Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Fields & Asphalt

July in Linden, AB
No matter how much I love living in Vancouver, part of me will always be a country girl. I go through very regular cycles of homesickness. I miss my family, my oldest friends, the uncomplicated and less stress-filled life...but I also know that I am exactly where I need to be right now. Typically these cycles coincide with the seasons; July in Alberta is unmatched in beauty, though "winters" in Vancouver are much more tolerable than those in the prairies. I am a summer baby and I find that I so often spend my time yearning for muggy hot summer, that I forget that Spring is probably my favorite season of all, even in the city. Spring has always brought change and upheaval to my life. A year ago I unexpectedly moved to Vancouver and started my life over from scratch. I can't believe how fast that year has gone by! Deciding to move on was one of the best decisions I've ever made. Now, a year later, as Spring unfolds yet again, I feel  that rush and anticipation for what this year may bring. Spring, in my world, is the beginning of the new year; the world feels refreshed and reset, and just as eager as I am to get on with it.

I live in a particularly magical area of Vancouver, and as I was out for a morning stroll today, there was an unmistakably lightness that reminded me of home. Perhaps it was the sweetness in the air from the dewy grass and blooming trees, or just the particular warmth of the sun--I was suddenly transported back to lilac and crocus lined coulees of Linden, Alberta. I must admit that I generally find the bright colours of spring blooms like tulips and daffodils tacky (I am more of a foliage girl after all). But with the cherry and magnolia trees beginning to bloom, garish spring blooms just fade into the background. 

I just wanted to take a moment this morning to share my love of Spring with you, and I hope that as you go about your week, you too feel recharged and enjoy the simple pleasures of the season. 


Friday, 22 March 2013

FAQ's & Answers

I apologize for having not posted in a while; between a hectic life schedule and battling the flu, time has most certainly gotten away from me! But now I'm on the mend and I see that Spring has firmly arrived in Vancouver, so maybe it's worth getting out of bed. All whining aside, in this post I want to address a couple questions I regularly get asked regarding watering, replanting, and mold.

How often should I water my terrarium?

Watering schedules are dictated by three factors: plants, vessel, and location. For a more traditional terrarium containing tropicals plants, mosses, ferns, air plants, bromeliads, orchids, etc. you will want to keep humidity levels high, and the soil just moist (not soggy!). If the terrarium is more of a xeriscape (cacti, succulents, sansevaria, etc.) let it dry out between watering. Succulents are great at telling you when they need water: if they start to shrivel up and look like the skin on your elbow, it needs a drink--otherwise leave it be! If the terrarium is mostly or entirely enclosed, it is unlikely that you'll need more than the occasional spritzing of water just to help maintain the humidity. If the terrarium has more of an open top, you'll probably have to keep a closer eye on the moisture levels. As terrariums do not have drainage holes to allow excess water to run out, it is essential that you NOT OVER-WATER! If in doubt, stick your finger right into the soil; if it is dry and inch down you can water, but if it is soppy, let it dry out and keep your eye on it. The location of where you place the terrarium affects it as well. If you put even a full enclosed terrarium by a heat source, you'll probably have to water it fairly often. If it is in a bright window getting lots of indirect light, you'll probably have to water a little more regularly than you would if it were sitting on a coffee table with less light. Is is in a moist room (such as a bathroom)? You may never have to water it! You also have to take into account how dry the air is in the location in which the terrarium will go. Lots to consider! Generally, a light water once a week for tropicals is fine, and once every two-three weeks for a succulent terrarium. When you do water, make sure you water evenly, making sure that every plant gets some water to its roots. Watering unevenly can lead to plant death or mold. 
A xeriscape terrarium like this requires very little water

Does my terrarium need replanting?

