A throwback to décor of decades ago, terrariums have caught on locally as a fun activity and a fresh design accent. (Photo by Debra R. Messick)

If you grew up in the 1960s or ’70s, your home décor may have included macramé wall hangings, Indian bedspreads and almost certainly terrariums — those magical mini-gardens encapsulated in bottles and jars.
Baby boomers, rest assured, you’re not having flashbacks. But here it is, 2018, and terrariums are back.
Trish Reynolds, Talbot County Garden Club horticulture chairperson, hosted a series of well-attended do-it-yourself terrarium workshops at the Oxford Community Center, plus garden club meetings in Chestertown and Cecil and Somerset Counties. Events in Caroline and Dorchester County’s garden clubs in January filled up quickly, with more people still wanting to attend.
As part of the group’s young gardeners outreach, Reynolds taught 4- to 8-year-olds at Talbot County Public Library to create terrariums personalized with Disney characters and other figurines.
Kris Martin of PlantNite, a national chain affiliated with PaintNite, providing creative social activities designed to enhance evenings out, regularly leads DIY terrarium building “happenings” at area pubs and eateries.
A Berlin, Md., floral design boutique, The Bleached Butterfly, announces on its website that it offers “Maryland’s only full service terrarium bar,” featuring an array of materials designed to enhance and customize creations.
While both Reynolds and Martin have gardening backgrounds, neither had any experience in terrarium building prior to last year. Yet both have become enthusiastic participants, and are sharing their newly acquired know-how with others.
Reynolds’ initiation into the craft came during last year’s Garden Club of America “mini-zone” meeting at the Tidewater Inn. All 13 district clubs attending were challenged to make a terrarium. As Talbot’s designated representative, Reynolds was determined to give it her best shot.
“I knew it was up to me to put together an entry good enough to represent our club, so I started reading and found a wonderful book by Tovah Martin,” she said. “Though not first place, we didn’t do badly at all.”
The experience led to a realization that she could use her newfound knowledge to help introduce other gardeners to the simple joys of terrarium creation.
Martin said she attended a PlantNite activity in another state about a year and a half ago, found it enjoyable, and contacted the company, which was initially unsure this was the right market to expand into.
But in April she was awarded a franchise, and has since found it a fun and rewarding way to combine both the urge to be crafty and to garden.
She was recently featured on WBOC-TV’s “Delmarva Life” program, guiding the on-air hosts, novices also, in the somewhat rushed art of sound bite terrarium assembly.
Though currently concentrated in Wicomico and Worcester counties, Martin said she is open to expanding throughout the Eastern Shore, possibly via fundraisers and private parties.
While most of her events cater to adults, she said the idea of bringing terrarium do-it-yourself classes to younger age groups appeals to her because of how many kids she sees growing up who suffer from limited exposure to and experience with gardening.
“Many don’t even know common plant names anymore,” she said, sensing that terrariums could make a difference in drawing them in and helping them learn, while they’re having fun.
Today terrarium styles have evolved from the a enclosed ecosystem to a variety of growing options, using air plants, houseplants, and succulents in more open containers, which are easy to set up and care for, including hanging containers in unique shapes, large or small enough to fit every space and taste, as well as vintage glass flea market finds, and even repurposed tequila bottles, mason jars and plastic soda bottles.
In addition to the popular in-person workshops, which are flourishing, plenty of information and ideas for terrarium creation, abound as how to You Tube videos and in books, many available from the local library.
There you can find variations on the simple basic set-up: gravel, charcoal to filter, moss, potting soil or sand, more moss, and mini-scaping including plant placement and decorative elements, from natural stone to gems and tiny figurines for personality, whimsy and wonder.
Finding and fashioning tools to set up and care for terrariums can be a McGyveresque challenge for the engineering plant lover; funnels, poking sticks, and placement spoons can be curated inexpensively from automotive and hardware stores, even Chinese restaurants (chopsticks!) or fashioned from parchment paper and measuring spoons duct taped to sticks.
To water her mini gardens safely, Martin, the PlantNite owner, who has a science background, improvised a pipette to gently dribble into soil and keep leaves from getting soggy.
For pet lovers, terrariums provide a way to enjoy greenery which is protected from curious kitty paws and also safeguards felines and pups from sampling unsafe leaves.
For all these reasons, and more, it’s no wonder that terrariums are back, perhaps to stay.