Monday, May 4, 2009
The woodlands of New England are delightful in the spring! A recent trek through Rhode Island's Snake Den Park yielded no snakes but plentiful moss... I couldn't resist collecting a very modest sampling of little mosses to bring back to the workshop and install within an old glass laboratory culture flask. I hadn't ever tried to grow anything in a terrarium, so I did a bit of research and ended up committing to the following installation procedure as outlined by Willi Galloway of eHow:
Use a moisture-retentive, poor potting mix for the moss. Moss need high moisture levels and also require a poor, low-nutrient environment. To grow moss in a terrarium, mix one part regular potting mix with one part sand and one part clay.
Fill the bottom of the terrarium with 1 inch of the potting mix. Moss has a very narrow root system because it typically grows on rocks and wood.
Plant the moss in the terrarium. Add a few rocks and pieces of wood for decoration. In addition to being decorative, the rocks and wood increase the humidity inside the terrarium. Eventually, the moss will grow to cover the wood and rocks.
Place a lid on the terrarium. Keep the lid on at all times. It should only be removed to water the moss.
Keep the moss consistently moist. There must not be standing water in the terrarium, but moss grows best when the potting mix stays moist. Water by misting the moss several times a week. If the potting mix is getting dry in between waterings, increase your misting frequency.
Put the terrarium in bright but indirect sunlight. Outside, moss needs a shaded area. Inside, moss grows best in bright light. However, direct sunlight causes the temperature inside the terrarium to be too high, so place the terrarium behind a transparent curtain or at least several feet away from a bright window.
Be patient. Moss grows slowly. It will eventually grow to fill the terrarium, but this may take a year or more.
I deviated from the instructions only in my choice of soil: I had scooped up some soil from around where the moss was growing, as I thought my moss might feel comfortable growing on the same substrate it occupied in the forest, though I worked it through a mesh sieve before funneling it into the flask to filter out the larger leaves and pine needles. All of the mosses plumped up and became very green indeed within a few hours of the transplant-- I do hope things continue to thrive!
There is a little glass snail in there by glass artist Beth Lipman. I also added some turquoise crushed glass, but sort of wish I hadn't-- I think I preferred it being all green! Anyway... should you like to have some colored, crushed glass on hand I do recommend American Specialty Glass, as I have used them often and find that they have a very good selection.
If you are interested in terrariums at all, you must have a look at some created by Manhattan artist Paula Hayes. Here are a few photos... definitely go to her site for more!
It just occurs to me that Paula's terrariums aren't capped up as the instructions I followed said to do... I do think more research is in order, and I am reluctant to cap up my terrarium now... It makes more sense to me to leave it open so there is some exchange of air, as the forest from whence the mosses originated was certainly very airy!