Wardian Case Terrariums


I thought I would try something new and create a product of my own design without a ready market. Wardian cases came to mind as something that might have some appeal as spring begins to come around and people are starting to think about gardening. In researching the market for Wardian cases I found that the selection of new cases was rather thin, and all of them appear to be imports. Some of the most detailed cases seem to be antiques. So, I decided to be the only aparent maker of new Wardian cases in the US.
So what is a Wardian case? In the mid-1800′s, an English doctor by the name of Nathanial Ward discovered that seeds and plants would flourish within the self-contained environment of a sealed bottle. This is what we now call a terrarium. Sealed glass cases were subsequently used to carry the many exotic plants from the far corners of the earth safely back to England aboard ships. Wealthy English families would display their collection of exotic plants in ornate cases (Wardian cases). The sealed enviroment protected the plants from the cold and polluted air of early industrial England.
Being a woodworker, I naturally gravitated toward making these out of wood. I used all solid fir, hemlock, and pine lumber, some new and some reclaimed. The whole unit separates into three pieces(roof, frame, and base) for easy maintenance or access to contents. There are removeable stops on all the glass panels, so they can be removed or replaced at any time. One side of the roof hinges up for standard access to the inside and a custom brass kickstand holds the door open. The glass is standard 1/8″ clear glass.
These cases have some breatability, so they’re not intended to be completely sealed enviroments, but should retain enough moisture to make a welcome enviroment for plants. I made liner pans from 24 guage 304 stainless steel sheet metal, so they can be directly planted in. Some folks just use them as a decorative case and display their treasures or create a minature world inside. I welded up two floor standing frames that fit into the bun feet, so the cases can sit on a surface or stand alone. The style of the case is gothic revival, and I pulled in some design elements from the Old Church in Portland.  The dimensions are 26″ long X 14″ deep X 28″ high at the top of the spires.
I had fun making these but they are deceptively difficult to build and take a lot longer to finish than you might think. You start counting all the surfaces that have to be sanded and primed and painted and pretty soon the hours add up. I’ll never get rich making these but they are sure pretty to behold. Hopefully I can find four buyers who have the space and appreciate these timeless beauties.


2 comments to Wardian Case Terrariums

  • Kirstin  says:

    They are lovely! I think you should be able to find a market for them. Have you determined a price point yet?

  • Joyce  says:

    The pictures you shared via mail were great….they are timeless beauties!

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