Best Plants To Grow In Bottle gardens

An amusing room decoration which has be-come very popular is the bottle garden. Any large bottle can be used, but an acid or distilled water carboy is ideal: bottles with an opening less than 1^ in. across are difficult to plant. After thoroughly cleaning the glass a 1 in. layer of crocks should be put in. This is followed by soil 5-6 in. deep, using either 2 parts John Innes Potting Compost No. 1 with

1 part extra peat, or a mixture of 1 part loam, 2 parts peat and 1 part coarse sand. It is best delivered through a funnel of stout paper to avoid dirtying the glass. It should be slightly moist but not wet. Firm the soil as filling pro-ceeds with a cotton reel fixed on the end of a cane. Next arrange the plants as they are to be planted, so that you can work from outside to centre, thus avoiding dropping soil on the plants. Make a hole to receive the plant with a pointed piece of lath – the hole must be large enough to start with — and then, removing enough soil from the rootball to allow it through the opening, push the plant in, let it drop and manipulate it into place with lath and a cane. Cover the roots up, and firm with the cotton reel. It is not as difficult as it sounds: a little practice and a lot of patience will produce an object as intriguing as a ship in a bottle. A little water every month or two in the summer is all the bottle requires, and it need not be sealed as condensation then forms on the glass. Dead leaves are twisted or broken off by pressure from a cane, and pulled out on a pointed stick or hooked wire, or a razor blade may be wired to a cane for necessary surgery -which needs considerable care.

Similar gardens can be made in goldfish bowls, large brandy glasses or wide-necked storage jars.

A normal-sized carboy will hold seven to nine plants, which should be obtained in the smallest possible pots. The following are recommended:

Calatheas; Cocos weddeliana or Neanthe elegans (dwarf palms); cryptanthuses; Ficus radicans variegata; fittonias; Helxine solei-rolii (will carpet the soil); marantas; pepero-mias; pileas; selaginellas; small ferns such as Asplenium nidus, Pelloeo rotundifolia and Pteris species.

Varieties of Cordyline terminalis, Dieffenbachia picta, Dracaena fragrans, D. deremensis and D. sanderiana can be used if a larger plant is wanted.

Flowering plants are not recommended for bottle gardening, as they are seldom satisfactory for long, but they can be used in goldfish bowls where attention can be given easily. Avoid vigorous plants like tradescantias and chlorophytums which grow much too fast.

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