Pteridomania; The Victorian craze for ferns or fern-fever that swept Britain during 1840-1890’s. Making somewhat of a comeback in our present day.
Most modern terrariums are inspired by the Victorian Wardian case.
How was the terrarium discovered?
In 1829 Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward invented the Wardian case. A case made of glass & wood to transport & keep exotic plants alive. However this invention came from an accidental discovery. Ward at the time was fascinated by ferns but hadn’t had much luck growing them himself.
In the summer of 1829 Ward was studying insects & had buried a chrysalis (the pupa) of a Sphinx moth in a contained glass bottle with some moist mould. After about a week of observing the bottle a fern had germinated, along with some grass.
Ward was able to observe day to day how the vessel retained adequate moisture and was excluded of any outdoor containiments. The ideal conditions to grow tropical plants & ferns.
The invention of the Wardian case meant that explorers were able to safely transport & travel with exotics plants from all over the world. This was a huge game changer for trading, the tea industry & for the era.
As Ward was the first to publish his studies, he has become widely known as the inventor of the terrarium. However, a Scottish botanist A. A. Maconochie, had invented something similar almost a decade earlier but rarely receives any credit.
How do terrariums work?
Today’s terrariums come in all shapes, sizes & vessels. You can have them open (generally used for arid plants) or enclosed depending on your preference. Terrariums are supposed to give the plants the more optimum conditions for plants to grow. The glass intensifies the light but also provides shelter to any outside contaminants.
As Ward discovered what had happened in his bottle. He was able to observe on a daily basis, during the day’s heat moisture would collect on the inside of the glass & would slowly filter back down to the mulch before the cycle would happen again. Ward was able to observe how the glass bottle was able to keep the same degree of humidity continuously.
But it wasn’t only the humidity that played a part. Due to the bottle being enclosed the inside is exempt from any outdoor contaminants. Ferns that Ward was desperately trying to grow outdoors would fail time & time again, he could then grow easily within an enclosed container.
What else was going on during the Victorian era?
Since everyone was going crazy for ferns, it wasn’t a surprise that glasshouses were becoming more popular.
At a similar time of Ward’s finding, George Loddiges was inspired to build to world’s largest hothouse. And in the early 1830’s Loddiges had his Grand Palm House built. A structure that was 80 foot long, 60 foot wide & 40 feet high.
George was the son of Conrad Loddiges, who had founded their nursery business & arboretum in around 1816. They traded in, and introduced; exotic plants, trees, shrubs, ferns, palms & orchids to the European gardens.
The nursery was a popular attraction & to get more visitors to the hothouse Loddiges, spread the rumor that ferns were a sign of intelligence, improved virility & mental health. Which was later proved to be correct in Edward Newman’s; A History of British Ferns, published in 1844.
The Victorians, poor & rich, went crazy for ferns & started to cultivate rare specimens & print fern motifs on to everything they could including wallpapers. It even inspired the pattern design on the Custard Cream.
The craze also gave women the freedom to go to Fernery’s and explore the countryside looking and foraging for ferns. Women were even allowed to organise dayout excursions into woodlands without a chaperone, this was because it was considered a wholesome, healthy & moral activity.
Cultivating ferns isn’t easy and the craze became expensive with people trying to get their hands on the rarest fern they could find. Aristocrats would sponsor scientific exhibitions to gather ferns from the West Indies, Panama and Honduras. This also created a crime wave of people stealing the rare specimens and selling them on the black market. Something that still happens to this day.
Living in a basement flat really limits the plants that are suitable for my flat. It’s dingy, damp and draughty. Pretty much inhabitable for plants. But there is hope, if I can make plant work in my flat so can you!
If you’re like me and live some where dark and dingy, here are my top plants for dark spaces. They’re also easy plants to care for, even if you don’t have the greenest of thumbs. Don’t worry we’ve all killed our fair share of plants.
