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Bottle Gardens and Hanging Glass Terrariums

Updated on June 22, 2016

Making a Bottle Garden

Whether it's spring in Alberta and there's still two feet of snow covering my garden, or Fall and you have to bring the green into the house before winter hits, you have this unique option. When I get the garden fever or need some green in my life I have to make a bottle garden. Why? One word... CATS.

When Cola (my cat) came into our house, I had lovely house plants all over. I had a grape ivy I grew from a cutting into a three-foot ball of hanging wonder. It cost me 13 cents for this scraggly poor excuse of a plant that just called out to me as a challenge. At that time I was going through college for greenhouse technology so I was into plants. It took me 3 years to grow that ivy but Cola ate it down to nubs in a matter of a few days.

Funny she never touched the other plants just the grape ivy. She must have thought it tasted good or she just knew it was one of my favorites. After that she just ignored the other plants so I let it slide.

A year later we welcomed another cat to our household. It was about the same time I needed to re-pot my ten foot corn plant. It had reached the ceiling (again) and started to bend over. I had this plant for well over 12 years. Every time it reached a size too big to handle I would cut the top off and re-pot the top. It would just start growing again.

Our newest cat Java... decided that the fresh leaves at the top of the corn plant were just the best tasting thing ever. So ended the life of my corn plant and the gradual reduction of all plants in my house. Nowhere was safe.

Until I discovered bottled gardens.

Image Credit

by Matt Chung
by Matt Chung

- Why I Started Growing Bottle Gardens

Making a table top terrarium is a fun project. Once established it literally takes care of itself. There are a few different approaches. I take the simple approach with just plants and natural materials. Others I have seen put in miniatures or figurines. Some make entire miniature dioramas inside the glass walls of the chosen container.

My first terrariums were more for the animals and insects I kept and plants second. I never kept the wild creatures for long, I remember having frogs and toads, turtles and salamanders. I kept insects to feed them like beetles and meal worms. And crickets. I love the sound of crickets when I was out camping so I had a cricket terrarium that kept that sound close by.

That reminds me of a funny story. I was twelve at the time, out of the house beyond the curfew, collecting my second favorite night-time creature, fireflies. I was out at a special spot collecting a whole mason jar full of these little flashers before sneaking back into the house. There's more to the story but it doesn't pertain to this. I had a jar full of these flies and I moved them into what I thought was a wonderful home for them. It was a large fifty gallon aquarium that I was growing mosses and small ferns and ivies in. I had just released the toads I had in there for a month and wanted a change.

The problem arose the next day when my brother took the lid off to look for the toads and not finding them absently left the lid off. When I got home and found that out I was a bit ticked off at my brother and got the chance later to hunt fireflies all over as that night they were flashing all over the unfinished basement where my dad had made our bedroom. Now I had twinkling stars as well as crickets in my room.

So started my days of growing plants for the plants sake and ended my career at collecting insects, thanks to my brother. Let me show you how.

Mini Ferns for Terrariums/Fairy Garden - 5 Different Plants-2" Pots
Mini Ferns for Terrariums/Fairy Garden - 5 Different Plants-2" Pots

Mini ferns are the best plants for a bottle garden. Club mosses and slow growing perennials are good as well. Another direction is arid plants like cacti or air plants but make sure your don't have a totally enclosed terrarium and you water very little at a time.

 
Anchor Hocking 1-Gallon Heritage Hill Jar
Anchor Hocking 1-Gallon Heritage Hill Jar

Start with a lidded wide mouth jar for your first bottle garden It is easier. Once you have the knack of putting together a bottle garden then the challenge comes in the many different varieties of containers. I've even seen them in old light bulbs, and light fixtures. Try an old hurricane lamp. That's where the fun comes in. Use your imagination.

 

Bottle gardens allow you to regulate the environment that the plants within require.

