Small Worlds



“As Above, so Below,

as within, so without,

as the universe, so the soul…”


Hermes Trismegistus


“Small worlds….”  What a peaceful pleasure to construct them.  Terrariums, fairy gardens, dish gardens, bonsai or fern cases; all bring delight both to the creator and to the viewer.




Building these little gardens has become a favorite winter project during the first months of the year.  I’ve had a few ideas percolating since mid-January, but just managed a trip to The Great Big Greenhouse, in Richmond on Saturday, to explore their stock of tiny plants.

TGBGH specializes, especially each winter, in the tiny plants, pots and accessories one needs to create little indoor gardens.   Last Saturday I found myself in company with a jolly crowd of gardeners soaking up the warm moist air and verdant green of their magical greenhouse complex.  Orchids, Philodendron, ferns,  little trees for bonsai, and garden plants forced early into bloom competed to tempt a gardener’s heart.


The taller birds nest ferm could eventually fill this space. They enjoy a warm, moist environment.

The taller birds nest fern could eventually fill this space. They enjoy a warm, moist environment.


I had only a tiny slice of time to take it all in, and so quickly found their selection of miniatures in 1″ pots offered for terrariums.  I came away with an intriguing mix of ferns and Begonias, all new to my collection, save for the Bird’s Nest ferns.

While tiny now, these plants will quickly grow into their potential.  This is a very economical and enjoyable way to experiment with new cultivars over winter, knowing they can be moved into larger pots and planting schemes by early summer.

The Birds Nest ferns, Asplenium nidus, grow as epiphytes in warm, moist tropical rain forests.  This makes them a great candidate for a terrarium or fern case.  Like many ferns, they will grow well without direct sunlight and grow happily indoors so long as humidity is provided.  Their long, beautiful leaves emerge from the center of the plant.  After several years of growth, they may grow to well over a 18″ tall.

My arrangement features a pair of Birds Nest ferns, one ‘above’ and the other below.  I will be interested to see which grows better and faster!


Pleopeltis percussa creeps along the rocks in the foreground. This evergreen fern grows on bark or rocks in Central and South America.

Pleopeltis percussa creeps along the rocks in the foreground. This tropical epiphytic  fern grows on trees or rocks in Central and South American forests.


I particularly like “footed” ferns; those with rhizomes which creep across the earth, sending up new leaves directly from their “furry” stem.  This little Pleopeltis percussa is a new fern I’ve not yet grown.  While its rhizomes will wander and branch, the individual leaves remain fairly small.  Roots grow from the rhizomes down into the moist soil below.  If growing on a tree branch, the roots would anchor in the tree’s bark and absorb water from the bark and moist air.  Any small piece of the rhizome which has both established roots and a leaf or two, may be cut away and potted up to grow on into a new plant.

These don’t look much like traditional ferns. Their rather thick, long lasting leaves don’t look like the more common lacy fern frond.   But they produce spores on the undersides of their leaves rather than seeds.  They will never produce flowers or fruits.  It is their way of reproducing from tiny spores which makes them a fern.

Besides the Pleopeltis and Birds Nest fern, you may notice two tiny divisions of Strawberry Begonia, Saxifraga stolonifera, in this tiny garden.  These are divisions from a larger plant overwintering in our garage.  After they establish, each will send out a long stem with an embryonic clone of itself at the stem’s tip.  Where it touches moist soil, it will send down roots and begin to grow, quickly forming a dense colony of these lovely evergreen plants.

Small colonies of these evergreen perennials continue to grow through the winter in pots left outside in the garden.  They will send up long stalks of tiny white or pink flowers in mid-spring.  It is unlikely these little plants will have enough light to bloom indoors, but could produce flowers  if I move them out to a shaded spot in late spring.


A tiny offset of Strawberry Begonia, saxifraga stolonifera, nestles into its new home beside the Birds Nest fern.

A tiny offset of Strawberry Begonia, Saxifraga stolonifera, nestles into its new home beside the Birds Nest fern.  Notice the new leaf emerging in the center of the fern.


I’ve made these little gardens from re-purposed vases found in our basement.  Both held ivy, red berries  and floating candles at the holidays.  I was pleased to see that the wider dish balances easily on the glass cylinder, enclosing it into its own little space.  Terrariums can go on sustaining themselves indefinitely if they receive enough light for the plants to grow, because the moisture which evaporates from leaves and soil remains in the atmosphere.  It may condense on the glass and run back into the soil, but the soil remains moist and the plants remain hydrated.

This is something like our own little world we call Earth:  our atmosphere catches evaporating moisture into clouds, and it settles as dew or falls as rain.  Our outer atmosphere and magnetic fields hold our precious water close to the surface so it may be used again and again by all  living things.  The water I brewed into coffee this morning has probably been around for millions of years….

It is only when there is imbalance or disruption that this process runs amuck, resulting in drought or floods.




If you know me personally, you may be wondering why on Earth I’m sitting at home puttering around with sacks of soil and stone and these little plants rather than getting involved in the wider issues of the day.  You may wonder if I’m insensible to the sweep of historical change touching each one of our lives.

