A lot of us would like to have a garden in the house but many of us just don’t have enough space. The next best thing is to have a bottle garden. The nicest thing about a bottle garden is you can create an entire world of foliage inside a see-through container. This entirely different world can actually adorn your desk, shelf or coffee table. Bottle gardening is also a less messy way to grow plants as everything is self-contained.
In this type of gardening, any large bottle can be used though it has to have a mouth opening wide enough for you to put in plants, rocks and soil without difficulty. The larger the opening, the easier it will be to manage the garden. Goldfish bowls, small aquariums, large brandy glasses or wide-necked storage or mayonnaise jars can also be used.
Creating the garden
The first step in bottle gardening is to clean and wash the bottle thoroughly with running water and soap. Using a paper funnel made of newspaper, place a thin layer of charcoal, a layer of pebbles and then coarse as a drainage medium.
Add enough layer of slightly moist garden soil in which you will establish the plants. Using a small spoon tied to a wooden stick, arrange the soil diagonally, the higher level at the back and the lower layer at the front. As much as possible, avoid dirtying the glass. It should be slightly moist but not wet. Firm the soil with a cotton reel fixed on the end of a wooden stick cane.
Arranging the plants
Arrange the plants as they are to be planted so you can work from the back to center or front, thus avoiding dropping any soil on the plants.
Make a hole on the soil to receive the plant with a pointed piece of lath. Remove enough soil from the root and push the plant in and let it drop. Manipulate it into place with lath and a cane. Cover the roots up and firm them with the cotton reel.
Place a few stones or a small piece of dead wood as to simulate a forest floor.
Using a plastic hand sprayer, spray clean water into the container and wipe the sides of the glass bottle using cotton attached to a stick. Then cover the bottle with the lid and place it in a lighted area in the house.
A little watering every week or two is all a sealed bottle garden requires. If by any chance you make the mistake of overwatering the garden, remove excess water using a plastic siphon. Otherwise the bottle garden will turn into an aquarium.
Remove dead leaves using a blade attached to a stick and a thong. Always remember that a bottle garden has to have the essential requirements of soil and water for the survival of the plants. The carbon dioxide from plant respiration is used for photosynthesis while the oxygen from photosynthesis is used for respiration. As such they require almost no maintenance.
Take note that plants inside a bottle garden will not live as long as a plant ensconced in a pot. Some plants may grow while others may die. Each arrangement can survive for just three to six months. You’ll have to replace the plants that die and arrange them all over again.
What plants to choose
A normal-sized bottle can hold three to five small plants, while bigger bottles can hold seven to nine plants. You can use plants like the Calatheas (Prayer plants), Philodendrons, Rattan palm seedlings, Cryptanthuses (small bromeliads), variegated Ficus radicans variegate, Fittonias. Marantas, Pepperomias, Pileas, Selaginellas (fern allies), small ferns such as the Asplenium nidus, Pelloeo rotundifolia and Pteris species. You may use live sphagnum moss or pebbles as ground cover.
If you opt to have larger plants, it’s best to go for the varieties of Cordyline terminalis, colorful Aglaonema sp. Dieffenbachia picta, Dracaena fragrans, D. deremensis and D. sanderiana. All plants used in bottle gardening usually thrive in shaded areas and are small in size, of course.
Choose plants with varying foliage color, shape, texture and size. Flowering plants are not recommended for bottle gardening as they need light exposure to live longer. Avoid vigorous plants like Tradescantias and Chlorophytums which grow much too fast.
Being easy to create and maintain, bottle gardens are also used in schools as an economical way to study miniature eco-systems within the confines of a classroom. It is indeed an excellent way to introduce children to the world of living plants.
By NORBY BAUTISTA