Talking terrariums with Madeleine and Will from Jar and Fern…

Ok, a jar and a few plants – what exactly is a ‘terrarium’?

So terrariums were actually invented in 1827 by a London Doctor called Nathaniel Ward, although people had been keeping plants in jars as early as 500 BC. Dr Ward invented them pretty much by accident after monitoring the life cycle of caterpillars and moths in a closed jar which had a bit of soil in the base. Little plants started to grow inside and were really healthy and flourishing. He did more experiments and invented the terrarium as we know it today – although back then they were called ‘Wardian Cases’.

It’s basically a way of growing plants inside glass which creates a mini ecosystem for the plants to live in. You can get open or closed terrariums but the closed ones are ‘self watering’ which is a huge bonus! Victorians got completely obsessed with them and they were even used to move plants overseas. In fact the first tea plant was transported from China to India in a terrarium, so it’s thanks to them that we have tea so widely available.

So, Will tried to make Madeleine one, Madeleine ended up doing it herself and now you are filling London with terrariums and fellow terrarium makers…

Yeah, it turned into us making them together… There was loads of leftover equipment so a few turned into lots of terrariums which we made and sold at Brixton Market on the weekends. They went down really well and people would always ask us how we made them and what the ingredients were so we decided to start running workshops. We now run a variety of Terrarium workshops in different vessels and also offer Kokedama making workshops, Wreath workshops and Hand Tied Bouquet workshops. During the last year we have also branched out into wedding and event floristry and did our first wedding just over a year ago.

Maddest thing you’ve gotten into a jar?

We currently have a Maranta/prayer plant in one of our carboys [terrarium talk for one of those lovely old bottles with a big bottom and slim neck] which has completely overgrown the bottle, we don’t really want to cut it back so it’s currently got huge stems and leaves growing out of the neck. We have been experimenting with herbs in terrariums with some success, but probably the most unusual thing we’ve put in a terrarium was a collection of naked volleyballer figurines – not quite sure what the meaning behind them was but they were very realistic!!

And you’ll be coming into Capital Gardens to teach us how to make (and not mess up) our wreaths and festive terrariums, what can we expect?

Yes we’re really looking forward to kicking off the festive season, our car and studio becomes filled with the smell of Christmas trees and eucalyptus, it really does make us feel so Christmassy! We’re not really into classic wreaths so we like to use more green foliage like berried ivy, asparagus fern and different types of eucalyptus – although we always have some glitter in the form of sprayed birch branches and twigs! We also like to use a hand-mossed base which helps keep foliage fresher for longer and looks gorgeous. Terrariums also make great festive centrepieces and the fittonia we use come in some gorgeous shades of red and green for a bit more of a festive element and keep living long after christmas is over! [add hyperlink here to tickets via CG site if we have that?]

Your 3rd birthday is coming up, any wisdom to share?

I think the main thing we’ve learned over the last three years is to keep creating, trying new things and being passionate about what you do. It’s been so much fun watching our business grow – it has been pretty unexpected really but we know that trends will keep changing so it’s good to keep a little bit of attention on where to go next! Running your own business takes up a lot of time, it’s very easy to end up working on it all the time so we try to make some proper time each week to switch off – which definitely isn’t easy but really helps!

If we only had Ethical Elves and a Sustainable Santa what would be on your Christmas list?

Closed terrariums make a sustainable houseplant as they recycle their own water and there is no need to water them for around 6 months! The glass we use can be recycled afterwards too.

But we really hate all the extra plastic we have left over from making our terrariums and workshops. I know the plastic used for plant pots is not usually recycled, especially the black ones so we would love to see plant pots being made out of recycled materials and plastic that can be recycled again!

And if you could fill our stockings?…

We have a couple of Juliette balconies at our new flat which we have just planted up with pots filled with bulbs for spring, we’ve layered about 12 varieties to flower from March to June (so excited for them to come up). So I think it would have to be a selection of bulbs and our current favourite houseplant Calathea Ornata, which has dark green leaves with light pink stripes on one side and is a dark burgundy on the other. Obviously we would have to sneak in one of our terrariums too, or at least a gift voucher to come along and make your own!

Any New Year’s Resolutions?

We’re going to be launching some new terrariums next year including one with Orchids in so do look out for those. I’d like to say it would be to buy less plants because our flat and studio are pretty full already but I don’t think that’s likely, so perhaps it will be to start propagating more and share some of our favourites with friends and family.

Workshop gift vouchers –

Make your very own Terrarium!

If you want to get stuck in and create your very own terrarium, click here to go to our events page where you will find out all of the information about our terrarium workshops. We have a workshop at both our Neals Nurseries and Alexandra Palace stores, but be quick as they sell out fast!

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