Native to tropical America, this plant has beautiful heart shaped leaves and is great for low lit rooms. Growing high in the trees this epiphyte is a trailing vine or you can train it to climb. Another plus to owning a Philodendron is that it’s so easy to care for. Keep the soil moist in summer, but never waterlogged this can cause root rot.. Allow it to dry out in the winter. They like humidity, mist occasionally otherwise I like to take mine into the shower with me. It’s fast growing and easy to propagate. A must have in my eyes.
Not one I have in my collection yet but snake plants are SO easy to care for. This plant is perfect if you’re looking to add green to your flat but not overly green fingered. Native to western tropical Africa, it’s very slow growing but is great to have in low lit bedrooms as they release oxygen during the night. Too lower light will dull the markings on the leaves, just move to a less shady spot. Allow to completely dry out between watering.
Peace lilies are another super easy plant to look after and great for those darker rooms. These evergreen plants are native to tropical regions of America and southeastern Asia. This flowering plant produces lush white flowers but in the right conditions. Check the soil before watering, if it’s damp don’t water, if dry it’s safe to water. Another way of checking to see if your Spathiphyllum needs watering is that the leave start to droop, once watered you’ll see them bounce back. I adopted a couple of Spathiphyllums off my parents which I’ll need to repot this spring and also have an extremely root bound one that my partner sort of neglected which I’ll be trying to bring it to its full potential.
There’s many different species you can have. I particularly like the Bird’s nest fern. It’s big beautiful green leaves and the way the fronds unravel from the centre captivate me. Ferns are great for low leveled light but do require a little more care and attention then some of the above. Never place a Asplenium in direct sunlight as this will cause damage to the leaves, keep the soil moist and allow the top layer to dry out in between watering and they love being misted. Again I like to take mine in to the shower to really get the humidity right.
This guy goes by many names Devil’s ivy, Golden pothos are just to name a couple. Attractive for the markings on the leaves they can easily be confused as a variegated Philodendron, however the leaves shape and size are different. It’s a climbing plant that you can either train or allow it trail over the pot. Again this is pretty easy to care for and can tolerate low light. This can stunt the growth but if you have a slightly less shady area it’ll be much happier. Never allow the soil to be soggy and let it dry out a little in between watering and they love humidity. This is also another plant that can easily be propagated by taking a small cutting.
After recently discovering and studying Marimo moss balls I had to share more about these fascinating fellas. There’s even a legend that comes with them, which is just as adorable as they are.
Marimo moss balls are a must have to anyone’s budding collection, they’re super cute, so easy to care for and love cool dark spots. Perfect if you live in a basement flat like myself!
Latin name: Aegagropila linnaei
Marimo is a Japanese word that translates to ‘seaweed ball’. They’re technically not moss, but a rare form of algae that grow in lakes in the Northern hemisphere. These slow growers can live for hundreds of years and naturally form into spheres from the currents. Growing at a rate of 5mm a year they grow between 8 – 12 inches in the wild. Their natural habitat is fresh water lakes in Japan, Estonia, Iceland, Scotland & Australia. They’re even considered a national treasure in Japan with some parts of the country having Marimo Festivals.
Japanese folklore has it that Marimo came from the spirits of two lovers. The legend has it that a tribals chief’s daughter fell in love with a commoner but their love was forbidden. The couple decide to run away but tragically fell into the Lake Akan where their spirits changed into the moss balls.
Marimo moss balls are a token of love, affection and good luck. It is also said Marimo bring the giver and receiver their heart’s desire.
Your Marimo will like being kept somewhere with low-medium indirect sunlight and out of direct sunlight completely. Place them somewhere cool, keep away from any heat source in the winter.
Change the water every couple of week, you may be able to get away with changing it once a month in the winter. I prefer to collect rainwater for my Marimo moss balls, but you can use tap water, just let it sit for 24 hours before placing the Marimo in.
I’d recommend cleaning the glass each time you change the water as you might find there might be a buildup of unwanted algae.
Marimo should be a lovely deep green colour. If your Marimo are browning place them in a cooler, darker space and hopefully they’ll change back. If not you may need to add some aquarium ocean salt.
