but I was able to make two terrariums from things I already had in the house and yard.)
Why I Decided to Create a Terrarium:
I was talking to a friend about ways to combat this and she suggested having some indoor plants, but normally I am so tired of taking care of the garden by this time of year that I want a break. And I do already have some houseplants, and I bring inside some potted herbs to take care of all Winter. Like me, they don’t do well inside. I watch them suffer from not getting enough Sun (even though I put them under plant lights) until I can put them back outside in Spring, when they perk right up again.
I remembered a couple times when I was younger and had terrariums. Terrariums are self-contained systems, so when they work right, they don’t need any maintenance, not even watering. One in particular that I recalled sat on my desktop. It was its own little world of dark, warm soil and moistness. I remembered periodically opening a little section of the terrarium's geodesic dome and inhaling the wonderful smell of Summer. Breathing the crisp, cold air of Winter is its own treat, but it’s not the same as the warm breathe of Summer. What is the first thing I do when I step outside during the Summer? I unconsciously take a deep, deep breath. Scientists have been studying chemicals that trees and other plants give off, that help keep us happy and healthy (see the book The Healing Code of Nature by Clemens G. Arvay). Unfortunately, deciduous trees rest during the Winter, and don't give off these chemicals, so taking a deep breath of the Winter air is not the same.
Suddenly I was on fire to make a terrarium, so I could smell Summer all Winter long, but I lacked the container. I looked up terrariums on Etsy to see how much it would cost to buy one, and I saw someone selling a terrarium kit made with storage containers that I thought I had stored away in my cupboard. I used to keep my homemade soap in them, and now I'm glad I didn't get rid of them.
The next thing I would need was plants. Since it was so cold, I didn’t think anyone could safely ship them to me this time of year if I bought anything online, and the nursery in town that I knew sold terrariums had gone out of business. It so happened that we were having our first freeze warning that night. It occurred to me that if I made the terrarium immediately, maybe I could use plants from the yard. The biggest problem with a small terrarium is that plants grow, and most will outgrow the small space. So I wondered around the yard looking for anything that stayed small. I have a lot of moss, which would look beautiful in the terrarium. I also dug up a couple other small plants, and joyously began to assemble my terrarium.
Putting the Terrarium Together:
- A large glass container with a lid. The jars I had were one gallon, and the lid was not air tight (like this one). You can also find some other really beautiful terrarium containers, which maybe I will get one day. Whatever you decide to use, make sure you clean it well. It will be really difficult or impossible to clean the glass once you’ve assembled the terrarium, and you want the view inside to be unimpeded.
- Small rocks or aquarium pebbles to line the bottom of the terrarium (water can sit in the rocks where it won't make the soil soggy). I had some in the house from other projects. You might also be able to get them from outside. You can buy them in many shapes and colors.
- Potting soil. I usually have potting soil around the house, which has worked well for me in terrariums before. You can also buy soil mixes made specifically for terrariums.
- Plants that stay small. Otherwise, they will outgrow the container. You can buy terrarium plants online but I recommend going to a nearby garden center or nursery to get some helpful advice about what plants would work best, if you can't dig up things from your yard like I did.
Here are the plants I dug up out of the yard, including some sweet woodruff (middle right), a bit of a primrose (top left), and a lot of moss. I ended up making a second terrarium because I dug up too many plants.
My Decorated Terrariums: Sun & Moon Themes
Other things I do, or am planning to do,
to survive the long Winter days inside:
- Videos of bird song: You can find these in lots of places. I prefer the kind that aren’t set to music. That seems more like the real thing, so I recorded the birds in my yard, and play that on a continuous loop whenever I’m at my computer. When I step outside during the Summer and feel immediately better, the first thing I notice is that I want to take a deep breathe, the second thing I notice is the natural sounds- birdsong.
- Table top fountains: I learned to make these years ago. It was a fad, but one that has lasted for me. The sound of running water is so soothing and so natural. Fountains are easy to make with a small aquarium pump (this is the one I've used most recently) and a deep bowl. I put them on a timer right along with my plants so they turn on every day. This is the fountain I have in my home office:
- A box of soil to wriggle my toes in: This may sound weird, but I read this suggestion somewhere and tried it last Winter. I went outside after we’d had a lot of frost but it hadn’t snowed yet, and scraped off some soil just from the top of the ground, so I was less likely to get worms or other soil creatures. I put it in a plastic box and took it to my retreat room, where I left the top cracked so the soil could breathe. I periodically meditated with my feet in the tub. I've left it inside all Summer, and I see that now I need to add some water to revive it.
- Snow shoeing: This is another thing I remember doing a couple times when I was a kid and loved. Maybe this will be the Winter I try it again. I know where I can rent some snowshoes. I will also keep taking walks outside as long as I can, without snow shoes, until it becomes too difficult to navigate the icy sidewalks.
- Listening to guided meditations about being outside in Nature. I heard this suggestion recently. Can't hurt to try it. I'm sure the Insight Timer app I use has lots of appropriate meditations.
- Go to a human-sized terrarium: If you live near Madison, WI, Olbrich Botanical Gardens has a wonderful indoor tropical garden, Boltz Conservancy, which I think of as a human-sized terrarium. I try to go there every Winter when the cold and snow seem like thye'll go on forever, so I can enjoy the indoor warmth, the birds in the trees, and the sound of the waterfall.
If you have other ideas, please share them in the comments below!
Why is Being Outside So Important?
Bear and I have a short-hand term for all of this. We remind each other we need to get our "outdoorphins." We didn't make up this term, but it's all we have to say to each other to, for instance, remind ourselves why we should take the time to go hiking in a nearby state park.
Wherever you are and whatever season it is there, I hope you're able to get your outdoorphins and benefit from the blessings of Nature.