You know how some companies, like Apple, tend to over package even the tiniest gizmos? And then you’re left with this package that could withstand a zombie apocalypse? And there’s NO recycle logo anywhere on any of the plastics so you’re basically stuck with keeping it or harboring the guilt of schlepping it off to landfill? I hate that.

Because I didn’t want to throw away a perfectly good box (and I’m a bit of a hoarder), I’ve been hanging onto this little plastic lucite box that my magic mouse came in, hoping to find a use for it. But it was difficult. The little lucite box was too shallow to hold pencils or even a goodly amount of paper clips. Anything within it would be seen since the box is clear so it would look messy no matter what. And the lid doesn’t lock in place making it a poor travel container for my briefcase.

Oh what to do?

Well, it took me a while but I finally made a terrarium out of it! Yep! And I kept the white insert that originally held the mouse in place inside the box and it now acts as a plastic mulch on the soil, both functional and lends a clean and modern appearance.

Here are the materials and steps I used. It’s really not difficult, just tedious more than anything else. If you have large fingers, you may want to use some tweezers and a tiny spoon.

Materials:

  • 1 Magic Mouse lucite packaging box with white insert from Apple, remove the mouse yo!
  • 1/2 teaspoon teeny tiny activated charcoal
  • 2-3 tablespoons terrarium soil mix
  • 1 tiny Baby’s Tears plant (Soleirolia soleirolii) or a section of moss (just make sure whatever you use is under 1 inch tall, preferable 3/4 inch) UPDATE: baby’s tears is growing too fast, you should try for something that will stay short.

Steps:

  1. Wash the lucite box and white insert with hot soapy water but be careful not to scratch the box. It will scratch easily, as you can see in my photo.
  2. Dry with a lint-free cloth.
  3. Pre-dampen your soil mix and rinse the charcoal to remove dust (charcoal dust will make this look dingy and dirty and you’ll have to start over, I’ve done this twice now).
  4. Set the lid aside and insert the white liner into the lower portion of the box. You’ll be working with the white liner in place because, trust me, there’s no way to insert it after planting because the soil and charcoal will be in the way. And in order for the lid to fit, the insert must be seated all the way down.
  5. Carefully scatter the charcoal in the hole of the white insert and push some of it under the lip.
  6. Now gently push the damp soil under the lip of the white insert while holding the insert down firmly. As you’re pressing, the insert may want to pop up, that’s why you’re holding it down.
  7. Leave room for the root mass of your plant in the hole of the liner. I almost didn’t have any soil in this area because the plant I used had a lot of roots, even after I trimmed away most of them.
  8. Dampen the root mass/soil attached to the plant and using tweezers or tiny fingers, place it gently in the hole of the white liner.
  9. Trim excess tendrils from the plant so it’s neat and compact. Then wipe the white liner with tissue or Q-tips to remove specs of dirt for an especially Apple-clean appearance.
  10. Replace lid and position in non-direct sun. I keep mine on my desk near a window.

Keep in mind, this is a sealed terrarium so choose a plant that will survive. I’m not sure yet how long the Baby’s Tears will last and I’m positive I’ll have to pop the lid to trim it up as it grows. I like to think that Steve Jobs would approve of this reuse of Apple packaging. And that he’d like the zen-like appearance of a simple single green plant with white plastic mulch. Now if only I could find a tiny critter to put inside but it’s hard to locate micro-miniature snakes, bugs and spiders.

Have you ever walked across a marsh, up a seemingly innocuous grassy knoll under a big gnarly tree, then noticed you’re standing in the middle of an ancient cemetery? Then the sky darkened and clouds started tumbling and suddenly, the earth parted and a bony hand reached up and grabbed your ankle?!

Yes, this is that place but safely tucked inside a tabletop Wardian Case from H. Potter (no, not THAT H. Potter).

GAAAH!!! Bony bud rising from the dead! Click to enlarge.

I’ve outlined here the materials and methods I used to create this miniature cemetery of the rising bones.