You can find our Marimo moss ball terrariums here.
The main reason for going to London was to carry out some market research and checking out how the top places in London are doing it. In my last blog post I wrote about Palm Vaults, (it’s awesome check it out) but we also visited lots of collaborative stores that incorporate plants into their interior or ethos.
This place is picturesque and I could have spent a lot more time photographing the inside. Before you even get through the door there’s an entourage of tall palms outside, once inside everywhere you look there’s a plant! Filled to the brim with a large variety of houseplants, cacti, succulents, tillandsias, that’s just a fraction of it all!
The Conservatory Achieves isn’t just a shop to buy plants, it’s a showroom. It showcases the impact plants can have on people. If you take a look through their Instagram you can see they’re much more than that, installing large pieces of plants displays into businesses.
Prick is London’s first ever cacti specialist shop. And from the outside the large cacti in the window draw you right in. Owner, Gynelle knows a lot about this subject and has just written a book. As well as a variety of cacti and succulents to purchase, there’s a supply of beautifully crafted planters. It’s where I found out about Chloe, the beauty behind Make & Matter.
The store is extremely light making you feel relaxed and helps you envision how they’d look in your home. Don’t be scared away from the pricing of the larger species, some of them are hundreds of years old, making them much more of a collector’s item or if you’re looking for that statement piece.
Cuemars is a collaborative space that fuses a passion for plants, interior and fashion. It’s full of quirky and interesting products with a main focus towards botanical themed home decor.
Working alongside their friends, you have terrariums next to handmade leather purses, practical clothing and other beautiful items. There’s artwork to browse through with foliage dotted around the shop. It’s lovely, it’s got everything to brighten up your interior.
Palm Vaults is the coffee shop of my dreams. The food was so beautifully prepared and presented. With rainbow coffees and an interior that takes you away from a bustling city.
I’ve been following Palm Vaults on Insta for a little while. I was drawn to the hanging plants from the ceiling, the pale pink tones and the decor gives you a feeling of being in LA in the 80’s. I was intrigued by the lattes I saw and the colourful display of cakes and breakfast goodies. When I was planning this trip to London I had to make time to visit. Boy am I glad we went there.
Palm Vaults is mainly a vegetarian cafe, with a lot of the food being vegan and free from options too. Perfect if you’re like me and you have a shit ton of intolerances. It meant I could fully relax and not have to worry about if the food I’m eating might get contaminated or they didn’t hear my order correctly.
Firstly we had to get coffee down ourselves. (It was 10am and the caffeine headaches were already starting). Palm Vaults have a large range of speciality coffees, but with a twist. Not only did they only serve their coffees with a wide range of non-dairy alternatives, they had a whole menu of colourful and tonic lattes. I had to get one, I went for the Red Velvet. This consisted of espresso, fresh beet juice, cacao, agave, vanilla & steamed coconut milk. It was beautifully sweet and well balanced. There’s subtle hints of all the flavours coming through without any being to overbearing. The biggest down fall? The presentation, I was hoping that the latte would have been more rich in colour but looked a little muddy. Coming from a barista background I like to see well texturised milk to create latte art, but we can’t have everything can we?
Next the food. I’m a massive fan of banana bread, especially if it’s vegan. With a couple of topping to choose from the one that made my mouth water was the almond caramel & cacao nibs. I was expecting it to be super sweet and sickly but it was so incredibly more-ish. The sweetness of the almond caramel was balanced out with the bitterness of the cacao nibs.
The decor was one of the main reasons for the visit. They have a variety of hanging plants dangling from the ceiling, the pastel pink tones reflected well with the exposed brick wall and the mirrors really opened up the space. I really loved the interior, the plants could of done with a little more TLC but being a cafe they may not have the time to care for them as much as they should.
Creating your own urban jungle is in and Bristol is just as obsessed with plants as everyone else. We’ve got shops popping up all over the city. I took a trip to London with my plant pal Octavia to see what the big smoke has to offer.
