Thursday, October 3, 2019


A procession of plants

My window sill, at the kitchen sink, is starting to look overcrowded. It's a brightly lit area, I help plants get a headstart here. Some are intended to be permanent residents though, I have yet to introduce to you. Others, I have already shared - such as the pear scions, I'm attempting to root in soil. No doubt, I'll eventually mention some of the other plants, but for now, it's onto re-purposing something, near and dear, to my heart.

It's a leadlight terrarium, my mother made and gifted to me, many years ago.

Stored on top of the kitchen cabinets

Only problem was, I really didn't know anything about terrariums. It was also big and bulky, taking up a lot of room on the dining, or coffee table. Where could I store it? So it lived on top of the kitchen cabinets, for the most part, where it would collect dust and grease.

My mother originally put an artificial plant inside, to give the illusion, it was a terrarium. Which unfortunately caught a lot of grease and dust on it's leaves too. The artificial plant eventually fell apart, and was removed. Then I was tempted to find a new home for the terrarium too. Only because I was cleaning the glass, about once or twice a year, with no practical purpose for it.

I'm glad I held onto it though, because I developed a curiosity to create "living" terrariums, recently. This was absolutely, the first vessel to come to mind, for such a project!

Main opening at the front ~
ventilation holes on the sides

Being leadlight though, it wasn't really made for containing soil or moisture. So my first job was to cover the lower joins, with clear silicone. This would protect the metal from rusting. I wasn't intending to keep a reservoir of water in it, but I still wanted a barrier to protect the metal. As it would come in contact with moist soil.

It was a long process masking the joins off (above) so I could attempt to make a neat bead of silicone. Luckily, I purchased a small bottle of silicone, I could put through the narrow opening. I didn't fancy a large caulking gun, would fit, without accidentally hitting the glass.

Cured silicone, and supplies

Once the silicone had dried for 24 hours, I was able to start putting the terrarium together. I was holding out for horticultural charcoal. Which I found at our local landscape supplies store. Unfortunately, I learned on that particular day, they were in the process of relocating! The pallet the charcoal was sitting on, was right next to the truck. Waiting to be loaded up! Talk about close.

I was feeling pretty lucky, I went to collect the charcoal, when I did. As I'd been putting it off for weeks. Ever since purchasing the plant, that would call this terrarium, home. While there recently, I also collected a bag of small stones, to create the false bottom in the terrarium.

Making the screen

I found some shade cloth, off-cuts, in the garden shed. Put aside for instances, such as these. In this case, I needed to create the false bottom, of the terrarium. The false bottom is designed to keep the plants' roots, out of any moisture that accumulates on the bottom.

I needed to cut extra, to account for the base getting wider, the higher up I went. And I needed to go up about half an inch, to an inch. As that's how much stone I intended to use.

Putting it all together

If I were to do it again, I'd cut a little extra, on top of the allowance I made. As it's a good idea to have the screen, go up the sides of the terrarium a little. This ensures the plants' roots, won't attempt to slide down the side of the glass, into the water.

Basically, it's all in aid of avoiding root-rot, for the poor contained plants! Which is why we must also give some thought, to what exactly goes into the soil mix.

My general, indoors potting mix

My research and personal experiments of success, leads me to create my own soil mix, for indoors plants. Because the packaged mixes, always became hydrophobic and compacted, in a relatively short period of time. Which (in my case) lead to over-watering. That has always been my downfall in the past. Inappropriate potting mixes, and over-watering to compensate. There are all sorts of soil recipes you can use. This is mine:

2 parts composted, fine bark
2 parts coir peat
1 part sphagnum moss
1 part charcoal
1 part sand

The bark, charcoal and sand, provide the drainage. This is necessary for avoiding root rot. They will hold onto a little bit of moisture, if kept wet, but won't become saturated. So they are the drainage component, to the soil mix. On the other hand, coir peat and sphagnum moss, will retain moisture. Which means you can put off watering, a little longer, and not have to worry about leaching nutrients, when you do.

