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Wardian Cases

The Martha Stewart Show, February 2011

Bring a bit of the outside indoors by planting an antique-inspired wardian case.

Glass terrarium-like structures, wardian cases were created in the 1800s by Dr. Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward to allow for the overseas transportation of delicate plant species. In fact, the great orchid craze of the late Victorian age was entirely possible because of Dr. Ward's case, and many of the houseplants we know today were first collected and grown in these traditional glass enclosures.

Wardian cases come in a range of different shapes and sizes: Tall ones are ideal for planting long-stemmed plants, such as orchids, while smaller cases work better with ferns and other shorter plant varieties. Unlike a traditional garden, wardian cases are their own small ecosystem and require little care once planted.

Planting a Wardian Case How-To
1. Begin by placing a tray on the bottom of the wardian case for drainage. Fill tray with a layer of gravel that reaches approximately 1/3 of the tray's depth. Sprinkle horticultural charcoal on top of gravel, then top with a 1-inch base layer of good potting soil.

2. Arrange plants in desired positions within wardian case, adjusting soil amount to compensate for plants of different heights.

3. Once wardian case is planted, keep out of direct sunlight to avoid overheating the glass.

Resources
Wardian cases are rare and can be difficult to find in stores; look for them on eBay or Etsy and at local flea markets and antique fairs.