We love airplants for their diversity in form, their ease of maintenance and their total versatility. They can live anywhere! And their strange and beautiful twisting, twining, exploring leaves enhance any structure that holds them. One of the most beautiful and satisfying ways we have found to keep airplants is to plant them in an aerium.
Aeriums are glass containers that house Tillandsia (airplants). They are like terrariums, but have no need for soil. Aeriums are, in fact, quite functional places for airplants to live, so if you are looking for a beautiful way to showcase and house your Tillandsia, an aerium might be the perfect thing! In this blog post, we'll give a brief overview of aeriums and how they function.
But First, A Bit About Tillandsia in Nature...
Tillandsia are native to the more equatorial regions of the Americas in the forests, mountains and deserts. Most Tillandsia are epiphytes, which means they don't root down in soil, but instead use their roots to anchor themselves to other living structures
It is important to note that Tillandsia are not parasitic and do not leech nutrients from their host plants. They use trees for structure and support, but neither aid nor detract from the tree's health. Airplants use their leaves to absorb nutrients and water from the air. Rain, dew, dust, decaying leaves and insect matter - all of these are absorbed through the surface of Tillandsia leaves, aided by small hair-like structures called trichomes.
tHE eLEMENTS OF AN Aerium
GLASS: The glass housing of an Aerium allows light in while diffusing it slightly. It also functions as a tiny greenhouse, keeping the plant warm and forming a humid space during watering. Airplants will absorb the water as it evaporates. Any glass container will do, as long as it has an opening large enough to easily maneuver the airplant. You may want to remove the airplant periodically for dunking or soaking, depending on your watering preference and the needs of your Tillandsia.
MOSS & WOOD: These do a good job of taking in a little water in the vicinity of your Tillandsia without becoming too soggy. Dried mosses keep their color and don't require watering, and wood can add a lovely contrasting form, color and texture.
SAND: With no need for soil, sand and rocks will do the trick! Sand and rocks open up a realm of possibility for color, texture, and fineness. They also provide a simple supporting ground without absorbing too much moisture. Airplants must be able to dry out and do not do well sitting in water.
CARE: Aerium care is simple! Place it in an area where it will get bright filtered light (direct light will burn the leaves). Misting inside the aerium is a good method of watering, as the humid environment will allow the airplant to absorb water from the air. Keep an eye on it, as you will want to make sure the airplant is able to dry out within 4 hours of misting. You may also choose to dunk or soak your Tillandsia, but you will want to make sure it has the chance to dry out completely before returning it to your aerium. As always, with hot and dry environments, your Tillandsia will need more thorough or frequent watering, while in a cool or humid environment, less will be necessary. Comfortable room humidity is perfectly suitable.
If you're wondering how to bring an airplant into your living space, consider an aerium. A perfect balance of elaborate wildness and elegant containment, they are living works of art. We could all use a little more of that creative energy in our lives, don't you think?
At Niche, we create custom terrariums and aeriums, and you can always find one ready to move out the door in our shops. However, if you're looking for a chance to design and put together your own (take it from us, it's a lot of fun!), you may want to take a look at our upcoming workshop at The Street in Chestnut Hill! Click the button below for more details and to sign up.
The aerium photography for this post was done by Mandy Lancia, co-founder of With/Another, a Chicago company founded with the mission of highlighting and building community between creative women. Visit their website to learn more.
Saint Patrick's Day is coming up, which means we're about to see a lot of people running to and fro wearing green garments, eating green donuts & drinking green beer. We're all about greenery over here, but our interest skews away from food coloring and more towards the chlorophyll side of things.
In that spirit, we'd like to shed some light on another major symbol of Saint Paddy and the Irish culture that he represents: that four-leafed bringer of luck, the Trifolium! Also known as the clover. But... wait a second, what is that?
What Is the Irish Shamrock?
The word shamrock comes from the Irish word seamróg, which means "little clover." There has been a lot of hemming and hawing throughout history about what species of plant holds the true title of Irish shamrock, and there is still no unanimous consensus. However, two separate botanical surveys of Ireland - one by Nathaniel Colgan from 1893 and one by E. Charles Nelson from 1988 - indicated that 85-91% of the Irish population considered the shamrock to be a member of the Trifolium genus - a clover. Be it yellow, white or red.
