There’s something comforting about terrariums. The miniature greenhouses might represent a charming combination of horticulture and art, but they also offer a type of pleasure that’s a world away from the concrete thrills of city life.
Maybe that’s why these pint-sized ecosystems have shrugged off roots in 70s kitsch to enjoy something of a revival. Patrick Ryan seems to think so. The Melbourne sound engineer and bass player is the founder of Bosky, a business that signals the terrarium’s elegant new incarnation.
“The terrariums that are around now are quite different from the ones from the seventies,” offers Ryan. “Today, terrariums involve a lot more open glassware and miniature figures. They’re a beautiful and sustainable way to incorporate some greenery into the indoors, so they’ve always had an appeal. But I think a long break from their over-exposure was probably necessary.”
It’s hard to imagine a Bosky terrarium in the same space as a fondue set or garish orange wallpaper. Ryan’s creations, which range from lush arrangements of fern, wood and moss to verdant little landscapes, populated by miniscule wanderers and roving deer, are thoroughly contemporary and strangely absorbing.
“I try and visualise a miniature scene when building a new terrarium,” says Ryan, a member of Melbourne local rock outfit the Dead River Deeps. “I always want the mix of plants, wood, rocks and figurines to compliment the shape of the glass and create a balance between the different elements.
“More often than not, the terrarium is inspired by the glass itself.”
Thanks to the imaginative use of glass, Bosky’s terrariums are closer to living, breathing sculptures. Ryan often works with vintage and repurposed glassware, ranging from antique cooking jars and decanters to various spherical vases. One terrarium, featuring gossamer-like ferns in a teardrop-shaped enclosure, muddies the line between plant and art.
For Ryan, glass will play an ongoing role in Bosky’s evolution. “I think the next logical step for me is to learn about glass-blowing, so I can create my own terrarium vessels,” he says.
Ryan started Bosky 18 months ago after spotting a terrarium in a café, but it wasn’t all smooth sailing. “It took me a lot of trial and error to get the hang of putting them together and selecting the plants. Eventually, I had so many around the house that it seemed like a good idea to start selling them and regain some space.”
Ryan’s not the only one. Melbourne is nursing something of an indoor gardening addiction, with pieces by local makers such as Miniscapes and Petit Green adorning gallery spaces, bars and restaurants. And Sydney seems to be following suit – terrariums are making regular appearances at pop-up shops, cafes and the likes of cult design emporium Koskela.
Maybe our terrarium fixation is part of our move towards all things locavore – the need to calm jangled inner city nerves and take greater responsibility for what we consume and create. Or perhaps it brings the pleasures of green thumb status to the houseplant killers among us. Either way, we hope they’re here to stay.