The Bean 2.0
Again, it depends on the plants. Plants such as cacti, succulents, sansevaria, moss, palms, and bromeliads don't have much of a root system so you generally don't need to worry about them getting root bound.  Succulents LOVE to grow up all close together in tight little bunches; they're like a happy little family. Don't destroy that happy little commune that they've built up! If you do though, they will probably forgive you because they're cool like that. On the other hand, some tropical plants get quite large and are quite competitive for space within a container. Ficus elastica wants to be a very large tree, diefenbachia becomes a large plant, ferns and mosses often take over... In such instances, it really is up to the person maintaining the terrarium as to whether they remove the gangling or disproportionate plants. For instance, I recently had to replant my beloved "The Bean" (long story short, it got vandalized  my heart broke), and when doing so, I found that that the diefenbachia was starting to struggle as it had simply grown too large. So I left it out, but salvaged the palm (and the turtle) for the new terrarium. If a plant has leaves that are turning yellow or a succulent that has going black and mushy (a.k.a. rotting) it may need to be replaced because it has been over-watered and is a potential threat to the rest of the terrarium. If you have leaves that are turning crusty and brown, you probably need to give the plant more water, or the terrarium is getting too much direct light and the plants are literally frying. In this case, you can probably get away with just removing the dead leaves rather than removing the whole plant.

What do I do if I see mold?

Mold is pretty much inevitable with a terrarium, so if you have it, don't worry it isn't you, it's the fact that a terrarium is a living breathing environment full of organic matter and moisture. Mold can happen for a number of reasons. Often it happens because the container is over-planted and the plants within it don't have the room they need to grow and breath. Just as often it is because there is moisture trapped somewhere and the heat produced from the photosynthesizing plants is providing a delightful environment for mold to grow. If you see mold on the ground within your terrarium do things immediately: try and remove as much as you can, and clear the area around the mold so as to let air get to it. Then, let the terrarium dry out a bit. You may be over-watering, or you may be watering unevenly. Figure that out, and keep your eye on the mold situation. If you see a molding plant, don't panic! If it is just a molding leaf, remove the leaf right away and try to get more air into your terrarium by either letting the humidity and moisture levels drop or by removing the cover (if it has one). If the entire plant has turned, remove it immediately, check the soil where it was to make sure there is no mold, and again, let the terrarium dry out and get more air. Keep a close eye on the welfare of your other plants to make sure there is no more mold. But again, don't panic if you see mold! It's not you, it's the fact that you are playing with a tiny environment of living, photosynthesizing organic matter. It happens. A little mold is nothing to worry about, just make sure it doesn't become a problem.

The NW Special
I hope that this has answered some of your questions! What I really hope is evident here is that you do not have to be a so called "green thumb" to keep a terrarium alive. It's just the rudimentary science we all learned in primary school! Plants need a degree of moisture to photosynthesize  Too much moisture + not enough oxygen = mold. Just think about how our own world works: it rains sometimes, it's dryer sometimes. If it rains too much or too hard, it floods, plant life washes away and things drown. When it is too dry, plant life is suffocated and dies. But at some point, everything tries to balance out. Find the balance!

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Imagination & Inspiration Part II: A Gallery

I've been keeping quite busy making terrariums (because I have the most amazing customers in the world!), and it's probably time to share a few more things that I've been working on. 

The Drops

The Drops

Little did I know that these teardrop terrariums would be among the most coveted I've ever had the opportunity to play with! I stumbled upon them at the Flower Factory on Main Street (one of my favorite local haunts), and was immediately smitten. Literally the next day, a customer approached me about wanting a pair of teardrop terrariums--fate! Some things are just meant to be.

I chose to do all succulents, haworthia, and cacti for this customer, not just because he claims to kill everything, but because those plant selections play up the semi-nautical/oceanic feel of the terrariums themselves. I'm going through a bit of a variegated sansevaria addiction right now, and I absolutely love how it looks like bull kelp in the drops, really anchoring (sorry) an "under-the-sea" feel. The cactus in the one drop is pretty amazing too: it looks like a gnarly cancerous tumor on its own , but here it looks like a chunk of reef or a weird anemone. I also wanted to keep a very organic feel to these terrariums. Rather than finish them off with sand and stone, I used mosses, polished rock, and lichen covered sticks--it just gives it a bit more of a unique and unexpected appeal. 

Terrariums like these require a lot of sun or bright light, but they require minimal watering--if you neglect it, all will be well. This customer chose to hang them in his windows, and I cannot think of a better home for them! If succulents don't get enough light, they either stretch for it or they die. If you find yourself with a stretching succulent, you can either turn it towards more light, take cutting from it and try again, or remove the leggy beast and move on with your life. 

The Jurassic

The Jurassic

I LOVE this bubble bowl. It was almost too much fun to work with; I had a hard time parting with it! I ordered this particular bowl directly through the lovely gentlemen at Coal Harbour Floral & Green Design after seeing it in their shop. When the order came in for a large terrarium for a large round desk at a law firm downtown, this was the only terrarium that I could think of that could be so spectacular. 

