Terrariums Bring Mother Nature Home

by : Mitch Endick

For many of us, apartment living comes with some very distinct advantages and some disadvantages. As much as I love living in the country, all of the painting, pruning and other work that comes with owning a home is a real chore. Walking up the hill to my old barn provides me with scenic views, wide expanses of lush greenery and wild flowers, and all the work seems worth it.

I occasionally think back to the relative simplicity of apartment life where sweeping, dusting and laundry made living relatively easy and carefree. Nevertheless, the relative convenience of apartment life can mean sacrificing a connection to the sights and smells of nature.

There is a way to bring Mother Nature into your apartment, the terrarium. Terrariums are a great way to bring a beautiful and diverse slice of nature into the home. Terrariums are generally defined as enclosures that are used recreate conditions found in nature, mostly for plants and small land animals.

For most of us, the terrarium is like a miniature greenhouse, where we can grow and observe species of plants that might not otherwise survive in the average home environment. Anyone who has taken a walk through a greenhouse remembers the smells, the warmth and the feeling of life all around. While a terrarium is not quite the same as having your own greenhouse or outdoor garden, you can welcome Mother Nature into your home.

Available in sizes large and small, terrariums can be purchased completely established or you can design your own unique growing environment. The choices of plant life are as wide and diverse as those found in nature, from the tropical atmosphere of a rain forest, to the arid beauty of the American Southwest.

Many years of living in the coastal desert that makes up much of Southern California showed me that the desert is indeed a truly unique and fragile environment. Many folks look at the desert and see a hot, sandy place devoid of plant life, except for the occasional cactus or Joshua tree. The truth is that the desert supports plant life of great beauty as well as a highly complex ecosystem.

Regardless of your personal preference, a terrarium, while no substitute for a walk in a rain forest or trek through the desert, can become a focal point of your living space. You can choose from a wide array of plants that may other be hard to maintain in the average flowerpot.

Many varieties of violets, mosses, ivies and succulents can be used to populate your terrarium. A properly established terrarium provides growing conditions that are much easier to maintain and can be self-regulating when correctly designed.

As with the care of any living thing, plants require attention and nurturing. Deciding on the right combination of plants and growing media will require some homework. An understanding of the proper light sources and temperature conditions can play an important part in deciding what types of terrarium plants are right for you.

Some plant species can survive in somewhat limited light and moisture while others need a more precise combination of heat, light and humidity. The good news is that the choices you have are as big as the great outdoors and you are sure to find something that fits your personal tastes.

Plant terrariums can be valuable educational tools for children, giving them a chance to observe up close how different plants grow and develop. The experience can also give children and adults alike a real appreciation of the tremendous diversity found in nature.

Perhaps just as important, a terrarium can help children feel a sense of ownership and help develop a certain amount of discipline and responsibility. Just as caring for pet, living plants need attention and care. This experience can be gained whether living in a suburban home, rural farm or urban apartment setting.

So whether you live in the country and what a piece of the desert in your living room or you live in the city and need to experience the lush greens of the tropics, there is a terrarium design that right for you.