Wardian Cases and Terrariums

Wardian Cases and Terrariums

Just over a hundred years ago Dr Nathaniel Ward, a London physician, discovered that plants could be grown in sealed glass containers and his discovery, helped by his invention of the Wardian case, made it possible to grow green foliage plants in a Victorian drawing room with a minimum of trouble. By present day standards these were somewhat ornate and heavy in design, but the principle is excellent today. The moisture is transpired from the leaves and being unable to escape into the atmosphere, condenses on the inside of the glass and runs back down into the soil, then again becomes available for the use of the roots, in a sort of perpetual motion cycle. These sealed glass cases were originally invented by Dr Ward as a means of transporting exotic plants on long sea voyages. Needing no attention in transit, it was a successful method, and was later adapted for Victorian drawing rooms. There seems to be no reason why one should not be constructed in

Wardian Case

an alcove, or corner, perhaps in conjunction with artificial light.

Small aquariums with a base of slate cut to fit the floor and some small pieces of water-worn rock placed on top of the soil make good fern cases; using young ferns less than 2 inches high if possible. When planted with the ferns, the gardencan be sprayed thoroughly, a piece of glass, cut to fit, placed on top and then left undisturbed for some months.

When it appears to be dry the top can be lifted off, the fine spraying repeated and the top replaced.

Terrariums are also easy to look after and again watering is cut to a minimum. The sides should be lined with moss for about a third of their height and then a base of charcoal should be put on the bottom, followed by l inch of gravel and a layer of soil mixture. Two parts loam, two parts coarse sand, one part leaf-mould is a suitable medium. The largest and tallest plants should be put at the back, the smallest at the front. The glass lid of the terrarium should be removed for a few hours if water condenses inside. It should be placed in a good light, but not strong sunlight. Plants suitable for growing in terrariums are winter-flowering begonias, Fittonia, Helxine, miniature ivies, Maranta, palms, Peperomia and saintpaulias.


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