I kept to tropicals and tillandsias for this terrarium because it is pretty enclosed, and will therefore should maintain a higher humidity and require less watering. This style of terrarium simply requires bright indirect light, and someone to check on it once and a while to ensure that the soil is moist. I would think it would be okay with a bit of water once every other week at most, but a nice spritz once or twice a week. The important thing is to not let the soil and moss become soggy or there will be mold. If you find mold, pull it and any infected plants out right away and let it dry out a bit. It is less heartbreaking to replace one plant than to have to replant an entire jungle! 

In case you're wondering, in this terrarium I used: diefenbachia, dracena, creeping fig, pothos, tillandsias, begonias, ferns, and a tropical type of stetcretia. 

The Bromance: The Pinnacle

The Bromance

The Bromance: Part III
The Bromance is really a trio of terrariums that I did up for a law office in downtown, so I wanted to make them full of drama but easy to take care of. The pinnacle of trio is a vase that I had my eyes on for some time, and was more than thrilled when I finally had the opportunity to play with it. Even though they were not all headed to one particular office, I wanted to do them up as a series so I played curves of the glass and repeated elements within the three. Each plays with different mixes and varieties of bromeliads, tillandsias, ferns, pothos; unique or notable elements would be the fantastic bromeliad guzmania, the ficus elastica, and the trunking dracena. I also threw in some trailing pilea, some begonias, and some nerve plant for colour. 

Close up of The Bromance: The Pinnacle
Again, these are mixtures of exclusively tropical plants that like to be kept moist and in bright indirect light. The one with the orange and white bromeliad may require less watering (maybe once a week)than the other two as it is more enclosed, but again, it's something you should casually keep your eye on. Generally I recommend that customers spritz their terrariums once or twice a week to keep the humidity up, but also to keep the plants looking their freshest. This is especially true of maintaining anything with maidenhair ferns--those little buggers really don't like to be dry at all, and will die very suddenly if they aren't kept in a humid environment!   

The Bromance: Part II
Close up of The Bromance: Part II

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Work & Play

I am fortunate to have not one, but two jobs that I really enjoy. I suppose I work too much, but at least I have two jobs that keep me happy and growing; JJ Bean serves my coffee addiction and 
has brought so many amazing people into my life, while Southlands Nursery fuels my imagination and creativity. I get most of my plants and supplies from the Nursery, and although I may be somewhat partial, I honestly believe that Southlands is the best local Nursery in the Vancouver area. I regularly visited Southlands long before I even moved into Vancouver; Southlands stocks most of the hard-to-find and exotic plants that I had been looking for, and it always provided a lovely experience walking the grounds and dreaming of what could be. I have learned so much about gardening in the year that I've been working at the Nursery. In fact, I strongly believe that had I not started working at the Nursery, I would never have made a single terrarium! But fortunately for me, the guys at the Nursery encourage me to indulge my gardening creativity, regardless of how ridiculous it may seem (I live in "zonal denial," meaning I garden like I live in the warmer climes--things die, I cry, and I try it again). 

Sunday mornings at Southlands are probably when I feel most inspired. The Nursery is at its quietest then and when the sun is shining as it was today, it is probably one of the most beautiful and tranquil places in the entire city. Even though the gardening season is only just really beginning, the shop feels rejuvenated and refreshed. I mean, on mornings like today, when the air is fresh and crisp and the plants seemingly luminous, it is hard to remember any of life's stresses. Before I started today, I managed to snap some pictures of the Nursery; it was positively 
radiant! Two days of deluge can really make one appreciate the sunny moments! Enjoy, and be inspired! 

Tillandsia Table! My obsession!

Phaleonopsis' and Pitcher Plants

Orchids and bromeliads

Clivias, dracenas, and tropicals

My favourite view in the whole store 


Loving the tropical tones to this clivia!

Bromeliad guzmanias and beautiful ochre Vietri


Phaleonopsis var. 
Beautiful lemon toned mini Phaleonopsis 

"Adam's Needle" Yucca 
Sexiest plant in house right now! Yucca aleoifola "Pupura"


Tropical tones to this hellebore

Love the deep purple velvet tone to this hellebore. 

A Thomas Hobbs cymbidium hybrid! Smells like cinnamon. Love!