A British physician named Nathaniel Ward was conducting experiments with caterpillars in the 1820s when he discovered, quite accidentally, that plant life could thrive in a glass jar.
This led to the invention of the Wardian case, a mostly glass container in which live plants could be safely shipped around the globe. It proved an enormous boon to plant exploration, protecting plants from salt spray and changing climates on long ocean voyages.
The glass cases captured the people's fancy. Upscale Victorians began growing plants in ever-more-ornate versions, like smaller-scale models of the era's elaborate crystal conservatories.
The Tinker Homestead and Farm Museum welcomed the Sherwood Garden Club for an afternoon of making Victorian Terrariums. Members had so much fun making these miniature gardens in glass and other containers. Being an avid Rock Gardener, I was able to bring in and share plants that are perfect for indoor terrariums, such as sedums, violets and mosses.
Jade, kalanchoe, hens and chicks and violets
Layers of pebbles, soil, activated charcoal, plants, and decorative elements are all that are needed to enjoy a garden under glass. You can purchase the gravel and the activated carbon at a pet supply store, swap plants with friends, and scour garage sales for containers making for an inexpensive project.