How to plant a terrarium

I AM OBSESSED WITH TERRARIUMS. When we moved into my family home twenty years ago there was a terrarium left in the garden. At the time, I had no idea what it was and it has been in the garden ever since, moulding. Whoops!

I have spent the past year or two begging my mum to give me the terrarium – it has beautiful leading and a felt-covered bottom. She finally caved in as I promised I would plant it for her (she thinks I’m going to give it back but she can dream on! Ha!). I’m really enjoying bringing plants into my home so this was a great opportunity.

If however, you know full well that looking after plants just isn’t for you then why not try this lovely tutorial by one of my favourite crafters, Fran from Fall for DIY. You can learn How to Create Your Own Paper Plants over on the Wayfair site, which are zero maintenance but look great. Either way having plants in the home is such a joy so I would definitely recommend giving it a go.

Back to the terrarium, here’s how I planted it…

You will need:

How to plant a Victorian terrarium

Horticultural charcoal, potting soil, washed gravel or pebbles (optional).

You will need tropical plants that like high humidity, if your terrarium is enclosed. Don’t combine succulents with tropical plants as the one needs a lot of water and the other needs very little. I bought a selection of six tropical plants from Terra World Tropicals for £12.99 or you can buy individual plants from £1.99. It’s nice to have a variety of colours, shapes, textures when you plant a terrarium.

Tropical plant for terrarium Catopsis morreniana (Flowering Bromeliad)

Catopsis Morreniana (Flowering Bromeliad)

Asplenium antiquum 'Crispy Wave' (Tongue Fern)

Asplenium antiquum ‘Crispy Wave’ (Tongue Fern)

Tropical plant for terrarium Syngonium (Arrowhead Vine)

Syngonium (Arrowhead Vine)

Tropical plant for terrarium Coffea arabica (Coffee Plant)

Coffea Arabica (Coffee Plant)

Tropical plant for terrarium Begonia rex (Painted Begonia)

Begonia Rex (Painted Begonia)

Tropical plant for terrarium Mutation of Hemionitis Arifolia

Mutation of Hemionitis Arifolia

Tropical plant for terrarium Cordyline fruticosa (Palm Lily)

Cordyline fruticosa (Palm Lily)

Tropical plant for terrarium Sagina sabulata (Irish Moss)

Sagina sabulata (Irish Moss)

Other tropical plants to look out for are: Pilea involucrata ‘Moon Valley’ Size: To 12 inches tall and wide , Arachnoides simplicior ‘Variegata’ Size: To 16 inches tall and wide, Cryptanthus bivittatus Size: To 6 inches tall and wide, Fittonia verschaffeltii var. argyroneura Size: To 12 inches tall and wide, Peperomia caperata ‘Variegata’ Size: To 6 inches tall and wide, Saxifraga stolonifera Size: To 8 inches tall and 6 inches wide,

Antique Victorian terrarium

A terrarium – mine is an enclosed one but you can use any type of glass container. If you have an open terrarium, don’t choose tropical plants as these need high humidity.


How to plant a Victorian terrarium

1. Make sure your terrarium is completely clean. Mine had mould growing in it and all sorts, which you don’t want in a contained environment. Also, you want the glass to be totally clean before you plant it as it will become very difficult to clean once it is planted. Use vinegar to clean the glass and a scourer for the leading – careful not to scratch the glass.

How to plant a Victorian terrarium

2. Layer the bottom of the terrarium with the horticultural charcoal as this provides drainage – I used about an inch. You can not skip this step otherwise your plants will be sitting in water and the roots will rot. At this point you can also add a layer of gravel for drainage and it provides a contrast against the black of the charcoal and soil. However, this is not essential as long as you have the charcoal.

How to plant a Victorian terrarium

3. Add a layer of the potting soil (this type of soil contains more nutrients). I used about an inch.

How to plant a Victorian terrarium

4. Plant each of your plants one at a time. Rest it on top of the soil and then add handfuls of soil around it and make sure it is completely stable and ‘planted in’. Look at the details of each plant to decide where to plant it e.g. if it likes shade, place it in the middle so it will be shaded by the other plants, or if it grows very wide leave enough space around it for growth.

How to plant a Victorian terrarium

5. Pack the soil around each plant. If it’s difficult to get your hand or arm into your terrarium you may need to use tweezers or even chop-sticks!