You know I remain passionate about the very questions of human rights, environmental preservation, Constitutional government, and non-discrimination which the new administration appears to be daily shredding;  and the rule of law which has been dramatically called into question.

And yes, I’ve been spending large chunks of my time following the events of the day.  Often I’m too wrapped up in what is happening to stop and garden or write or work with photos.





“Close your eyes and let the mind expand.

Let no fear of death or darkness arrest its course.

Allow the mind to merge with Mind.

Let it flow out upon the great curve of consciousness.

Let it soar on the wings of the great bird

of duration, up to the very Circle of Eternity.”


Hermes Trismegistus




Each of us has a part to play in the unfolding of life here on our Earth.  But we each do what we can, when we can, where we can.    From small beginnings, large movements grow.  And from our daily thoughts, prayers and actions, the fabric of our lives emerge.

What each one of us does, personally, has an impact on the whole.  We must be the changes we seek.  We must envision and live the reality we intend to manifest.  This is a basic principle that all of the great wisdom teachers , throughout all of our recorded history, demonstrate.

The love we bring to our own environment resonates with the whole.  The peace we maintain in our own minds and hearts resonates in the larger community.   We plant our intentions, tucking them into the fertile soil of our hopeful imaginations, and watch them grow.




And that is why I believe that we must guard our thoughts and speak our truth.

Without fear or spite, we continue to create beauty and harmony in whatever way we can, knowing it is magnified and reflected in unimagined ways to affect the greater whole.


“Everything flows out and in; everything has its tides;
all things rise and fall; the pendulum-swing manifests
in everything; the measure of the swing to the right,
is the measure of the swing to the left; rhythm

“Everything happens according to Law;

that nothing ever “merely happens”;

that there is no such thing as Chance;

that while there are various planes

of Cause and Effect, the higher dominating

the lower planes, still

nothing ever entirely escapes the Law.”


The Kybalion




Woodland Gnome 2017

For the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Repurpose




“If thou but settest foot on this path,

thou shalt see it everywhere.”


Hermes Trismegistus


Building A Terrarium

Tiny Gardens

WPC: Reward

February 27, 2015 Bittersweet 006


“What does reward mean to you?”

The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge

 “The end is not the reward;

the path you take,

the emotions that course through you as you grasp life

– that is the reward.”

Jamie Magee

Reward comes in the enjoyment of the fruits of one’s efforts.

We each tend to those things which matter in our daily lives.  We give our attention, our energy, to those things, and those people, we value.


February 27, 2015 Bittersweet 003


I take great pleasure in these flowers.  Coming to this spot, this window, brings such a joyful reward for the small efforts of daily tending.


February 27, 2015 Bittersweet 005


The tiny luxuries and pleasures of life, like winter flowers and freshly baked bread, are reward enough for our daily efforts.

Sharing them with loved ones makes them even more special.


Sourdough bread still warm from the oven and a jar of newly fed starter

Sourdough bread still warm from the oven beside  a jar of newly fed sourdough starter


“All those who love Nature

she loves in return, and will richly reward,

not perhaps with the good things, as they are commonly called,

but with the best things of this world-

not with money and titles, horses and carriages,

but with bright and happy thoughts,

contentment and peace of mind.”

John Lubbock


February 27, 2015 sunset 002


Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

The Gift, Opened At Last

February 12, 2015 Amaryllis 006


The beautiful Amaryllis given to us by neighbors at the holidays has opened at last. 


February 12, 2015 Amaryllis 013


We stop and marvel at its beauty each time we move through the house.

The timing is perfect, as it is open to enjoy during our Valentine’s weekend celebrations.


February 12, 2015 Amaryllis 004


Planted on January 3, the bulb has grown rapidly during the depths of winter, enjoying only the sunlight which reaches it from our windows.  It took not quite 40 days from bulb to bloom.  It is remarkable, when you think of it!



An Amaryllis bulb will bloom once a year.  Like most bulbs, its leaves will continue to grow for many weeks, storing food to fuel next year’s bloom.  When the leaves die back, the bulb remains full of life, resting through a period of dormancy.


February 12, 2015 Amaryllis 008


Some Amaryllis are tender, others can withstand frost.  This plant will go outside, in a new pot, once danger of frost has passed.  After its rest, we will begin to water it again next November and hope to get the timing right so it is in bloom for Christmas 2015.

What a wonderful gift from thoughtful friends and neighbors!


February 12, 2015 Amaryllis 011


Woodland Gnome 2015

Jewel Orchid In Bloom

January 22,2014 004

The world outside is covered in snow, but the Jewel Orchid has come into bloom inside on the window sill.    Once again, it has covered itself with sprays of delicate white flowers.

Jamiaru 23 prcjod 001

This beautiful orchid, Ludisia discolor, first came home as a casual impulse purchase  soon after we had moved to this home.  The long window sill in the living room was not yet home to a colony of plants, and I thought the little orchid, with such beautiful burgundy leaves, would brighten this window.