High on my list to visit was Sky Garden and the Barbican Conservatory as well as some of London’s best known plant retailers. We packed a lot into such a short period but we managed to visit everywhere and even stumbled upon Columbia Road Flower Market.
We headed over to Hackney to check out Conservatory Archives. I’ve only been following these guys on Instagram for a short time, but once you look at their feed you’ll understand why we visited. Their picturesque store was heavenly and full to the brim with every plant imaginable. Palms, cacti and climbers were plentiful and the sheer size of some of them was overwhelming.
Saturday evening we booked a table in the bar of the Sky Garden. I was extremely excited to visit this garden in a skyscraper. Arriving at the pod I was stunned by the living wall opposite, plants covering the whole wall of the building. But once inside I was slightly disappointed, don’t get me wrong, the views of London at night was spectacular and it was a lovely evening. The lighting on the plants was not flattering. It was dark, you didn’t really have a full view of the plants. There were some that looked very sun damaged and I’m sad to say that there were bug infestations on some of the plants.
During the evening there was DJ when we arrived, then a live band. We had booked a table at the bar and we had a beautiful view of the Shard as we had our drinks and shared some food. If you’re interested in visiting you’ll have to book your visit in advance as it’s viewed by booking only. You can turn up on the day but you’ll be sure to be waiting (outside) a while before being allowed in.
Sunday was much better and more focused towards visiting retailers. We spent the morning in Hackney, starting at Palm Vaults, a vegetarian cafe with a lot of it’s food being vegan. Once fed and caffeinated we headed over to Botany, a plant and lifestyle brand. We also visited Prick, London’s first specialist cacti shop who have just published their own book and Cuemars, a collaborative store of local designers, plants and lifestyle.
To finish our trip we spent the afternoon at the Barbican Centre. When I was living in London I had visited centre a couple of times to see a couple of exhibitions but never knew about the conservatory. I loved the industrial brickwork against the tropical palms, it was an urban jungle. I took my film camera with me which I’ll soon be getting developed.
I’ll be going into more detail of our time in London in following posts, but I wanted to give you an overview of our time there. To follow more of what we got up to follow us on Instagram.
A quick recap on the past couple of weeks and find out what we’ve got in store for you this November!
Apologies on missing posting to the blog last week. Here’s just a quick review on what’s been happening at Loof HQ.
The past couple of weeks have been a bit of a personal struggle. My mental health has taken a bit of a bashing through challenging my comfort zones.
I spent 4 days with the Prince’s Trust on their Explore Enterprise Course, had an MRI scan and went to a lot of evening seminars. The Prince’s Trust was great, met loads of great artists, designers and like minded people. It was also an emotional rollercoaster with talking about finance and feeling way out of my depth.
This as well as going to business seminars where a lot of the talk was about finance, I sunk into my depression questioning ‘why on earth am I doing this?’.
Then let’s throw in having to go to the hospital. I hate hospitals and work myself into a stressed little bee, thinking of all the possibilities that could be wrong with me. Luckily I’ve had the results back and they were negative. People would see this a positive, but all I can think is ‘am I imagining everything? Maybe I’m not ill at all and my mind is playing tricks on me.’
Dealing with all this in the space of 2 weeks was a little too much for me to handle. But I’m feeling motivated and inspired to focus on Loof and the next month is going to be a busy one. Here’s what’s coming up!
4th & 5th Nov – Market Research Trip, London!
5th Nov – BS5 Market, St George. 10am – 2pm. My partner will be doing this alone, stock will be limited.
17th Nov – B-Bee’s Craft and Farmers Market, Fishponds. 7pm – 10pm.
25th Nov – Made In Bristol Gift Fair, Colston Hall. 10am – 4pm.
Myself and my friend are off to London for a market research trip. We’ll be visiting Sky Garden, the Barbican Centre and loads of awesome plant inspired stores. I’ll be documenting the whole trip over Instagram, get following for all the updates, click here. I will be taking my film camera and writing a blog post about it when we get back.