Time to Complete Project

Prep Time: 1 hour

Pros: Lasts longer and easier to maintain than regular house plants not container within a glass container.

Cons: Trying to find that perfect match of growing container and plants to go in that container.

Materials

  • Glass Container
  • Porous Material (ie: round beach stones or beach glass)
  • Plastic window screen or weed barrier fabric
  • Activated charcoal
  • Potting soil
  • mosses
  • plants

Instructions

  1. Photo by a2gemma
  2. Choosing the right bottle is part of the fun. I have seen bottle gardens in mason jars and gallon jugs and even a small teardrop pendant sold as a cellphone charm. They all have one thing in common and that is they are a medium to display plants. I like the gallon cider jugs and the bigger five gallon carboys. They are relatively tall in respect to width and the sides are relatively straight so the view is not distorted too much.
  3. I would suggest a wide mouth container as your first bottle garden as it is easier to plant and maintain. Once you have a few down, you can try the odd shaped containers or the small mouth jugs.
  4. If you know anything about potted plants you know that plants need good drainage. Most potted plants have drain holes in the bottom just for that purpose. Because a glass bottle doesn't have the drain holes we need to start with a good thick layer of porous material. As it will be seen outside it better look good. Nice beach rounded stones is a good choice or beach glass, broken glass pieces rounded in the surf. A good few inches is good.
  5. Next is a piece of window screen or weed barrier material, to prevent the soil from filtering down into the rock layer.
  6. On top of the screen is a thin layer of activated charcoal. This prevents the terrarium from going sour. You can get the charcoal anywhere you can find aquarium supplies.
  7. Next a layer of soil that you can plant your specimens in. Roll a piece of newspaper into a funnel to prevent the soil from splashing up on sides of the glass. This reduces the time you have to clean the inside of the glass container after you are done. Making sure the soil is not too wet that it is splashy and noit too dry that it dusty is also a time saver.
  8. Make sure you balance the space inside the bottle or jar leaving enough room for the plants. One the the beginner mistakes for bottle gardeners is putting in too much soil. Like bonsai, reducing the soil requirements restricts the root growth and thereby slowing down the growth of the plants in the bottle.
  9. There are many choices for plants. You can have a whole bottle garden with just different mosses. You can have one miniature rose inside a gallon jug safely contained. You could even trim and train plants like bonsai within your bottle garden. That is a challenge. Check you local nursery for plants and plants tips. There are miniature varieties of many common house plants that would work well together.

Fluval Flora Stainless Steel Planting Tongs - 10.63-inches
Fluval Flora Stainless Steel Planting Tongs - 10.63-inches

You'll need these. Many other tools you can make like using a set of chop sticks r a bent coat hanger wire. Making your own tools is a given but having quality tools also reduces the frustration sometimes.

 

My Favorite Bottle Garden

My favorite bottle garden was an old gallon cider jug that I planted with moss and a single grape ivy. I laid the jug on its side like a ship in a bottle. And put a big cork in the top. On rainy days it looked like it rained in the bottle as well. It was a cool garden but it grew too fast.

Some of the most interesting stuff is found in the comments. Keep reading I have a challenge after.

Now It's Your Turn - Send Me A Photo Of Your Bottle Garden

I stumbled on this picture on the net (http://www.flickr.com/photos/snigl3t/414712990/ ) and built my lens around it.
I stumbled on this picture on the net (http://www.flickr.com/photos/snigl3t/414712990/ ) and built my lens around it.

"Spring is the time of plans and projects."

- Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

What's in Your Bottle Garden?

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    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @marygriff: Awesome. Let me know how it turns out.

    • marygriff profile image

      marygriff 4 years ago

      wow! what a novel idea! I will try this also! i think i've found a new hobby

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @CassandraCae: Send my a pic if you do... I'd love to see.

    • CassandraCae profile image

      Cassandra Kuthy 4 years ago from Ohio

      I love this idea. I have cats too so I think I am going to do this.