Considering this, it may come as a surprise that a majority of the imagery for Saint Patrick's Day and Irish culture contains no Trifolium leaf at all, but an Oxalis leaf! Species of the Oxalis genus are often confused for clover, and vice versa, since their leaves share the attribute of having three leaflets.
So, how do you tell Oxalis and Trifolium apart? We guarantee that once you know, you'll never mix them up! And we've decided to make it easy. Here is a side-by-side comparison:
Well, there you have it! We hope you have some fun identifying Oxalis & Trifolium on Saint Paddy's Day. And if you're drowning any shamrocks, stay safe out there!
Chevallier, Andrew. Encyclopedia Of Medicinal Plants. New York, NY: DK, 1996. Print.
Meletis, Chris D. Natural Health Magazine Complete Guide to Safe Herbs. New York: DK, 2002. Print.
Weiner, Michael A. Earth Medicine--earth Food: Plant Remedies, Drugs, and Natural Foods of the North American Indians. New York: Fawcett Columbine, 1991. Print.
Yesterday was International Women's Day, and here at Niche, most of us are women. Today we are asking, what does it mean to be a woman who engages in the field of plant knowledge, plant care and plant service?
To do this, we're reflecting upon our lineage and remembering trailblazing women who, at least as far back as the 17th century, escaped the cloister of the garden and set out into the wild world to study and record plants and their processes. Here we present to you a list of five women who made significant contributions to the field of botanical science through botanical illustration:
1. Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717)
Maria Sibylla Merian was a Swiss naturalist and artist who was one of the first naturalists to have studied insects. After 20 years of marriage, Merian left her husband and embraced celibacy, moving with her mother and two daughters to join a religious sect called the Labadists in the Netherlands. Over her life, she would spend years traveling and sketching the plant life, animals and insects of Surinam, work which would eventually culminate in an illustrated book entitled Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium. She documented and illustrated the life cycles of 186 insect species, some of which had been previously unknown. Through her work, she observed a process of metamorphosis that contradicted ideas of her time about how insects developed.
2. eLIZABETH bLACKWELL (1707-1758)
Elizabeth Blackwell turned to botanical illustration to get her husband out of jail. Alexander Blackwell seemed to be drawn to dodgy business practices, forcing the two of them to flee to London to escape punishment for his sham physician's practice. In London, he became a publisher without taking up the four years of training and landed himself in debtors prison when he was unable to pay the fines he accrued as a result. Looking for a way to pay off her husband's fines, Elizabeth Blackwell saw a need for a physician's reference book that would not only document the medicinal qualities of plants and herbs, but also include illustrations so that it could be used to identify the plants. She called her book A Curious Herbal, and was able to get her husband out of prison with the profits. Hers was the first herbal ever to exist in England.
3. Marianne North (1830-1890)
Marianne North was born to an affluent family that backed her pursuits of singing and painting as acceptable hobbies for a young lady. She developed a love for exotic plants during visits to the Palm House at Kew, which was built by family friend & Director of Kew, Sir William Hooker. North's father left a significant inheritance, which she shared with no spouse as she recoiled at the thought of marriage, thinking that it turned women into 'a sort of upper servant’. Aided by her family's political connections, she travelled the world on her own, painting plants and flowers. She over 900 species of plants, producing a whopping 833 paintings from 17 countries in 14 years. In her final years of life wrote an autobiography entitled Recollection and Further Recollection of a Happy Life: being the Autobiography of Marianne North.
4. Anne Pratt (1806-1893)
As a child, Anne Pratt suffered from poor health and would pass the hours drawing while her siblings played outside - practice that would prove to make her into one of the best known botanical illustrators of the Victorian age. She brought botanical appreciation and knowledge to the masses, writing and illustrating twenty books on botany aimed primarily at a popular audience. However, although her illustrations were beautiful, accurate and widely enjoyed, Pratt still could not escape criticism for her lack of formal training. Famously, art historian Wilfred Blunt wrote that her illustrations "owe a good deal to the artists...who redrew them on stone." As Blunt offered nothing to back up this claim, the baselessness of his accusation is now widely acknowledged.