Dry sphagnum moss ~ 
once rehydrated, I break it by hand, into smaller pieces

I've found many recipes, just use the coir peat, with no sphagnum moss. I guess because it's more economical. Sphagnum moss, IS more expensive. The reason I include it, is because of the longevity factor. It's like a straw (once harvested and dried) only it was initially grown in anaerobic conditions, in a bog, with no oxygen. Which makes it slow at breaking down, and resists compacting the mix.

Coir peat, being finer, compacts relatively easier though. Combining the two, means I can leave the plants longer, in their pots. They're not going to leach nutrients as quickly, as the free draining components, either. But the bark, sand and charcoal, also resist compacting the mix.

So the soil recipe for indoors plants, is like creating the best micro-climate, for roots to thrive. They need oxygen, drainage, moisture and nutrients. All in the right proportion. I haven't discussed how I introduce nutrients, but will another time.

Epipremnum aureum ~
Latin, botanical name

The terrarium, now lives on my second fridge (near the dining room). It gets plenty of light, but the plant I chose, is known for being an easy indoors plant, anyway. It's a pothos - common name. It also goes by, Devil's Ivy. It should fill up the terrarium and cascade out the opening. I'm hoping it will eventually, trail down the side of the fridge.

I'd love my white goods to be covered in greenery. Just not the bacterial kind!

I'm really happy I could repurpose this terrarium. It was a gift given to me, which I didn't really know how to appreciate. Until I created a living terrarium, inside of it. Now I look at it every day, and want to clean the glass. I'm glad I could connect the work of my mother's hands, with my own. It just needed a plant.


  1. It looks great, Chris. My neighbour has a number of terrariums in which she successfully grows African violets. Your mum must be thrilled :-).

    1. On her next visit, I'll show my mum. Thanks for the suggestion of African violets, from your neighbour's endeavours. Eventually the pothos will outgrow the terrarium, and I'll have to re-pot it, some place else. I'm wondering what I'll put in it's place?

  2. Wonderful that you were able to repurpose your mother's gift, Chris. It looks great! Pothos are such a hardy plant. I have two growing inside, one with a lighter leaf and another with a deeper green leaf. They do really well. I take them outside once a week, water them from above to clean their leaves and bring them back in once drained. Meg

    1. Great to hear of your experience with pothos, Meg. As well as how you manage them. I wouldn't mind adding a lemon/lime pothos, or a variegated variety, to my colection. I've read they can get pretty big eventually, so making plans for them to live permanently on the verandah at some point. I imagine your pothos loves the weekly shower!

  3. Such beautiful lead lighting Chris and now looks super stunning with a fresh plant in it.

    1. Thanks Sally. I've always admired my mother's leadlight. I have a circular window she made too, with Rosella's on them. I have plans to put it up. The question has always been deciding where?

  4. your plant looks great in there, I have semi precious stones in mine, the light filters through and always looks good. Dust is always the problem.

    1. I can imagine the translucent stones in your terrarium, throw all sorts of interesting colours. I've made the plant the feature in mine, but I've seen some excellent hardscapes incorporated into other terrariums too. It's fun to experiment with what's possible, as terrariums lend themselves to a lot of different applications. Thanks for sharing yours. :)

  5. Wow I love the terrarium Chris. Your mum did a great job making it for you, and now you have added the greenery it looks fabulous. Hope the ivy grows well in there.

    Thank you for sharing your soil mix recipe :)

  6. I've read the Devil's Ivy/Pothos, is an easy indoors plant to start with. So long as I don't keep it's roots in water. I have high hopes, it should love it's new home! Thanks for the well wishes. When I walk past them today, I'll be sure to say Tania says hi! Plants like it when you talk to them. :)

  7. Interesting! It's so pretty. I hope it does well. Having all that room behind your kitchen sink is really nice. My faucet is right up against the wall. And with no window sill, it's isn't a useful area when it comes to plants.

    1. Thanks Leigh. :) Mine is kinda narrow, and I've had conflicts between the plants, and shutting the blind at night. Actually not me. The guy in the house, lol. But he's getting better at checking, before he closes the blind. So it's not exactly without it's challenges. But at least I have a window sill.

      Maybe, you could put a shelf above the window, and have a pot, with a hanging vine in it? I'm always looking for spaces I can put plants now, because there's limited room at the various windows in the house.


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