Terrariums: Hello Tiny World

If you love gardening but are in want of a garden, then consider embracing the world of terrariums. A super useful new book is out that shows you how to create mini indoor container gardens that will fascinate and delight

Hello Tiny World by Ben Newell of Worcester Terrariums

Ben Newell has become an expert on terrariums and he's written a lovely book to get us all started ...and hooked...on his passion. Hello Tiny World is published by DK at £20. Photography is by Jason Ingram

Buying a ready-made terrarium is all very well ...but you're not really invested in it are you. And it'll cost you way over what it would cost to make your own. And it may well not come with the right instructions so its lifespan won't be what it should...which should be Methuselah-esque.

Hello Tiny World is a book that definitely won't languish on a coffee table. It's small-ish, so eminently carry around-able, and it's full of everything you need to know about terrariums: containers (anything glass with a lid), tools (scissors, tweezers and a scoop) and the type of plants that work best (Boston ferns, begonias, ficus plants). Its word to picture ratio seems perfect - in short it's going to get your green creative juices flowing.

Newell, who you'll find on YouTube, says it's the book he wishes he'd had when he started to get interested in terrariums. 'It would have saved me a good two years in time lost to experimentation..' he says. And the one thing we all need to know at the outset is that terrariums need the right sort of soil. Which is really a substrate and NOT the soil from your garden. Newell likes the terrarium soil from www.soil.ninja but has recipes for making your own - eg two parts bonsai medium, two parts compost or coir and one part worm castings.

Ben Newell of Worcester Terrariums at work. Photograph by Jason Ingram
You shouldn't need to water but do mist occasionally if things look a bit dry

Newell, 32, says he got interested in terrarium-building after working in horticulture in his early 20s and more specifically having an allotment. 'I became rather obsessed with plants,' he says, and after moving on to bonsai plants, terrariums followed. 'I do have a capacity to get fascinated and being able to create and grow things in very small containers really appealed.' He has made a teeny tiny terrarium out of a teeny tiny Tic Tac travel pack..which if you've never come across one is a clear plastic box about an inch or so high. Why? well, just to show it can be done, he says.

On a more serious point, Newell says terrariums are great for bringing plants into your space if, like him, you don't have a garden, balcony or terrace. 'If you live in a flat, you can feel very cut off from nature,' he says, so terrarium building is a way to get closely involved with plants. 

Newell wants people to know that terrarium building is NOT an expensive hobby. The sort of plants required are eminently affordable and you can find them at your local garden centre, while containers themselves are often things we have at home, such as glass jars and bottles. 

On the subject of plants 'one thing I would remind people is to steer clear or succulents and cacti. They don't belong in a terrarium, which is a self-contained eco-system. What you need are humidity loving plants, such as Fittonias, ferns and mosses.'

And of course you can bring tiny creatures into your terrariums and Hello Tiny World has a useful chapter on mini wildlife, Keeping custodians (p120).

Hello Tiny World is published by DK at £20

Worcester Terrariums