    • EpicFarms profile image

      EpicFarms 4 years ago

      Absolutely nothing (mostly 'cause I don't have one yet ;o) I think I'm definitely going to have to give this a try though - so neat!

    • Meganhere profile image

      Meganhere 4 years ago

      They're like little baby planets!

    • profile image

      nvhoangviet 4 years ago

      I wanto go to Cedar Point

    • profile image

      nvhoangviet 4 years ago

      I like it

    • HuyMarketer profile image

      HuyMarketer 4 years ago

      i like it

    • mcsburlea profile image

      mcsburlea 4 years ago

      beautiful

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 4 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      I love terrariums but wonder if Arizona is too hot and dry for them. I have trouble growing indoor plants (well, and outdoor plants!) here.

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @LUMOSE: Thanks for visiting. I appreciate it as well.

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @tobydavis: Yes. One you could easily get lost in for hours. Enjoy!

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @Greathaul2013: Awesome. You'll have to send me a picture of the results. Thanks.

    • tobydavis profile image

      tobydavis 4 years ago

      Such a cool idea - like mini worlds :-)

    • profile image

      LUMOSE 4 years ago

      Great lens.

    • Greathaul2013 profile image

      Greathaul2013 4 years ago

      Very cool. I have a glass countainer that would be great for this. Thanks for the idea!

    • anyavnclv lm profile image

      anyavnclv lm 4 years ago

      I love this post! Thank you for sharing.

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @junkcat: Now is the time to take control and inspire others like your Mom inspired you. Thanks for visiting. Send me a pic of your first bottle garden.

    • junkcat profile image

      junkcat 4 years ago

      I haven't made terrarium since I was is high school. My mom used to inspire me to be creative.

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @shellys-space: I hope to see a picture one day soon or a lens to link to. Thanks.

    • shellys-space profile image

      Shelly Sellers 4 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.

      You just inspired me to make a terrarium garden!

    • Gaby81 profile image

      Gaby81 4 years ago

      Love your bottle garden. I will try to make one since is a nice and warm weather there where I live. Thanks for sharing.

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @Virginia Allain: I think it is time to recreate your prize.

    • Jack2205 profile image

      Jack 4 years ago

      I have some houseplants, Bonsai, and a few terrariums. It's a great way to keep the plants away from the cats.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 4 years ago from Central Florida

      I won a terrarium in a store contest that was a delight. It was a side table and totally glass and all planted. Marvelous. That was when I lived in Australia and I had to sell it when I left. No way could I transport that back to the U.S.

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @Jack2205: Yes that was the whole Idea behind doing this project. Thanks for visiting

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @anddzimm: True. That is my favorite as well. I have cats after all...

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Thanks. Nice to see you here.

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @debmalyadatta: Thanks for visiting and leaving your thoughts. I appreciate it.

    • anddzimm profile image

      anddzimm 4 years ago

      Love the idea and I really like the hanging terrarium..

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Very nice ideas.

    • profile image

      debmalyadatta 4 years ago

      Really a nice way to grow plants

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @Sara Krentz: I hope you'll send a picture.... Thanks for visiting

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @allaneaglesham lm: You nailed it. Thanks

    • Sara Krentz profile image

      Sara Krentz 4 years ago from USA

      I'm inspired to create one of these. Some of those containers are lovely.

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @Ben Reed: I hope you do. It can be as fun as you make it. Awesome. Thanks for visiting

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @accfuller: Like many things in life I prefer to think of bonsai as a lifestyle. It's like owning a parrot or a turtle. They live so long you have to have a life style change to accommodate the longevity.

      A good bottle garden is also long lived so ity is more a hobby than a project.

      Thanks for the comment, the visit and the likes. Awesome.

    • Ben Reed profile image

      Ben Reed 4 years ago from Redcar

      Wonderful - I must give this a try.

