Bottle gardens and dish gardens are becoming popular among garden enthusiasts in the city

If space constraint is preventing you from setting up a garden at home, you can always set up a miniature garden inside your house. In fact, a glass bowl or a dish can easily become your garden. Bottle gardens or terrariums and dish gardens, as they are called, act as miniature self-reliant eco systems. Also, they enhance the ambience of your drawing room as well.

According to R. Jayakumar of Atmanilayam Garden, Parassala, making a bottle garden is not a difficult job. “Select either a glass bowl or a glass aquarium for making a bottle garden. Wash it with soap and hot water. Rinse well in cool water and leave it to dry. Line the bottom of the container with small gravel similar to those used in aquariums to about one inch thickness. This guarantees sufficient drainage of water. It is desirable to add a thin layer of charcoal above this, as charcoal effectively purifies the atmosphere. The soil used has to be sterilised by ‘sun drying’. Sterilised soil and sand should be mixed in equal proportion. Mix some organic manure into this and fill one-fifth of the container with the mixture. If a bottle with a narrow neck is selected, a cardboard funnel can be used to fill planting mixture into the bottle,” he says.

Planting in narrow necked bottles can be done using sticks. After planting, one can decorate the bottle garden using pebbles, marbles, shells, small statues and so on. Clean the dust on leaves and inside the glass container using a soft cleaning brush. Water should be sprayed sparingly and the bottle/aquarium should be closed with a tight-fitting lid. Place it where it gets bright but indirect light.

The preferable location is in a bright room or near a bright window. The water inside the bottle vaporises and condenses as droplets on the glass walls. These droplets rolls down and waters the soil. Thus the water is recycled effectively. If dryness is noticed inside the bottle, then only water needs to be sprayed again.

If there is a lot of condensation, open the bottle for a while now and then. Remove dying leaves as soon as you notice them. Excess growth of plants inside the bottles can be removed using a scissor or stick connected with a blade at its tip. The plants should be replaced after one or two years.

B. Kumari Girija, retired professor of Botany and a garden enthusiast, feels that there is a need for terrariums in our cities. “This concept, though new to us, is very popular in Western countries. These gardens require less care and are easy to maintain. You can even grow small, succulent flowering plants such as Table Rose in these glass gardens. Set plants in the terrarium in an aesthetically pleasing arrangement. The tallest plant should go in first, then the intermediate and finally the smallest plants. Don’t overcrowd the terrarium, leave space for the plants to grow,” she says.

Dish gardens

Dish gardens are also a trend among city dwellers. They require bright indirect sunlight. Dish garden can be placed in direct sun also. Flat or curved dishes without drainage hole can be used for making dish gardens. Small pieces of gravel and charcoal are placed at the bottom; then put a mixture of soil, sand and manure on top of it. One fourth of the space is left empty at the surface.

Small varieties of Cactus, Cryptanthus, Haworthia and succulent plants can be planted in these dishes. Water should be applied in such a way that the dish garden never sits in excess water. Dish gardens can also be decorated using pebbles and toys. Irrigation and care should be done according to the nature of the plants, says Jayakumar.