How to plant a Victorian terrarium

6. I decided to put some washed stones and pebbles between the plants just for decoration. You can also use moss or shells.

How to plant a Victorian terrarium

Finished. I love it!

If you want to make your own you can use any type of glass container like these:


One of my favourite terrariums that you can buy (if you’re not lucky enough to find an antique one at the bottom of your garden!) is this from A Rum Fellow:

Terrarium cube

If you buy this it even comes with charcoal and gravel to get you started.

Katy x

Sunday at Columbia Road

On the first sunny day of the year we decided to take ourselves off to Columbia Road Flower Market. I absolutely love it here as there is so much to see and be inpsired by: flowers, plants, vintage shops, food stalls. This is a great place to pick up a unique knick knack or two for your home and of course beautiful flowers that will make any room look better. Take a peek…

Columbia Road flower market

Columbia Road flower market

Tips for flower shopping:

1. If you need specific flowers for a specific occasion make sure you turn up early! The market opens at 8-3pm.

2. Pick your own flowers rather than letting the stall holder do it for you. This way you can choose the freshest looking flowers.

3. Don’t be afraid to pick up different flowers to see whether they work together.

4. Ask the stall holders questions about the flowers and plants as they have so much knowledge e.g. find out how long particular flowers will last.

5. Barter! The stall holders totally expect it.

Columbia Road flower market

Columbia Road Flower Market

Columbia Road flower market

Columbia Road flower market

Columbia Road flower market

Columbia Road flower market

Columbia Road flower market

Once you’ve bought your flowers it’s time for a cafe break, surely…

Columbia Road flower market

Columbia Road Flower Market

Columbia Road Flower Market

And then it’s time for shopping…

Columbia Road Flower Market

Columbia Road Flower Market

You can find a list of all the shops on the Columbia Road website. These are a few of my favourites…

Columbia Road flower market

I can not put into words how much I love this shop. It is filled with traditional homewares:

Columbia Road flower market

Vintage Heaven is brimming with vintage finds – right up my street.

Columbia Road Flower Market

Columbia Road Flower Market

Columbia Road flower market

Unto This Last is a workshop where they make and sell really unique, bespoke wooden furniture at a reasonable price.

And then home with our bounty…

Columbia Road flower market

Columbia Road Flower Market

Columbia Road flower market

I bought fifty ranunculu stems for £20 and they have lasted for two weeks and brightened my sitting room no end. What a lovely day out in the East End with lovely friends Hannah and Rizo.

What’s your favourite market? x


Bulbs and bedding plants

What to do when your beautiful spring blooms start fading?

If you have bulbs planted in pots or beds you do not need to leave them empty for the whole of summer; bedding plants are the answer. They are perrenial and need very little root space so they can be planted on top of bulbs.

Wilting daffodils

Wilting daffodils.


Geraniums make perfect bedding plants and are just so friendly looking.

This is what I needed to plant bulbs and bedding plants:

Planting bedding plants

A fairly deep pot and compost.

Secateurs and trowel.

I have decided to try out expand and grow compost. This is basically dehydrated compost that has the volume of 12 litres but when you add water it expands to a volume of 50 litres. This is perfect for balcony gardening as I don’t have room on my balcony or in my flat to store huge bags of compost.

Expandable compost

Fill the pot by one third and then add water until it expands to fill the pot completely.


I then cut off the dead/wilting leaves of my daffodils and hyacinths so I am left with the bulbs.

Planting bulbs

I then position these quite deep into the soil with the bulbs’ roots facing downwards (important!). Then cover the bulbs with about 6 inches of soil as my bedding plants will be planted on top of the bulbs.


I prepare the bedding plants by breaking the polystyrene and removing each plug carefully. Don’t be tempted to pull the plugs out without breaking the polystyrene as this can rip the fragile roots.

Planting geraniums

Prepare a hole in the soil for each plug.

Planting geraniums

Ensure each plug is secure.


A pot that will bloom daffodils in spring and then geraniums in summer.

All done. My bulbs will start to come up mid-winter and bloom in spring and the bedding plants are perennial so they will flower every summer once the bulbs have died back down. Perfect low maintenance pot for my balcony.

Recycled planters

We’re off to Columbia Road flower market tomorrow for breakfast with friends and to enjoy the sun (and hopefully my boyfriend will buy me lots of pretty flowers!). Now that the weather is improving I’m turning my attention towards the garden; my seedlings are coming on and I’m collecting ideas for planters.

