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Five Questions for The Terrarium Ladies

Brooklyn’s Twig Terrariums is the brainchild of two wonderful women, Michelle Inciarrano and Katy Maslow. They began making moss-filled terrariums in antique, vintage and new glass containers, apothecary jars and science lab glass. They then started selling these miniature worlds at the Brooklyn Flea. Business took off, they opened up a brick and mortar store and now the Terrarium Ladies have their own book — Tiny World Terrariums: A Step-By-Step Guide to Easily Contained Life. Inciarrano and Maslow recently took some time to talk to us about gardening in glass houses.

How did you get into Terrariums?
When we made our first terrariums, it was love at first sight. Michelle had found a cruet jar in her kitchen cabinet that simply begged to be made into a terrarium. Katy soon followed suit when she found just the right jar at an antique shop. What began on a whim soon turned into a healthy obsession. After just a few months, both of our small Brooklyn apartments were filled to the brim with terraria! After much experimentation and encouragement from Michelle's biology professor, we both realized that this obsession was not going to end anytime soon. We tried our hand at selling our little green worlds at the Brooklyn Flea, and the first time out we were picked up by The New York Times. We moved the venture off our dining room tables and into a studio. That was just two years ago. Now, we have a cute little store in Gowanus, Brooklyn, where we get to make terrariums all day and play with dirt! 
What are your favourite terrarium plants?
At Twig, we miniscape terrariums using moss, plants, succulents, and air plants. But when it comes down to it, our first love is moss! There is something so magical about the way moss can mimic a landscape and look like rolling hills or towering trees. The various textures and heights of moss can lend to creating dimension and depth. And we love to teach about mighty moss — there are over 15,000 types in the world and moss can be found on every continent! Moss is hardy, happy looking, and practically thrives on neglect.

What are your tips for cultivating a mini biosphere?
It's important to choose the right spot for a terrarium. They cannot be kept in direct sun as that can create a lot of heat within the glass. Certain plants require certain types of glass — for succulents go for an open container, but for moss you'll need a closed container. When choosing the soil, keep in mind succulents will require cactus soil, whereas moss needs the least interesting soil possible. No frills, no special additives. And definitely avoid moisture control soil for any terrarium as that can wreak havoc on the moisture balance within your little ecosystem.
For those with design on the mind, we find many customers spend most of their time selecting the glass vessel. At Twig, we are bonafide glass hoarders and consider the glass hunt to be our most favorite pastime (hmm...second only to moss hunting!). Many of our customers are interior designers or have a specific look in mind, so we spend our time collecting traditional apothecary jars, modern cubist containers, huge organic-shaped handblown pieces, or tiny bud vases we use surgical tools to terrar. Terrariums can be the ultimate in personalization for you and your home, so if the mason jar doesn't thrill you, just know that it doesn't stop there. We've terrar'ed gumball machines and itty bitty Chanel perfume bottles. Anything's game!

I have a gigantic 1970s mod acrylic globe-shaped terrarium. I can't seem to find the right arrangement of earth, stones and plants to make it attractive. Any suggestions?
Proportion is key when creating a terrarium. You'll want to keep the layers low enough so you have room to work with the plants and decorative items to make things pop. But the layers must be significant enough to create a healthy terrarium. While moss does not require a deep soil layer, plants do! Choose plants with similar needs, but with varying textures, colors, and heights. As you piece them together like a puzzle, a picture emerges. Now, this can be a lighthearted family snapshot or an artfully composed photograph. Add in blue beach glass to make a river through your new forest, or carve out a space for a sandy beach. Using large rocks, you can even make mountains. The possibilities are endless!
In the current issue of Covet Garden we absolutely adore the tiny faun in the terrarium in Iza's kitchen. Describe your ideal terrarium arrangement.
For us Twig chicks, we like to work with our customers on custom terrarium requests. This may include a miniature bride and groom with attire carefully matched to the real deal, a simple farm scene, or something a little bit edgier. Our terrariums represent all facets of life — from nice to naughty. We find that the plants will often determine the type of scene you put within the terrarium. Succulents are alien looking and beg for a crashed UFO. Pillow moss looks like the perfect hills of England where one might spot some grazing sheep. Or sometimes, all the little green world needs is a few rubber dinosaurs to complete the scene. We love all the possibilities so much that there is no one ideal arrangement. We just love to get our hands dirty no matter what the project!

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Reader Comments (3)

oh man, i loved this!! their tips are great! (and they have the best terrariums, so whimsical!)

June 23, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterally

Glad you liked it!

June 24, 2012 | Registered CommenterCovet Garden

Terrariums also make wonderful and impressive gifts, even for people who consider themselves plant-challenged.

June 30, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterartificial lawns

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