Monday, February 20, 2012

Two Terrarium Books

This winter I bought two new books about terrariums, which provided some great inspiration and advice about this fun indoor gardening technique.  Read these books at your own risk - you, too, might be tempted afterwards to buy some gorgeous glass containers and, of course, plants to go with them!

by Amy Bryant Aiello and Kate Bryant
photography by Kate Baldwin

This book visually walks the reader through making a terrarium.  It provides step-by-step instructions for 50 different ones, and gives some great advice and even better inspiration.  They use some really interesting plants, like living stones and different succulents, to great artistic effect.  However, my favorite thing about this book is all the beautiful and creative ways they use different colored sand.

If I were forced to pick out a deficiency in this book, I would say that some of the plants were so fascinating that I think I would have liked a whole section in the book devoted just to the different plants they used!  They did talk about the general types of plants and provided blurbs about the specific plants as the book went along, but I was left wanting to know even more about them and where to get them!  (Thankfully there is a resources page at the back.) They also do use some strangely unusual objects that are surely meant more for terrarium inspiration than replication (jawbone of a sheep, anyone?)

Ultimately, though, I loved the book.  I would recommend it for anyone looking for some creative terrarium inspiration, especially for desert terrariums - this book has some true gems!

by Tovah Martin
photography by Kindra Clineff

This book was featured in the January issue of Better Homes and Gardens, and I bought it and started reading it with great anticipation - only to be rather disappointed.  The author's writing in this book is extremely verbose, painfully and distractingly so.  I enjoyed reading about the history of terrariums, but Martin describes each individual type of terrarium container in such detail and repeats herself so often, that I could barely get through the first half of the book.  If I wasn't so determined to read it, I would have surely just flipped through many of the pages for the beautiful pictures.

A Wardian Case - after seeing the pictures in this book, you will want one!
Thankfully Martin's overly descriptive style is more of a complement to the second half of the book, where she has a great section on the many different types of plants that do well in terrariums.  She details quite a few plants that one would not normally think of to put in a terrarium, and she adds a resource list in the back that tells where to find them.  I only wish there were a few more pictures to go with all the beautiful sounding plant descriptions!

Martin does not cover desert or beach planted terrariums at all, instead stating unequivocally that "succulents can never work in a terrarium" due to light requirements.   After reading the other terrarium book which highlighted several succulents for terrariums, I am rather dubious about that..

Several plants in a Wardian case
The book finishes with some terrarium ideas and some other ways that terrariums can be used, such as for rooting cuttings of plants and nursing plants back to health.  Martin often uses her beautiful glass containers to showcase certain plants and make them into centerpieces; her pictures show her penchant for putting potted plants under glass to enhance them as well as provide a more humid environment for them.

Tropical lady's slipper orchid encased in glass
I would only recommend buying this book if you want a good resource for possible terrarium plants.  Otherwise, just pick this one up from the library to learn more about the history of Wardian cases, cloches, and other types of glass terrarium containers and to get some inspiration from the gorgeous pictures!

For more reviews of gardening books from other garden bloggers, head on over to the blog Roses and Other Joys - you might just find the gardening book you never knew you needed!


  1. I think it is hard to find good terrarium books and you given some examples that seem very helpful. I look forward to checking them out.

  2. I have been thinking about making a terrarium for some time, but haven't put thinking into action! Thanks for reviewing both of these books on terrariums. I now would love to find a Wardian case (and wonder if the local flea market might ever have one), and I love the idea of sand, pebbles, and maybe even part of a cow bone in with some succulents. Great inspiration! I will definitely get "Terrarium Craft" if I ever turn thinking into action and find the right terrarium container! Thanks so much for joining in!

  3. I've been meaning to check out the Tovah Martin book. Maybe I'll just get it from the library based on your review. Terrariums are definitely addicting!

  4. I really like the photos of the terrariums, and I wish I had the knack for keeping plants alive inside. Perhaps these two books might help! I even have a type of Wardian case that I ordered from a catalog years ago in an attempt to grow African violets. Right now it has a little fake sago palm in it from Pottery Barn that everyone thinks is real. (I do feel like a fraud!)

  5. Hmm, I think this would look good in the conservatory, when I get one that is, helluva price.

  6. Terrariums is the new craze, it seems, I have even made a few! You can see my attempts from last week-end on my blog, but I think I will make some more, now that I have done it once. Perhaps these books could teach me some of the tricks I need?

  7. I got Terrarium Craft for Christmas. I can't wait to crack it open!

  8. I just found an awesome terrarium and am ready to fill it with plants. I will definitely check out these books. The layers of sand & rocks is one of my favorite parts too!

  9. Terrariums are easy to make and maintain! Check out the Fern and Mossery for tips and tricks on how to make your own.

  10. These will definitely give you some ideas, especially the first book! It is too bad that The New Terrarium book wasn't better - it looked like it had so much potential. It did make me wish that Wardian cases were cheaper, though, as they are so pretty. I'll have to try a flea market!

    Terrariums are very addicting..

  11. Otherwise, just pick this one up from the library to learn more about the history of Wardian cases, cloches, and other types of glass terrarium ...


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