5. Margaret Mee (1909-1988)
In her early life, Margaret Mee was passionate about political issues and the fight against fascism. She was a union activist with her first husband and she worked as a machinist and a draughtswoman during the second World War. She began drawing and painting the plants of Brazil when she moved there with her second husband. During her canoe trips on the Amazon to paint the exotic flora of the Brazilian jungles, Mee witnessed firsthand the damage caused to the fragile environment by mining and deforestation. As a result, Mee became one of the first vocal conservationists, raising her voice to advocate for the preservation of the Amazon rainforest habitat.
More FEmale Botanical Illustrators:
Henrietta Maria Moriarty
Miss Sarah Anne Drake
Jane Webb Loudon
Berthe Hoola van Nooten
Lady Arabella Roupell
Anna Maria Hussey
introducing: the Dwarf Pomegranate
If you have visited us at Niche in the past week, you may have noticed some sweet little shrubs winking at you with their vibrant blossoms of a blood-orange hue or beckoning with their developing fruit. These are Dwarf Pomegranate plants, botanical name Punica granatum var. nana.
winter & spring: PUNICA GRANATUM in mythology
This past week in Boston, we felt the brush of Spring as temperatures climbed above the 70º mark, but are now reluctantly retreating to our parkas as the the mercury drops gradually back down to the freezing point. As we seem to have one foot in Winter and one in Spring, it's fitting to feature these members of the Punica genus, whose fruit are linked with this transition in Greek and Roman mythology.
According to the myth, Hades (god of the Underworld) abducted Persephone. Upon her arrival in the Underworld, Persephone refused all food and drink, knowing that if she consumed anything that she would be eternally trapped in the nether realm. Meanwhile, Persephone's mother Demeter (goddess of the harvest) was so grief-stricken that the earth grew cold, crops ceased to produce and world plunged into a state of famine. Eventually, Hades reluctantly agreed to return Persephone to her mother, but before their departure, he offered her a ripe, red pomegranate. Persephone ate six seeds, binding her to return to the Underworld for six months out of the year. Thus, every year, when Persephone descends to Hades' domain, Demeter enters a state of depression, causing the period of plant dormancy we know as winter. Six months later, when Persephone returns to the world above, so too do the flowering meadows and green growths of Spring.
ABOUT PUNICA GRANATUM
P. granatum is native to the area of Iran and is now found widely throughout the Mediterranean and around the world in comparable climates. A defining characteristic of the fruit is its thick protective shell, which is hard to digest, making it more likely that the seeds will pass directly through an animal's digestive tract and be deposited back into the environment unharmed to produce a new plant. P. granatum's limbs are peppered with thorns, an adaptation developed to prevent opportunistic animalia from clambering to the ends of the branches to eat the fruit before maturation. Members of P. granatum also have an impressive lifespan, with some trees surviving for over 200 years in the right conditions.
The pomegranate is abundant in antioxidants, which are thought to help reduce the risk of certain diseases, earning it the title of "superfruit" (it's pertinent to note, however, that the Dwarf Pomegranate fruits may be less appealing to eat, as they are very seedy and not as sweet). The pomegranate has been long believed to have anti-aging properties, and recent research suggests that pomegranate arils may contain a molecule that enables muscle cells to protect themselves against aging when it interacts with certain gut microbes. The arils are used to make juice and grenadine (grenadine is french for pomegranate!), while the rinds have been used traditionally to make dye.
caring for your dwarf pomegranate
P. granatum var. nana thrives in semi-arid climates, and thus requires well-draining soil. The fruit is edible, but small, full of seeds and not as sweet as the pomegranates you may be used to seeing at the grocery store. It is best to consider it ornamental, and it may be planted anywhere that it will get enough light and warmth to survive. United States Department of Agriculture has classified it as a plant suited for Zones 7-11.
Origin: Iran, Northern India, Mediterranean
Height: Up to 4' in height and width
Light: Bright light to full sun
Soil: Well draining
Water: Keep soil evenly moist during growing months (summer) and sparingly in the winter. Keep moderately damp. Drought tolerant, but won't survive wet conditions.
Fertilizing: You may choose to use tree fertilizer with ratio 10-10-10 diluted by half in the beginning and middle of the growing season. No more often than every two weeks. No feeding in winter.
Humidity: Average room humidity
Temperature: 60-75º F / 16-24º C
Pruning: Prune late winter, removing dead/damaged and suckers. They are excellent plants for bonsai.
Repotting: Repot when roots have filled the pot. Repot in mid-spring when buds are forming.