I try to design my balcony in the same way as my flat: I can’t, and don’t want to, rush out and buy everything new.  This way my outdoor space reflects my style and doesn’t cost me a fortune. One of the easiest ways for me to achieve this is to recycle vintage finds and old tins into planters. This is so easily achievable and I bet if you do a really quick scan of the room you are sitting in right now you, too, will be able to find something that could be re-purposed as a planter, rather than buying brand new ones. I promise you that once you start gardening, you won’t be able to stop.

Step 1: Source your planters

Either use what you already have, go to charity shops, use eBay or start collecting old food tins. Keep a look out for: vintage tins, bread bins, enamel pots or cups, colanders, tin jelly moulds, cake tins.

Step 2: Decide what to plant

You need to do a little research to ensure that what you plant will be happy in pots. Herbs are a good place to start as they are very hardy and don’t need much root space, bulbs also do well in small containers. If you want a quick and easy start, buy the pots of herbs from your local supermarket.

Step 3: Drainage

You need to ensure that the containers you use have drainage holes. You can drill holes (as you can see below) or for small containers just use a hammer and nail. If you buy an established plant you may be able to place it in your plant holder without the need to re-pot it, as long as it fits.

Recycled vintage tin planters

Have a look at my re-purposed planters for inspiration:

Vintage enamel bread bin

My vintage enamel bread bin, with a lost lid, used for daffodils.

Vintage recycled tin planters

Enamel cooking pot used for strawberries, enamel cups for thyme and mint, and an olive oil tin for mint (that you can buy at the supermarket). An old, large wicker basket is also used for a bean plant. Photograph from The Edible Balcony. I love the idea of arranging pots on a ladder.

Recycled vintage tin planters

I’m still waiting for my bluebells, planted in this Victorian enamel potty, to bloom.

Recycled vintage tin planters

I’ve planted thyme in this old food tin.

Vintage recycled tin planters

What about hanging your recycled containers on an old coat stand? Thyme in a retro enamel colander and a tomato plant in the blue colander. Photograph from the The Edible Balcony

Recycled vintage tin planters

Mint in a tea tin. Mint is best kept in pots as it is so voracious and can overrun a bed. It’s such a nice thing thing to have a ready supply of in the summer for cocktails and Pimms.

Vintage recycled tin planters

Tea tin for mint, olive oil tin for coriander, tinned tomatoes tin for thyme. I hammered a nail through the bottom of each tin for drainage. Start collecting food tins that are aesthetically pleasing.

Vintage recycled tin planters

A colander makes a perfect planter for lettuce as it needs lots of drainage. I bought this ‘growing’ lettuce from the supermarket and it is so easy to look after.

Butlers sink as planters for succulents

My boyfriend’s mum has these amazing butler’s sinks in her garden full of pretty succulents. Love them!

Vintage recycled tin planters

All of these herbs can be left outside or put on a windowsill in the kitchen so they are easily accessible, whilst cooking. Photograph from The Edible Balcony.

Vintage recycled tin planters

Look how sweet this is. Grape Hyacinths can be packed into any old containers as with all bulbs they don’t actually need soil to grow as their bulbs are packed with all the nutrients they need to grow. Photograph from Saidos da Concha blog.

Let me know what you find that can be used as a unique planter and happy planting. Enjoy the sun this weekend…



Growing up

The seeds that I planted some weeks ago (see my Sowing the Seed post) are now coming up and it’s time to put some in bigger pots and others can be planted out now it seems the weather has improved.


When the seeds start to sprout it is important that you leave them inside to become strong but they will need to be put in bigger pots otherwise their roots will not have space to develop.

French bean shoot

You can tell when shoots need to go into bigger pots by looking at the roots. If they have started to show they need more space to grow.

French bean shoots

These French bean shoots can be put straight into bigger pots as the paper pots decompose.

French beans will need to be kept inside until they start growing up as they are not strong enough yet to cope with the weather, especially strong winds.

French beans

The French beans need canes to grow up.

Sweet pea shoots can be planted out now as they are very tenacious.

Check on the seed packet for how long each type of plant needs to be kept inside.

Plants like basil will do best if you keep them inside and don’t plant them out.

I’m so glad my hard work has paid off so far.  Who knew gardening could be so rewarding?