Materials:

  • 1 Wardian Case, mine was H. Potter’s Barrel Roof Terrarium
  • 1 gnarly tree, I used a ficus bonsai from Home Depot for $15 (make sure you measure your case or terrarium before shopping so you buy a tree that fits)
  • 2 or 3 other tiny plants, mine are 2 miniature orchids but you could use ferns or ivy just as well.
  • moss taken from your yard or purchased at a garden center
  • soil or growing medium appropriate to the plants you’re using (in my case, potting soil for the ficus and a fine bark blend for the orchids)
  • decorative pebbles if you want pathways
  • pebbles and charcoal for drainage
  • 1 tiny skeleton from the dollar store
  • 1 set of tiny headstones from Menards’ Halloween display

*NOTE: Make certain that the plants you choose share similar environmental needs such as lighting, moisture and soil types. Since my orchids have different soil needs than the ficus, I planted them in short pots with their bark blend and buried the pots in the potting soil, below the moss. Otherwise, they’re ok with the light and humidity requirements shared with the ficus.

Make sure you measure your case AND plants to ensure everything fits comfortably or you'll have one angry skeleton haunting you at night. Click to enlarge.

Steps:

  1. Put an even 1-inch layer of drainage pebbles and charcoal in the bottom of your terrarium or Wardian Case.
  2. Do a dry run and try different arrangements of the plants until they fit together well and look natural. Try to envision where you’ll put moss vs. pathways. You can also incorporate twigs and larger rocks for an additional woodsy feel.
  3. Make sure your skeleton and headstones are appropriately sized for the terrarium and plants. The smaller these items are, the bigger your tree and plants will look. I cut the arms and skull from my skeleton so I didn’t have to bury the entire fellow.
  4. Place the tree first, then your smaller plants.
  5. Dampen your soil medium (damp, NOT soggy!) and then fill in the areas around your plants.
  6. Try sculpting the soil into hills and valleys if you have room. I found a simple teaspoon works well for this.
  7. Place your headstones and skeleton where you want them and fill in around them with chunks of moss. I used thin wooden skewers to help place the tinier pieces of moss. The hands I placed as though they’re reaching upward from the grave and the skull peeking out from the grass/moss.
  8. Create any pathways you want with pebbles and add any additional items like twigs and larger stones.
  9. Water the soil gently if the medium was kinda dry while working with it or if the plants were dry.
  10. Finally, just place the cover of your case or terrarium carefully over the plants and position in a spot with appropriate lighting for the plants you chose.

Now you have a TERROR-arium just in time for Halloween. These make great centerpieces for the dining table.

The bonsai tree I selected was a gnarly stumpy ficus that looked like some sort of creature by itself. Click to enlarge.

Wardian Cases from H. Potter

I just love Wardian Cases and especially those from H. Potter. They have many terrariums and Wardian Cases to choose from so you can get a size and style that suits your needs. They ship very well-packed, double boxed in fact. I’m always afraid of mail-ordering something with glass but H. Potter has shipping down tight. Their current batch of shipping peanuts can go on your compost pile since they’re made of corn starch. Always check by running one under water to see if it dissolves. If it does, you can compost it. (NOTE: We’re checking to make sure the peanuts are ALWAYS cellulose but both mine and Charlotte’s melted under water. So I threw mine on the compost pile.)

The table top Barrel Roof Wardian Case from H. Potter. Click to enlarge.

About Using Bonsai Trees

You know those cheapass bonsai trees at the mall or big box store for 10 – 15 bucks? Yeah? Did you know they’re derogatorily referred to as mallsai?! ha! And with good reason. These poor plants are created and dressed to sell, not to live in your home. Evildoers that dress these plants up do three things that will eventually kill the bonsai: use crappy clay soil that compacts the roots, terrible fakey green moss GLUED to the soil and/or tree, and pebble paths that are shellacked or otherwise glued together in such a way that water and air cannot reach the roots of the bonsai. This is why you MUST carefully clean off all this crap as soon as possible and re-pot the bonsai. But do a little research first and buy a soil medium appropriate to the bonsai tree you chose. If it’s a juniper, you’ll need something more acidic for example.

Here’s a great wiki post on saving a mallsai. There is a lot of good info available if you just google ‘mallsai’.

I wouldn’t necessarily pass up a mallsai but I’d make sure I got one without dead leaves or branches and did not look like it had been sitting in the store for months. Unless you’re planting a Terror-arium in which case, a dead tree could be just the thing you need.

Mr. Bony rising from the grassy knoll beneath the creepy tree.

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