Yesterday I collected some moss samples from around the garden, and this morning I spent all of twenty minutes assembling my own mossy masterpiece. It's been a long time coming. A few months ago I watched a feature on the artist Paula Hayes and her sublime blown glass terrariums, and my jaw had dropped long enough that I swear I was starting to drool. More recently, I read Terrarium Craft and was blown away by the more approachable, but still very artistic arrangements inside. And how could I forget about Mary Ellen Gambutti's guest post with her bromeliad filled creation? My terrarium fix had to be taken care of, and fast.
So I began by carefully selecting tidbits of moss from around the garden, gently peeling off small patches and cushions so that they could quickly recover. After harvesting the moss, I let it soak overnight so that it would be more workable in the morning. I filled the bottom glass vase with sand, and tilted it to the side so that it formed a nice slope. I then nestled the river rocks in the sand and sprinkled a small amount of potting soil and activated charcoal into the pockets formed by the river rocks. The potting soil would provide a small amount of nutrition for the rhipsalis plant, and the charcoal will help keep the terrarium from getting stagnant and sour.
Next came the fun part. I used chopsticks to plant the different mosses and lichens with delicate precision, and... oh, who am I kidding? I'm not that graceful. I pretty much placed the clumps of moss where I wanted and poked and prodded until they looked somewhat stable and natural. I will not be reusing the chopsticks for potstickers and rice, but I did clean them afterward so that I won't contaminate my next project. While arranging the different mosses, I tucked in a rhipsalis cuttingthat was pre-rooted in sphagnum and packed in other mosses to stabilize the plant.
I let the moss reach over one of the river rocks to create a more natural impression, as if the moss was colonizing a rocky slope. A couple of white lichens were placed against the dark green moss that I found them growing with for a wispy and airy effect. A dwarf Tillandsia ionatha was placed on the hilltop like a miniature agave. When I was done obsessing over the details, I gave the vase a good wipe and before I knew it, my project was over. I want to make another one!
To care for my mossy terrarium, I'll simply water with rainwater or filtered water occasionally and let the mosses dry out just as they would in nature. Many of the mosses that I collected were bone dry for months thanks to our drought, yet they thrive. If you'd like to learn more about caring for mosses indoors, Helen Yoest has an excellent article over at Moss and Stone Gardens to help you get started.