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Build Your Own Terrarium: A How-To

You’ve out-visited your favorite restaurants. All the bars in town know you by name. Movie night? Forget it – you want to chat with your girlfriends and you can’t do that in a quiet theater!

Here’s a twist on the classic girls night out… (wine still included.)

My mom is one of my biggest supporters. Even when she doesn’t quite understand what I’m doing (and I’ll be honest, a lot of the time I don’t even know what I’m doing), she’s right there cheering me on. Not only is she subscribed to my blog (which you can be too 😉), she often acts as my professional photographer, and has now even started brainstorming blog ideas for me. I mean, how cool is that?!

Exhibit A: Build Your Own Terrarium at Carol Watson’s Greenhouse. This was alllll her idea, and a great one at that.

So let’s get to it, shall we?

As the name suggests, Watson’s is a greenhouse located just south of Syracuse in Lafayette, NY. The cool thing about Watson’s is that it’s so much more than your typical greenhouse. Come in and browse not only plants but home decor, pottery and select work from local artisans while enjoying a cup of coffee. Read a book at one of the patio tables intertwined in vegetation. Or, bring your friends in for a special, privately hosted terrarium party.


The How-To:

You can either bring your own glass container, or purchase one from the greenhouse. Personally, I had a lot if fun thrift shopping for a funky shaped jar, and the end result with all our different shapes and sizes came out really beautiful!

  1. Layer of stone: Once you have your jar, the first step is the stone. Carole provides you with all different sizes of stone – some of the larger ones makes for great decorative pieces along the sides of the jar, and the smaller ones are great for the drainage you’re going to want to provide your plants.

  2. Sprinkle of charcoal: Not too much! But the charcoal assists with what is known as the “drainage layer.” Without this, the excess water could stay in the soil and kill your roots.

  3. Layer of moss (& don’t be shy!) : Now the moss you’re going to want to put a decent amount of. You’ll wet it first, to make it more compact, and pat it down until it forms a dense layer. The moss fills the remaining surface area so that soil doesn’t fall down into the rocks.

  4. Soil: Plant with just enough soul to cover “potted” part of the plant (the root area). This is typically about an inch or two thick. Loosen your root ball & stick em’ on in there!

  5. Accessories and fun!!! All I used was another larger decorative rock for mine (two plants seemed uneven, rule of thirds baby!), but you can purchase any garden decor from Carol to spice yours up. We saw people getting really creative here.

I’m no green thumb. I think that’s pretty obvious by now. I bring home a plant, doesn’t matter what kind, and within a week it’s shriveled up and on life support. But even I learned a thing or two during our Terrarium Bar session, thanks to Carol Watson, our fearless leader and teacher during the evening! A few important things to note when building your terrarium.

  1. Contrary to popular belief (and my own misconception) the best type of plants for terrariums are moisture loving plants. This means that those succulents you’re envisioning right now are not it. Because of the limited drainage and sealed contaner, there’s quite a bit of humidity within a terrarium, which in the end will kill your lovely succulent plants – yes, even the succulents you were told you couldn’t kill (fun fact, you can, and I have the proof to show you that.)

  2. Another useful piece of information: don’t mix and match your plants. Mixed-composition terrariums (some succulent, some water-loving) are a dangerous combination. The fastest growing plant will most likely take over the others, and it’s also hard to regulate just how much water to give.

  3. Don’t overwater! Test the soil with your finger to see just how dry it really is. If you’re unsure, place a small ice cube on the soil near the roots, and nothing else! Not only will this be the perfect amount of water, but plants don’t like when their leaves get wet (so high maintenance, right?!), so this guarantees a happy plant. Happy wife, happy life. Happy plant, happy ….? Idk, someone figure that one out for me.

The Finished Product:


Visit Watson’s website & Facebook for more information about offerings & upcoming events!

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