Whilst I’m away David will be taking the reins on the BS5 Market, as there will only be him there, there will be limited stock available. But we have the option for you to place an order for any of the terrariums.
We’ll be getting prepped for Christmas (I know, I’m sorry for bring up it up when it’s only October). We have lots and lots of markets that we’ll be attending (all listed above), get the dates in your diaries now! I will soon be taking Christmas orders to help you get organised and (hopefully) not miss out on getting awesome gifts for your family and friends. I’d advise getting in contact as soon as you can if you’re wanting a terrarium made, especially if you’re after a custom/bespoke terrarium.
Another thing I’ll be working on over the next month is subscription boxes. Plants delivered straight to your door every month! Each subscription box will include a potted cacti or succulent with varied surprises each month. The longer the subscription the bigger and better the surprise. Another great thing about the subscription boxes, we’ll be able to post them all over the UK. If you’ve been dying to get your hands on some of our potted plants, this will be your chance!
I hope to launch this at the beginning of December with the first box arriving just before Christmas. This will make a great gift for the cacti lover, or as a treat to keep for yourself (you decide!).
Welcome the first Meet The Maker. In these posts I’ll be taking you through the wonderful makers I have collaborated with. You’ll get to know a little about them, why they’re doing this and how they got to where they are. And, hopefully we can inspire you to get creative. Where better to start than with myself. Buckle up guys, this is going to get personal.
Hi, I’m Robi. I’m 25, I like be surrounded by nature and I always seem to be ill (I have a lactose intolerance and IBS). I also like photography, walking around woodlands, speciality coffee, getting tattooed and dogs. Oh, and I suffer with anxiety and depression. I’ve been taking antidepressants since June this year, and I’m in an okay place. There’s still a long way to go, but I’m working on it.
Let’s start with a bit of background of myself. For as long as I remember being creative has been a huge part of my life and so has the outdoors. I was given a small film camera when I was a very young child and loved to take photos of anything and everything. I also loved being outside, I loved going out riding around where I lived on my bike and exploring the woodlands near my home.
Being dyslexic I struggled a little in my academic studies but excelled in creative subjects. At secondary school I took art and textiles, I thought about being a fashion designer at one point! However, my depression (I wasn’t diagnosed but believe I’ve had depression since a young age) made me believe I wasn’t any good at this because I told myself the work I was creating wasn’t good enough (In fact, I was getting very good grades).
My Grandpa had a huge influence on me. I loved nothing more than the time we spent together. I’d spend my summers walking along the coastline with him and looking for creatures in rock pools. I never realised that he was a photographer himself and actually had his own photography business. I didn’t find this out until after his passing, which happened in the last year of secondary school. I really struggled with coming to terms with the death of my Grandpa, as he was such a big part of my life. But art and photography helped me through this dark period.
After my GCSE’s I decided to further my studies in the creative field by studying art, photography and media. I went off to Weston College to study my A Levels and then an Art Foundation course. My Art Foundation was great, I got to study artistic fields I hadn’t done before. I received an Honours for my Final Major where I finalised in Graphic Design. After finishing my Foundation I wanted to leave schooling and get out into the real world. But I was told I had to apply for University. Teachers and parents are so focused on their students/children getting a degree they don’t think about what the actual person wants. I quickly scrambled an application together and somehow got into Camberwell.
At 19 I found myself packing up to move to London to study Fine Art Photography. I did not know what I was getting myself into. I hated university, the students were pretentious and I felt like a complete outsider. Also, what is Fine Art Photography? People weren’t even taking photos. Continually I said to my parents that I didn’t want to be there and that I wanted to drop out. I think during this year my depression and anxiety was really taking over my life without me knowing. So instead of studying I did the classic student thing and was drunk for the majority of that year. Alcohol is a great way of blocking feelings.
Somehow my parents convinced me to complete the year, which I ended up failing (yup you can fail your first year, who knew?!). After having a bit of a breakdown, my parents again convinced me to carry on studying. I applied for a graphic communications course at LCC and the following year I was still in London.
