Bottle gardens and the mystery of life

Do you love plants but you are not a green thumb genius? If you answered yes to the question and you still don’t have plans for your next Easter holidays, you should absolutely read the story of David Latimer hereafter and take inspiration from it for your Easter Sunday.

Bottle gardens, also known as terranium, were in vogue back in the 60’s. So, this British man, now in his 80’s, decided to plant a bottle garden as an experiment on the Easter Sunday of 1960. He took a ten-gallon vessel, he placed in some compost and then using a piece of wire lowered in a seedling. He poured in a quarter of a pint of water and sealed it.

What started as a way of spending the Sunday afternoon is still there after 55 years. However, the most extraordinary part of the story is not how old the garden is – here at Urna Bios we already talked about how long-lasting tress are – but the fact that David watered it only once since then, in 1972. That is to say the garden was open and watered only once in 55 years!

How can it be possible? To keep it simple, Mr Latimer’s bottle garden has created its own ecosystem. The transparent materials of a terranium (plastic or glass) allow the light to enter and the plants within to photosynthesis, that is to say to transform sunlight into the energy they need to live. The sealed container creates a small-scale water cycle: moister from both soil and plants evaporates, the water vapor condenses on the walls and then falls back down on the plants. This process constantly supplies water to the plants and prevents them to become over dry.

For those of you who are skeptical, David admits that only one of the original four species survived in these conditions. However, it is more than enough to remind us – as the award-winning British gardener Chris Beardshaw said – “how pioneering plants can be”.

And what about you? Have you ever tried to do a bottle garden? If your answer is no, why are you still in front of your computer? Go and plant your own one!


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