The Elusive Wardian Case
By Kylee Baumle
Growing plants in a bowl or any kind of enclosure is a look I like. So when I was visiting Longwood Gardens and I spied a small Wardian case for sale in their gift shop, I didn’t hesitate in purchasing it.
But there’s more to that story…
The Case of the Elusive Wardian Case
Mom and I were on one of our gardening adventures, and while she had visited Longwood Gardens a few years before, she wanted to go again and knew that I would want to see them too. So before heading back home, we drove to Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.
Our usual plan of action is to do a quick tour of the gift shop to see if there’s anything we can’t live without, and then enjoy the gardens.
I saw the Wardian cases sitting on a table marked “Reduced.” There were five of them, but I only wanted one. The gift shop wasn’t busy and I asked the manager if I could buy one now and have him put it back for me while we toured the gardens. He convinced me to just wait to buy it before we left.
We went on our way and spent a few hours walking through the beautiful grounds.
When we returned to the gift shop to make our purchases, I walked over to the sale table and was shocked to see that all the Wardian cases were gone. I asked the manager if there really were none left and he told me that one person came in and bought them all.
I just couldn’t believe it. Then one of the shopkeepers said, “I think there’s one in the back that’s got a broken glass pane in it. It’s not perfect, but maybe you’d want that one?” Of course I wanted to see it.
When she brought it out and I saw the cracked pane was at the bottom of one side and not that conspicuous, AND she said, “You can have this one for $11,” I said, “Sold.”
These cases were used as table decorations, when Longwood Gardens celebrated the 100th anniversary of Pierre du Pont purchasing the property and turning it into the beautiful gardens there today.
Planting my Wardian Case
As I was walking through Lowe’s one day, I saw they had some small square plastic terrariums on sale for half-price – $7 each. I bought two. In each one was a beautiful jewel orchid, a fern, and an evergreen type of thing that I don’t recognize.
My Wardian case has a plastic liner in the bottom, where I placed a layer of potting medium. I planted all the Lowe’s plants, filled in the gaps with more potting medium, and used sphagnum moss as a top dressing because I like how it looks.
Just for fun, I added a couple of stones, put a turtle on top of one and placed a ladybug bulletin board tack near the base of one of the plants. It’s been planted for about eight months now and is doing well!
I check the moisture level of the potting medium once a week and water if it needs it. If I can see a bit of moisture condensation on the inside of the case, I know it’s got plenty.
The Source of my Wardian Case
I did a little research and found that these Wardian cases are made by H. Potter, one of my favorite garden sites to visit. They’ve got beautiful garden accents and some of the most exquisite Wardian cases I’ve ever seen. Someday I’d like a larger one, but for now, I’m enjoying my tabletop version, which reminds me of a Victorian greenhouse.
We’re delighted to have this guest post from Kylee Baumle. Kylee writes the award-winning blog, Our Little Acre, about her garden in Ohio. She is Book Review Editor for Horticulture magazine and a Feature Writer for Indiana Gardener magazine. Kylee is also one of The Soil Sisters, a collaborative venture with fellow gardener, Jan. You can join their gardening community here.
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