I don’t think I even got through the first semester without wanting to drop out. Luckily, I got rushed to hospital to have my appendix removed. During my recovery I repeatedly told my parents that I wasn’t going back and wanted to drop out. Still they tried to convince me to stay, but after having an anxiety attack a few days before moving back to London, I think my parents finally realised that I wasn’t messing around.
To this day I wish I never went to Uni, it’s definitely a dark part of my life that I don’t like to think about, but I guess it’s also helped me become the person I am today. After dropping out I didn’t really know what I was going to do. I went back to my job as a catering assistant and fell into a depressive routine. You don’t always realise you’re depressed. I was eating well, exercising and I could hide my feelings from my friends and family pretty well. No one knew, or that’s what I think anyway. My depression had really taken hold of me by this time and I was coming home crying most nights after work not really knowing why. So I quit my job, took a month off and I guess I was trying to find ‘myself’. Well I didn’t find myself but I did find David and I landed myself a new job on our first date. Two birds, one stone.
At this point in my life, coffee had sparked my interest. So I found myself in the cute little cafe/coffee shop on Whiteladies called Brew. I spent about 2 years there learning and growing my knowledge about coffee. During this time my interest in anything artistic had completely gone out of the window. Years of telling myself that a creative career would never happen and is extremely difficult to get into, I succumbed and decided that coffee would be my calling. I liked my job, I got to drink coffee and got to meet such a varied amount of people. But once I got home I would be tired and in a foul mood. I’d lash out, say horrible things and blame it on ‘only having a certain amount of happiness for the day.’ But that’s complete bollocks, that’s depression. I was living with David by this point and things only got worse.
Now depression is different for everybody. I like to think of mine as a little devil on my shoulder whispering things into my ear constantly. I would hear ‘You’re rubbish at your job’, ‘No one likes you, you have no friends’, ‘Even your own boyfriend doesn’t love you, who could love you’. You add fuel to the fire by drowning it out with alcohol or drugs, but that only makes it worse. This is another very dark point in my life that I try to black out. Things got really bad between David and I, it was affecting my job but I couldn’t go on like this anymore. I went to the doctors, got some counselling. With this ‘changed’ me; I decided hospitality wasn’t for me and still thinking I wanted a job in coffee, somehow I wangled myself a job at Extract.
I started Loof in 2016, I was still working at Brew at the time. The main inspiration came from when we visited Amsterdam, and found this secluded florist selling these small cute terrariums and I just had to have these gorgeous indoor gardens in my life. That’s when I realised no one was making or selling terrariums in Bristol.
It was just a bit of fun to begin with making some for the flat, and then selling to friends and family. The more I got into creating these small worlds the more I wanted to know more about them. I began to study how to make them, the plants you need and how to look after them. And I’m continuing to learn so I can give you the highest quality product I can give. Things really start to fall into place when I was invited to my first market, which was held at Harts Bakery in Sep 2016. From that market onwards I knew this is what I wanted to do. I enjoyed it so much that I knew I needed to focus on it a little more.
I built this business from nothing, just a glimmer of hope and whatever money I had spare in my bank account. Nothing has made me more happy and proud of myself than starting this brand. There’s so much that I envision for Loof and I’m so excited for future projects. But also terrified, but that’s kinda the fun of it. And here we are, new brand, new website and collaborations with some fantastic artists.
I have to give David a large portion of credit, as it was his idea for me to start the business. If it wasn’t for his love and support I would never have the confidence to do this. I’ve also got the support of family and friends but it absolutely terrified me when I had to tell them I was quitting my secure job at Extract so I could focus on this adventure. I’ve been overwhelmed by the love and support from everyone.
I’m still struggling with my depression but creating Loof has really helped me to become a person a younger me only dreamt about. Never in a million years did I ever think I would be running my own business but getting to do things I love on a daily basis. As I get older I realise I want to be doing something that’s fulfilling with my life, creating work that people enjoy and experiencing new things. And there’s no time like the present.
I really hope you enjoy following my journey and hope to inspire people on the way.