Jamiaru 23 prcjod 002

The foliage of Jewel Orchid holds this beautiful color year round.

I had not yet seen Jewel Orchid in bloom, but fell in love with the foliage.  If memory serves, the little 4″ pot was  among the display of flowers  right inside the door at Trader Joes.  I chose it, tucked it into the shopping cart, and headed off to the banana display.

And this plant would be a welcome member of the houseplant family if it never bloomed. 

Much like a Coleus or a Rex Begonia, it is colorful enough when not in bloom to hold interest.  Large striped leaves and burgundy stems grow luxuriantly all year round.

Jamiaru 23 prcjod 003

Rose of Sharon shrubs and a hazel tree growing just past the window offer some afternoon shade during the summer. Jewel Orchid prefers medium to low light, and should never be subjected to strong direct sunshine.


The flower scapes begin growing in late November or December, promising bloom in the weeks ahead.  It takes a long time for them to grow, and then for the individual flowers to finally begin to open.

There is a long season of bloom, with new scapes forming along the way, before the flowers dry and wither in early summer.    Even dried, the flowers hold their form.  It is a sad day when we must begin to cut the faded flower scapes away.

January 22,2014 003

For at least the first year, I simply allowed this little orchid to grow in the nursery pot in which it came.  It gives the impression, as do many orchids, of enjoying a snug fit in the pot.  The following Thanksgiving weekend, we had an unusually warm day.  We had opened the window behind this window sill a crack before heading out for the day. Later, in closing the window that evening, our beautiful Jewel Orchid somehow jumped from the sill and landed in the floor- hopelessly broken to bits.

I was upset, but bit my tongue and headed to the garage for a fresh nursery pot and fresh potting soil.  I gathered up all of the broken bits, dipped them in a bit of rooting hormone, and gently buried them in fresh soil.  After watering both pots, and expressing our deep apologies, we left both pots in the windowsill, side by side, and hoped for the best.  Within a day or so we brought home the larger, oval pot you see in the photos, and plunked both 4″ nursery pots into this larger one to improve appearances.January 22,2014 006

This orchid appreciates a humid environment. I believe it was actually happiest while growing in the nursery pots on a layer of gravel in this larger pot.  It lasted that way for another two years, without skipping a beat.

The “cuttings” rooted, and both pots of Jewel orchid bloomed that winter, effectively doubling our display from the previous year.  I’ve learned this orchid roots easily and is far more hardy than one might expect.

Although traditional culture directions indicate that it likes warmth and doesn’t respond well to drafts, it has managed just fine on this northwest facing window sill for a little more than 4 years now.

Finally, both little nursery pots were bursting with roots when I finally turned the orchids out and repotted both plants into the larger oval planter in early summer.  At the same time, I trimmed back some of the longer stems and stuck them into the soil as cuttings.  All rooted, and the plant continues to grow.  I almost expect to find cracks in the pot now that the orchid has grown so large, and know it is time to pot up once again.

This caladium is thriving across the room from the orchids.  We must have enough plants in the room to keep the humidity at acceptable levels for our Jewel Orchid.

This Caladium is thriving across the room from the orchids. We must have enough plants in the room to keep the humidity at acceptable levels for our Jewel Orchid.

I’m reluctant because the orchid loves this spot, and the windowsill won’t support a larger pot.  I will have to find another good spot for the parent orchid,and start a new plant in the old pot from cuttings, to continue on in this corner of the window.

A terrestrial orchid, Ludisia, grows on the forest floor in its native Burma, Indonesia and Malaysia.  Although they prefer high humidity, Ludisia are  not particularly thirsty.  There is no drainage hole in this pot, so I water infrequently and lightly.  I begin giving a dilute feeding or orchid fertilizer in early autumn, and continue giving that once or twice a month until the bloom is past its peak.

Cane Begonias, also growing near the orchid, help maintain humidity in the living room.

Cane Begonias, also growing near the orchid, help maintain humidity in the living room.

Since I have a grouping of orchids in this area of the room humidity is perhaps a little higher than it might be.

This has turned out to be an excellent impulse purchase, and has allowed me to learn to love a new genus of plant.  Rooted cuttings can be found from time to time wherever orchids and houseplants are sold.  The cuttings are unassuming, and might be overlooked, except for the beautiful leaf.

Cane Begonias can also be enjoyed as much for their leaves as for their beautiful flowers.  This photo, taken today, shares their beautiful winter bloom with you.

Cane Begonias can also be enjoyed as much for their leaves as for their beautiful flowers. This photo, taken today, shares their beautiful winter bloom with you.

Should you see one, I would encourage you to take a chance and purchase a Jewel Orchid. For a very small investment, this very tough and easy to grow orchid will fill your home with winter flowers for many years to come.

All Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

Snow and frigid temperatures outside, orchids inside.

Snow and frigid temperatures outside, orchids inside.

Jewel Orchid Care

Appreciation For Windows  (Forest Garden)

Our Forest Garden- The Journey Continues

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