My mom is always commenting on how much she loves our front yard, so I decided to give her a piece of it for Mother’s Day. Specifically, I decided to make her a terrarium with succulents propagated from our garden. I’ve been wanting to try my hand at making terrariums ever since I saw the 2008 film Penelope with Christina Ricci and James McAvoy. Weird, I know: It’s a modern-day fairy tale about a girl cursed with a pig snout…but it was FULL of gorgeous, enchanting terrariums thanks to the exquisite vision of director Mark Palansky (I admit that I’m a bit biased: Mark is a friend). One small problem: A terrarium is, by definition, an enclosure. Being closed, terrariums recycle their moisture, making them an ideal environment for plants that enjoy high levels of humidity, such as mosses and ferns. That means, of course, that they’re not a great home for succulents, which prefer dry conditions. So, instead of making a traditional terrarium, I made an open-air terrarium, which is to say: I put together a succulent arrangement.
Remember those flats of sedums I got for the tiered potting project I did a few weeks ago? The leftovers have been sitting under our bottlebrush tree since then. (The bottlebrush is in bloom, and has been shedding its rosy-colored flowers all over our yard. Everything is dusted with crimson.) Not only have the sedums survived with very little attention—they’ve actually flourished and even sent up a couple of flowers. I ripped off a couple of chunks, and then set about choosing a few larger succulents from my garden.
I looked for plants that had already reproduced and spread, like this cute Sedum pachyphyllum with the yellow flowers.
I also picked a couple of these…
And one of these.
With my succulent cuttings in hand, I set out to design a miniature landscape and propagate these babies!
I bought the bowl from Urban Florist, a flower shop down the street. The guy working there was incredibly nice (Angelenos: I highly recommend.)
He told me how important it is to create good drainage for succulents, and suggested starting with a layer of rocks on the bottom to hold any excess water. He actually threw in this bag of pebbles for free.
Glass bowl + good advice + pretty pebbles = $10. Not bad!
These little stones are awfully pretty to be lining the bottom of the bowl. Next time I’ll use activated charcoal or gravel below, and let smooth, colorful rocks like these take their rightful place above.
I covered the layer of pebbles with Black Gold Cactus Mix, which I had leftover from a previous project. Black Gold Cactus Mix is a blend of pumice, earthworm castings, compost, and forest humus that provides the perfect soil structure and drainage for all types of cacti, bromeliads, and succulents.
Next, I started placing my sedums and succulents. I created a bit of height by including a sedum that had sent up a wonderful yellow flower.
Here’s a detail shot of the next couple of succulents I added.
I had some pebbles leftover, so I sorted out a handful in warm, mellow yellow tones.
The larger rocks were picked up around the neighborhood while walking my dog. I anticipate that I’ll be making many more succulent arrangements as gifts in the future. They’re really fun to do, and people seem to love them: At the restaurant where I presented this gift to my mom, members of the waitstaff and other diners “Ohh’d” and “Ahh’d” and offered compliments. Plus, succulents are incredibly easy to propagate by stem or leaf cuttings, because they’ve evolved to reproduce quickly in harsh conditions. So, essentially I’ve got a succulent farm going in my front yard. Of course, you can simply buy a few succulents at just about any nursery, including Home Depot. There are usually gorgeous, varied displays, and the small succulents tend to be very inexpensive.
All in all, this project took under an hour and cost $10 (plus cuttings and supplies I already had). Shh! Don’t tell my mom!
Originally published on ReadyMade