    • accfuller profile image

      accfuller 4 years ago

      These are so cool! I have a bonsai that's a lot of fun, but it's sloooow process. I gave you a squid-like and a g+1 ... :)

    • irminia profile image

      irminia 4 years ago

      A very encouraging lens - I think I will try to make one.

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @KateLauren: Awesome. Thanks for visiting . I do Appreciate it.

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @MJ Martin: Send me a picture. I'll post it with the rest.

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @Bartukas: Thanks for visiting and taking the time.

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @SheGetsCreative: Spring is late but it'll come in with a bang I'm sure.. Snow is almost gone here.

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @shineall: You're welcome. I love it. Thanks

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @PhilVardy: Not in this type of bottle garden but I do have other methods for vegetables

    • allaneaglesham lm profile image

      allaneaglesham lm 4 years ago

      Something fun and easy to do which brings life into the house!

    • profile image

      KateLauren 4 years ago

      Great Lens! Can't wait to start my First Bottle Garden!

    • MJ Martin profile image

      MJ Martin aka Ruby H Rose 4 years ago from Washington State

      Nothing yet, but oh what a wonderful idea, can't wait to get started!

    • profile image

      Bartukas 4 years ago

      Really great and informative lens!

    • SheGetsCreative profile image

      Angela F 4 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Now that Spring is here I'm thinking about creating a few terrariums for the kitchen and dining area.

    • shineall profile image

      shineall 4 years ago

      Really like it, thanks for sharing!

    • PhilVardy profile image

      PhilVardy 4 years ago

      Interesting lens - and something I hadn't heard of/thought of. Any luck with vegetables?

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @Erebos411: Yes, it is interesting to watch the water cycle in action. Thanks

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @fotolady49 lm: I am delighted you enjoyed my story. I have more to tell

    • fotolady49 lm profile image

      fotolady49 lm 4 years ago

      Thanks for the interesting, informative and entertaining lens! Congratulations on LOTD! I can just visualize lightening bugs flying all over your basement...You've inspired me, so I will have to try doing a bottle garden.

    • Erebos411 profile image

      Erebos411 4 years ago

      Thanks for a great lens. I use to have a bottle garden years ago. It was fun to see how "nature" could happen in a bottle. I think I might just have find another bottle!

    • bluelily lm profile image

      bluelily lm 4 years ago

      Seems that you have accommodated the whole of the garden in these glass vessels. Excellent way to showcase nature's beauty.

    • profile image

      laurenrich 4 years ago

      Thanks for the great lens. It is very informative and helpful. Thanks for sharing.

    • conniec123 profile image

      Connie Clyburn 4 years ago

      Great article full of information I can use!

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Thanks for the comment. I appreciate it. Spring is a bit edgy this year, It's like she's afraid to visit.

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @bilafond lm: Taking cutting from woody plants is difficult for those who are not setup to do so. It requires a bit of skill and the right tools. You also run the risk that the rose you have is a hybrid or a grafted rose. Some miniature roses are grafted onto rootstock that is different from their own that keeps them miniature. If you can a cutting and it takes, if my grow into a full sized rose.

      My suggestion to you is to get a smaller rose to start with and get a jar or cloche that will be big enough to accommodate the full expected size.

    • profile image

      RajlakshmiHB 4 years ago

      this looks amazing :D

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      We seem to be having a late spring this year, and I was a bit disappointed with some of our plans for the garden getting a slow start. This really is a good idea.

    • bilafond lm profile image

      bilafond lm 4 years ago

      This is definitely one of the best lens. I am a person who likes to do things. I have a wide mouth Jar and I know what I will do. You have said a miniature rose ! Could you please elaborate. Can I cut a small branch from the bud and plant. I was wondering if u help me here. Thanks

    • profile image

      ajmac 4 years ago

      Really cool lens.Thanks for sharing.

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @RawBill1: It's time.. go for it.

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @Katie Hazel: I am so glad... I know it will work out. Thanks.

