The Art of Darkness

Gloomy Decor: Moss Terrarium

July 23rd, 2012 by Cobwebs

MosserI ran across the Mosser* terrarium in an otherwise-unremarkable collection of decorations for an office cubicle and quite like the spare, simple design.

A bit of googling turns up a number of other moss terraria, such as this one at Uncommon Goods, housed in a recycled wine bottle. They also sell what they call “decorative terrarium creatures,” although I think we might have fundamentally different ideas about what constitutes a “creature.” There’s also Twig Terrariums, which sells a number of more-elaborate styles featuring several varieties of moss. (They also offer lockets, but those appear to use preserved lichen instead of live moss; a locket terrarium would be neat if you could pull it off, though.)

Fortunately, it’s also easy (and cheaper!) to make your own. To make a moss terrarium in its simplest form all you’ll need is a container, a hunk of moss, and something to park the moss on: It doesn’t really need dirt, but it needs something to hang on to.

The container can be just about anything: A glass jam jar, a lidded cake stand, an erlenmeyer flask, or a fish bowl. You can also get much fancier (and commensurately more expensive).

You can purchase moss online at places like Moss Acres, but you can also collect it in your back yard or in an abandoned field. (Some tutorials suggest collecting it from public parks or similar areas; I don’t know about other countries, but US laws tend to be pretty strict about collecting any kind of natural material from public lands.) Wherever you get it, make sure to harvest only a small amount from any particular patch so that you don’t destroy the rest of it.

You can also choose from a wide variety of substrates. If you want to use soil, something a bit on the acidic side such as peat-moss potting soil is a good choice. You can also use rocks, aquarium gravel, bark, or similar substances; you can encourage growth by painting the substrate with a bit of plain yogurt or buttermilk and then pressing the moss down on top.**

And, of course, you can get much fancier. Search for “moss terrarium tutorial” to find lots of suggestions such as the ones here, here, here, and here.

Care is easy: Keep it out of direct light and mist it with water occasionally. Moss is a particularly good choice of plant if you have a brown thumb, because it’s quite hardy and requires very little care. The association with spooky, overgrown places is just a lovely bonus.

*That link goes to a placeholder page; as of this writing, the Etsy store where they actually sell the product is down. The referring article listed the price as $26 US.

**Side note: An easy way to get rustic-looking mossy flowerpots is to toss a hunk of healthy moss into a blender with some yogurt or buttermilk and then paint the resulting slurry on the outside of terra-cotta pots. Mist occasionally until the moss takes hold.

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