Sunday, January 23, 2011

How to Make a Terrarium

Terrariums can be easy to grow. Choose a glass vessel, preferably with a lid. (Plastic wrap will do in a pinch.) Depending on the size and height of the container, add an inch or two of gravel. Add an additional inch or two of horticultural charcoal. Charcoal acts as a water filter and will keep the little bit of water you'll add later from getting stagnant. Add a layer of potting mix. Again depending on the size of your container, levels will vary. I've used an old aquarium and could actually add hills and valleys to the terrarium landscape. In a smaller vessel, a couple of inches will do. Remember, the potting mix does have to be deep enough to satisfy your plants' root systems.

Now comes the fun part of terrarium making. Choosing plants for the terrarium can be a little intimidating. Look for tropical plants that don't get too tall or grow too wide. You'll have to match the plant to the container also. A tall glass container can handle a plant like a Norfolk Island Pine or a long-leaved dracaena. Wider glassware can be planted with groundcover-type houseplants like baby's tears and strawberry begonias. I love ferns; the humidity levels that terrariums provide are perfect for them. Also consider Venus fly-traps and other plant oddities that require high moisture levels. And, cacti and succulents can be grown in terrariums too; just keep the lids off and plant relatively high in the container.

Terrariums will not need much water. Do water the plants in initially, keeping any lids off until condensation disappears from the sides of the glass.  I am amazed at how long terrariums can go without water. Do check to make sure the soil is moist, but not too wet and water when the soil surface is dry to the touch.

Stop in and take a look at the tremendous variety of small plants that can be grown in terrariums. You'll love the mini-violets and orchids for color. And stay tuned. We will be receiving some adorable accessories to convert your mini-glass gardens into homes for fairies and gnomes.


We knew terrariums were going to be hot this year, so the Sun newspaper article and the episode on CBS Sunday Morning  last week featuring terrariums did not take us totally by surprise. A few of us were around last time, in the 70's when terrariums and sand art gardens were big.

At least four of us have been on the lookout for cool glass vessels for planting, our bonsai grower has been busy potting up miniature plants and the garden shop manager had stocked plenty of charcoal and moss. So we are ready now, and good thing, because we've received eight phone calls during a cold winter's day from people who are ready to plant up some of these fun mini-gardens.

One of our inspirations is a book by Tovah Martin titled The New Terrarium. The book features all kinds of ideas for growing and displaying gardens under glass.
If you are interested in learning more about terrariums, stop in anytime and talk to one of our enthusiasts, or join us on February 5th at 11:00 am for a workshop. Visit our website and click on Events for more information.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Gardening Seminars for 2011

Saturday, January 8th Seminar Held in Our Greenhouse
A snowy Saturday didn't stop people eager to learn about gardening, particularly bonsai, from stopping in  Valley View Farms this morning.  About forty participants, most here for the first time, enjoyed learning about the basics of bonsai from our guest speaker Martha Meehan of Meehan's Miniatures. We will continue to hold informational seminars about many forms of gardening in the coming weeks and months in our greenhouse and seminar area at the garden center. Click here to go to our schedule of events. The events page will be updated regularly with our featured speaker's names, times and titles of new classes.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Bonsai-Fun for the Whole Family

This year, I gave a Bonsai tree to each of my nieces and nephews as a Christmas gift. Most were delighted, if not a little intimidated by the prospect of keeping a plant alive. They were also given a very basic book with instructions on how to grow Bonsai and a tip to attend the free class for beginners on January 8th at 9:00 here at Valley View Farms.
Vicky, Katie and Matt Florian with their Bonsai trees

A group of bonsai enthusiasts, led by Martha from Meehan's Miniatures, meets here on the first Saturday of every month. Seminars are held on various Bonsai topics allowing participants to bring their trees with them with any questions or concerns. The classes are open for everyone, but the cool thing is that a number of the people attend almost every month, and have for years. Seeing the projects that they are working on is a testament to their passion and commitment to growing these unique plants. The class is a great way to learn about Bonsai from not just Martha, but from many others who enjoy mentoring and supporting one another.

I hope to see a few of members of my family at this week's class, and, if you're looking for a fun, new hobby, please join us.

Top 10 Gardening Stories of 2010

I've watched review after review of top stories of 2010 and thought it might be fun to talk about the top gardening stories of the year for this blog installment. Please add to the list if you would like to add your own experiences and ideas for the year that has passed.

  1. Stink bugs, specifically the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, invaded the mid-Atlantic region wreaking havoc on fruit and vegetable growers. In late fall, they moved indoors becoming obnoxious nuisance pests. They will be a problem for years to come.
  2. Our weather extremes, record snowfalls in February followed by unprecedented heat and drought in June and July, were very challenging in 2010.
  3. Vegetable gardening and using edibles as ornamental plants in our gardens took hold. The White House garden, and gardens grown at Maryland's State House and Baltimore's City Hall provided food for area food banks and shelters.  
  4. Green roofs and living walls are being included in new construction by large and small business. Did you see the nation's largest Green Wall at Longwood Gardens unveiled last fall? A fun spring project may include renovating a doghouse and birdhouse roof. 
  5. Tropicals and succulents included in spectacular container gardens have become all the rage, according to the many articles written in national gardening magazines. Two new books, authored by Ray Rogers and Deborah Lee Baldwin are must-reads for enthusiasts.
  6. Locally, the Baltimore County Agricultural Center has opened at Shawan Road in Cockeysville, putting important resources at our doorstep. Baltimore County Master Gardeners and the University of Maryland Extension both have offices in the building. Demonstration gardening and farming will be available in time.
  7. Rain gardens have been installed at local schools teaching children the importance of water containment and conservation.
  8. Pollinators have received a lot of  "buzz" recently about their importance in growing food crops. Gardeners are renting hives from beekeepers and looking for plants that attract pollinators to the garden. 
  9. Gardens have joined the technical information age. Garden blogging, Tweeting, facebook and smart phone apps are just the beginning. Codes imbedded on store signage and plant tags will have growing information available just a click away.
  10. New plant introductions keep on coming. My favorites this year include the black petunias and trees and shrubs for small spaces and containers. 
There are thousand of gardening stories from 2010; this blog hints at just a few of them. Tell your own story about gardening anytime. Share it with family and friends. It's fun stuff!