So, you've come to the great, bustling city of Boston to continue your education. You're all set up in your dorm and have taken the obligatory trips to Trader Joe's and IKEA and finally you're feeling like a true adult. What else could possibly be missing?
Plants. A plant is the answer you're looking for.
Adding some vegetation and good vibes to that dorm room will make your new space feel just like home in no time at all.
We've compiled a list of easy-to-care for plants that are great even for first-time plant parents. And yes, we did factor in care for all those last minute trips home, holidays and spring breakers.
Snake Plant (Mother-In-Law's Tongue) Sansevieria
The quintessential easy-to-care-for plant is one of our favorites for dorm life. Yes, they can survive in little to no natural light. Yes, you can go on winter break and come back to it still thriving. And yes, snake plants come in a variety of different colors, patterns and sizes to fit your fancy. The dwarf variety is perfect for a window sill or a desk, while the taller variety looks amazing in the corner of a room, or on a res-life bookshelf. Water weekly to promote growth, but make sure the soil dries out in between waterings.
ZZ Plant Zamioculcas zamiifolia
If you're feeling super lush and love all different shades of green, the ZZ is for you. These plants can thrive in low light and only need to be watered sparingly. The ZZ can survive long periods of draught, but will grow at a more rapid pace with regular watering. They're as resilient as they are attractive. As they grow, they become a great space filler and will certainly become an eye catcher in any room.
Fleshy, flashy and easy to care for if you have adequate bright light, succulents are fun additions to a desk or window sill. They require bright indirect light for most of the day and a good watering every 7-12 days.
If you got lucky and have landed a dorm room with tons of light, these babies are for you. There are so many different varieties that you're bound to find one that you love. And they're super easy to care for. Water once every two weeks and you're solid. Just mind the spines!
If you decide to really go the distance, terrariums are a hip, funky accessory for any room. They can be potted with any plant you'd like, just mind the light and care instructions for each plant. Succulents and cacti go well together, while tropical and air plants are humidity lovers and thrive together. You can pick out a pre-planted terrarium here in the shop or take on a DIY project in the funkiest container you can find.
plant of the week: aloe vera
level: “i wanna learn how to take care of a plant, but i have no idea what i’m doing.”
care: bright light, water weekly, but let soil dry before watering again.
why we love it: easy to care for, can be used for holistic medicinal uses and brings funky textures and colors to a room. aloe vera is also simple to propagate and just an awesome aesthetically pleasing plant.
signs of spring...fern wreath
With our cabin fever reaching unprecedented levels, we decided to try a little project that we first saw on Martha's page. First,
gather supplies: 10-15 2" mini ferns, a 8-10" sphagnum moss wreath form, a pan large enough to hold the wreath, pins, a bucket of water. The fern wreath instructions start with a sphagnum moss wreath form. We've used these in the past very successfully for succulent wreaths, which use cuttings rather than established plants. If you happen to find a wreath form that is half sphagnum and can hold soil for planting, I would suggest that as an option as well, although keep the wreath flat while the plants establish.
Soak the wreath form for at least 25 minutes. In order to fit your mini ferns into the wreath, they will need to be divided into even smaller plants. To do this, start by cleaning all the dirt off the ferns roots: just use your fingers to gently work off any larger pieces, and have a bucket of water on hand to rinse off any remaining dirt.
Start planting your mini plants: pull the sphagnum gently apart, creating a small hole that's about 1/4" wide and 1/2" deep. Place a single mini plant into this hole, tucking in its roots. Press the sphagnum closed around it. You can use a small pin here to secure this closure, if needed.
Continue until all of your mini ferns are planted. The design can be as natural, or symmetrical as you want! Just keep in mind that the ferns will grow into this form, so avoid planting them too densely. To complete the wreath, consider wrapping any empty spots with sheet moss. Or even pin on a few air plants!
Keep your wreath misted well, soak 2x per week while plants are establishing. Store in bright, indirect light.
UPDATE: After 3 weeks growing time, in the middle of winter, we found that the ferns incurred a lot of stress and did not take to the wreath quickly. One out of three is is good condition. Bright or artificial light and very heavy soaking of the wreath seem like the best course of actions.
welcome to field notes, niche’s weekly blog that covers all things plants. we’ve got answers to all your questions, suggestions for that black thumb, and diy planting solutions for every home. we write about what you want to know, so if you have a subject that you want us to cover, email us : email@example.com.