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @anne mohanraj: Thanks for stopping by... I appreciate it.

    • RawBill1 profile image

      Bill 4 years ago from Gold Coast, Australia

      I have never made a bottle garden before, but it would be nice to have a few inside the house.

      Congrats on LOTD. Well done. :-)

    • Katie Hazel profile image

      Katie Hazel 4 years ago

      this is perfect, I wanted to do one and then I found your lens! I am so happy!

    • anne mohanraj profile image

      anne mohanraj 4 years ago

      What a lovely idea! Great lens!

    • profile image

      storytimesam 4 years ago

      Great Lens. I will try this myself soon. Thanks for sharing.

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @dalelynn21: I ate Mom's cactus when I was 3 so yes... keep it out of reach.

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @pyngthyngs: Awesome. Send me in a picture I'll post it along with the others.

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @SheilaSchnauzies: Thanks fo rthe visit... I do appreciate it.

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @ayla5253: yes yes yes... all of it for sure. Thanks for the visit.

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @DebMartin: yet being the operative word. Thanks

    • profile image

      dalelynn21 4 years ago

      Great lens and I'm going to try a bottle garden. We have a 15 month baby so a bottle garden would be good. As long as I keep it up out of her reach.

    • pyngthyngs profile image

      pyngthyngs 4 years ago

      Interesting use of the recipe module. This looks like a great project I can easily do with my daughter.

    • waynekat profile image

      waynekat 4 years ago

      These are really beautiful and I truly enjoyed your lens.

    • SheilaSchnauzies profile image

      Sheila 4 years ago from Omaha, NE

      Really enjoyed your lens, congrats on the LotD!

    • profile image

      ayla5253 4 years ago

      I thought a wide mouth bottle garden would be a lovely project for an elderly person or group, or a kid , lots of kids or a scouting troop. It doesn't require much care once done and it doesn't matter if you "forget" about it. they are beautiful to look at.

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @LeeStewart: It is time.... Thanks for visiting

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @inspirationalmo: It is fun to make and share. Thanks for visiting

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @dellgirl: Thanks for visiting. It's been fun

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @Adventuretravels: You are most welcome. Thanks for visiting

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @Alrady: If you can make it in a big carboy you may even get to show them the water cycle (without the clouds) as the rain collects on the top of the bottle walls. Cool idea.

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @Diana Wenzel: I was thinking of that as well, the wheat grass for the cats is a good idea.

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @aesta1: Awesome. Send me pictures I'll post them here.

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @virtousa: Thanks for visiting. Yes I agree, I like green.

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      DebMartin 4 years ago

      I don't have one...... yet!

    • LeeStewart profile image

      LeeStewart 4 years ago

      very nice - love the idea! It has been a LONG time since I had a terrarium perhaps it is time to start again!

    • inspirationalmo profile image

      inspirationalmo 4 years ago

      Congratulations on Lens of the Day! Love the idea of a glass terrarium for growing my plants.

    • profile image

      dellgirl 4 years ago

      I had a terrarium in a bottle before and, also a couple in aquariums. They were a lot of fun.

      Congratulations on getting the Purple Star and Lens of the Day for this great lens! I enjoyed visiting here, nice work. Thanks for sharing.

    • Adventuretravels profile image

      Giovanna Sanguinetti 4 years ago from Perth UK

      I love bottle gardens -they were really fashionable when I was young and I had a huge one! Wonder where that got to? Thanks for the memories

    • Alrady profile image

      Alrady 4 years ago

      I have done the terrarium in a bottle adn it is cool to use as an experiment with kids too... teaches eco system.

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 4 years ago from Colorado

      I've always loved natural looking terrariums. I'm overdue to create another one. Given what my cats do to my indoor plants, a bottle garden would be a perfect solution. Even better yet, I need to plant a wheat grass garden to allow my three rescue cats to graze and satisfy their longing for fresh greens.