, but Adam assured us that the same process and care instructions could be used with cacti.

Succulent or Cactus Terrarium

You Need:
- Glass Vessel (You will need some depth for the soil.)
- Succulent or Cactus
- Gravel (You can purchase this at a pet store, since it's used in aquariums.)
- Granular Activated Charcoal/Carbon (Again, this is available at a pet store, or you could open up your water filter and use what's inside.)
-  Sand, Glass, Gravel or Pebbles (To cover the soil.)
- Moss and Decorations (optional)
- Tools (Spoons, chopsticks, paint brushes and tweezers would all work.)

1. Begin with a layer (a couple of inches thick) of gravel at the bottom of your vessel for drainage, and add roughly 3 tbsp of carbon.  Swirl to mix.  The gravel provides drainage and the charcoal/carbon helps to eliminate impurities for healthier plants.
2. Add two cups of soil (Adam also mixed some charcoal in with the soil) and lightly pat it down using an available tool.
3. Create a hole in the soil (all the way through to the gravel) by either digging or poking through it. (We forced a thick cylindrical tool through it, while twisting side-to-side.)  That's what SHE said.  A dry paint brush can be used to clean any dirt from the inside of the glass.
4. Choose a plant and loosen some of the roots before placing it in the hole.  (Adam assured us that breaking the roots a little would not harm our plants.)  Use some of the available tools to pat down the soil around the plant.
5. Pour in a layer of sand, ground glass or finer gravel to cover your soil.  Adam taught us a great technique which involved pouring it in on corner and then swishing it around like a cocktail glass.  (He probably used a different analogy, but you can see where my mind is right now.)
6. Decorate with moss, rocks and plastic figurines.

Water with 1 1/2 shot glasses full of water once every three weeks.  Keep away from direct sunlight.  Feel free to "prune" succulents if they get too crazy during their growing cycle.

As you can see from our pictures, it was challenging to show restraint while decorating these.  Adam generously reminded us that we could always subtract at home, but it would be difficult to add things later without buying more supplies, so he encouraged us to go a little wild.

I ended up excluding the Velociraptor from my design... much to Corey's disappointment.

While we worked, Adam enlightened us with great tips on successfully keeping plants.

Here was my finished product, although I deconstructed it at home once I decided it was too busy.

I loved that Jess used the pine cones and gold rocks so liberally.  Here's her terrarium:

There was plenty of gorgeous terrarium inspiration around the store.

Once we finished, Davis packaged our terrariums for us.  Adam and I chatted a bit about where to find good vessels and I thought of my cabinet full of Value Village vases, which I've been collecting for the wedding.  He told us that since we had already taken the workshop, we could always call ahead and schedule a time to come back to use their supplies to create terrariums in our own vessels.  This is definitely on our "to do" list!

Jess and I couldn't wait to make our own, so we stopped for some basic supplies on the way home.  I even found an air plant from a past project that looked like it may be worth saving.

I used some sea glass that I had collected on holiday and Jess and I brainstormed some other fun and whimsical items that could be used to decorate these.  Here are a few:

- Green plastic army men
- Plastic animals
- Micro machine cars
- Mini toys (Jess used a rubber duck.)
- Craft moss
- Pretty stones, sea glass and fossils 
- Pretty beads
- Old costume jewelry
- Small framed photos

Here's a picture of the air plant terrarium I made at home, using a glass vase that I found at Value Village for a couple of dollars and some sea glass and beach rocks, which I collected on holiday.  In the condo, I displayed my sea glass in an apothecary jar in the washroom, but I prefer this use.

And here's my little collection.  The two on the right were both made at home with glasses scavenged at Value Village.

Jess also sent me a picture of the terrarium she made at home:

What do you think?  Will you make your own?  I think terrarium making should be the new paint-your-own-pottery!  Who's with me?
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  3. If you can do this in the kitchen sink or in the bathtub where you can give it a thorough wetting and then allow the excess to drain out, so much the better. glass terrarium containers


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