Jesse Goldfarb AKA Teeny Tiny Terra, is a Toronto based houseplant designer and collector. He creates custom terrariums and plant art that add a touch of nature to any living space. We caught up to talk about his favourite projects and care tips for terrariums.
Why did you start creating teeny-tiny terrariums?
After having a kid and becoming a bit more of a homebody, I needed a hobby to keep busy. I was into Bonsai for a few years, but it’s a really slow art form, and I wanted to do something faster that was a bit more playful. With all the right materials and plants from a local garden centre, you can create a little world in only a few hours.
What is the most fun, or creative terrarium you have designed?
Great question. I like to take on different projects, so I’m never doing the same thing. People reach out to me with some basic requests, and surprising them with over-the-top terrariums keeps my creative juices flowing.
He had a budget of $200 and no special requests for customization, so I interviewed him, asking him what he liked to do, if he had pets, what his girlfriend enjoyed, etc. He told me he had a dog and liked to play video games with his girlfriend. I took a few weeks to think about it and came up with this.
It’s called “Game On,” and as you can see it encompasses his love for video games, includes his pet dog and has teeny-tiny figures places in a way that suggests a game rivalry. The highlights of working on this project included:
- Drilling a hole in the glass. This requires skill and serious confidence that you won’t shatter the entire vessel.
- Running a waterproof wire through the soil to light up the Xbox circuit board.
- Smashing an Xbox to get the front panel out.
- Soldering a lighting setup from a craft store to the Xbox panel.
- Positioning the man and woman figures in a way that suggested a rivalry with the dog watching.
What secrets can you share when it comes to taking care of terrariums?
- Add activated charcoal to the layer between the sphagnum moss and the soil. This will act as a filter and keep the terrarium smelling fresh.
- Sprinkle a bit of cinnamon in the soil and around the top to prevent fungus from growing.
Where do you see the houseplant trend going?
With more people moving into cities and smaller spaces, I see it continuing to grow (pun intended). People don’t live in large spaces like they used to, so it’s harder to connect with nature. A few plants can help bring a natural feel inside.
What tools could you not live without for your projects?
I really like to use my hands as much as possible, but after that, it would be my metal chopstick. It allows me to get into tiny places, and I can move things around easily using it. After that, I would say my 14” tweezers that help me get into small-neck vessels.
How do you get your hands on such small vessels and objects for your projects?
I’m always on the hunt for uniquely shaped vessels, and I find them everywhere. Garden centres like Sheridan Nurseries have a great selection, as do thrift stores, garage sales and even the trash.
How I find my figures are a trade secret, and I’d have to kill you if I told you, but I will say you can add anything from a kid’s toy to an old trinket. Stay away from putting wood inside a closed terrarium though, as it will rot and create mould.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to create a terrarium for the first time?
Figure out what type of terrarium you like and want to build. They are not all the same—each has different requirements regarding lighting, watering, vessels and plants. Go to your local plant store and ask questions. Tell them what you want to do and how much you’re willing to spend. Most places are delighted to help and have knowledgeable staff that will tell you what won’t work.
Once you have all your materials ready, put them in order of how they need to be layered. Getting the layering correct will ensure the plants will survive and you won’t have to start over. And don’t over water! If you’re building a closed terrarium, let your plants get some air once a week.
Lastly, remember that plants die. Don’t get frustrated if they do, just figure out why it happened and learn from it.
What plants work best in terrariums?
It depends on the type of terrarium, but tropical plants do best in my opinion. Nerve plant, asparagus ferns, palms and schefflera are a few I would suggest. They like humidity and require less light, as their natural environment is under the canopy.
Don’t mix different types of plants, succulents, tropical plants and cacti each have different requirements. Again, you can ask any questions regarding plant needs at your local Sheridan Nurseries.
Why is it important for people to have a touch of greenery inside their homes?
So many reasons! It’s a proven fact that gardening three hours a week lowers blood pressure. Some plants purify the air, and some add moisture to our dry winter homes. They also create a natural ambience. Plus, taking care of them is a fun and rewarding hobby.
Feature image photo credit: Matt Barnes