When I was in college, my mom gave me a large fish bowl, planted as a terrarium. I don’t recall which plants were in it, but I still have the bowl and it’s now planted with some very nice artificial plants and sits on a table in our basement family room.
Growing plants in a bowl or any kind of enclosure is a look I like. So when I was visiting Longwood Gardens in 2006, while attending nearby GardenFair at Winterthur, and I spied a small Wardian case for sale in their gift shop, I didn’t hesitate in purchasing it. But there’s more to that story…
Mom and I were on one of our gardening adventures and while she had already been to Longwood Gardens when she attended the Philadelphia Flower Show a few years before, she wanted to go again and knew that I would want to see them, too. So before heading back home, we drove to Kennett Square, PA, to the gardens.
Our usual plan of action is to do a quick tour of the gift shop to see if there’s anything we can’t live without, and then tour the gardens. I saw the Wardian cases sitting on a table marked “Reduced.” There were five of them, but I only wanted one. The gift shop wasn’t busy and I asked the manager if I could buy one now and have him put it back for me while we toured the gardens. He convinced me to just wait to buy it before we left, since he’d not sold even one in a week.
We went on our way and spent a few hours walking through the beautiful grounds of the du Pont estate known as Longwood. When we returned to the gift shop to make our purchases, I walked over to the sale table and was shocked to see that all the Wardian cases were gone.
I walked over to the manager and asked if there really were none left and he told me that one person came in and bought them all. I just couldn’t believe it. Then one of the shopkeepers said, “I think there’s one in the back that’s got a broken glass pane in it. It’s not perfect, but maybe you’d want that one?” Of course, I wanted to see it, and when she brought it out and I saw the cracked pane was at the bottom of one side and not that conspicuous, AND she said, “You can have this one for $11,” I said, “Sold!”
These cases were used as table decorations in 2006, when Longwood Gardens celebrated the 100th anniversary of Pierre du Pont purchasing the property and turning it into the beautiful gardens there today. I’ve no idea how they had them planted for the dinner, but here’s what I’ve done with mine:
As I was walking through Lowe’s one day, I saw they had some small square plastic terrariums on sale for half-price - $7 each. I bought two. In each one was a beautiful jewel orchid, a fern, and an evergreen type of thing that I don’t recognize.
The Wardian case has a plastic liner in the bottom, where I placed a layer of potting medium. I then planted all the plants and filled in the gaps with more potting medium, then placed sphagnum moss as a top dressing because I like how it looks.
Just for fun, I added a couple of stones, put a turtle on top of one and placed a ladybug bulletin board tack near the base of one of the plants. It’s been planted for about eight months now and is doing well! I check the moisture level of the potting medium once a week and water if it needs it. If I can see a bit of moisture condensation on the inside of the case, I know it’s got plenty.
I did a little research and found that these Wardian cases are made by H. Potter Company, one of my favorite garden sites to visit. They’ve got beautiful garden accents and some of the most exquisite Wardian cases I’ve ever seen. Someday I’d like a larger one, but for now, I’m enjoying my tabletop version, which reminds me of a Victorian greenhouse.
Be sure to have a look at what else H. Potter has – I know you’ll find some things you’ll love, just like I did.
H. Potter invited me to share this same story with them on their blog, which I was happy to do. You can read it here. Thank you for the opportunity!
I received no compensation from H. Potter for the writing of this blog post, nor for sharing the story with them, as published on their website. The links to the H. Potter site in this post may be affiliate links, however.