Sunday, June 27, 2010

In Search of The Perfect Wardian Case

Old Wardian Case Drawing
Back in the 1970's, we had something called terrariums. They were extremely popular, and consisted of a fish bowl or lidded jar into which people placed miniature plant specimens, rocks, mosses and other natural items to create a small, decorative eco-system. But did you know that in the early 1800's, something very similar was invented by a doctor named Nathanial Ward?


The Wardian cases, as they were called, allowed the Victorians to collect and keep plant specimens away from the polluted air of London. The cases were also used to transport rare plants from one locale to another. The plants thrived in their sealed, miniature environments and could withstand long journeys. And we all know the Victorians were crazy for plants! Now they could grow exotic specimens shipped from all over the world.

an original Wardian Case
an original Wardian case specimen

I've been fascinated with these cases for quite some time. Original Wardian cases are quite rare. Maybe it's my fascination with Victorian conservatories and greenhouses that draws me to the Wardian case, for the ones I like best are those that look like miniature versions of conservatories.

Modern day Wardian Case

Wardian Case-modern version

Several years ago, I bought a glass-and-metal version at Frank's Nursery & Crafts. In it, I placed some potted plants, surrounded the pots with moss, and decorated it with tiny mushroom birds and other whimsical miniatures.

My Wardian Case
my Wardian case

The small African violet that grows inside blooms almost constantly. My other African violets bloom only sporadically, even though they get the same amount of sunlight. I think the enclosed environment keeps the humidity higher, which is more like the African violet's natural habitat. My other African violets have to deal with the drier air of our forced-air heating during our long winter months.

African Violet

Terrariums and some Wardian cases are meant to be lined with a soil mixture and the plants placed directly into the soil. They are sealed fairly tightly, but should have some amount of air so as to keep the plants from rotting. My Wardian case is not sealed too tightly, so there is still air circulation and evaporation.

A glass bell cloche placed over a plant acts in the same way, creating a humid environment that benefits many plants, like ferns. Aren't these covered apothecary jars cute?

Covered Plant Jars

I like decorating my Wardian case with little birds and pretend nests, and other bits of nature, like pine cones. The Victorians loved displaying things under glass. Hair wreaths, taxidermy, wax flowers, watches and dead butterflies are just some that come to mind.

Mushroom Birds

I would love to have a much larger and more intricate Wardian case, although there are not many windows I could place it near in our house!

Inside View

A few years back, I saw a large, beautiful Gothic-style Wardian case for sale in a store. It was too expensive for me (I think about $600.00) but I couldn't get it out of my mind. I thought that some day, I would have enough money to buy such an extravagance. What would my perfect Wardian case look like?

Here are some of my inspirations:

Real conservatories! I love all the glass and the cross-pieces that hold the glass together. I also love the Victorian wire plant stands used back then.


Beautiful Conservatory
from Porches & Sunrooms by Jessica Elin Hirshman

Flower Pot Stands

Lady Jane designs some beautiful miniature glass houses! They are very expensive, but aren't they amazing? Not Wardian cases, but great inspiration!

Double Conservatory Roombox

Years ago, I was able to visit the Golden Gate Park Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco. It is the most beautiful conservatory I've ever seen! I felt like the Victorians surely did when they viewed the famous Crystal Palace for the first time!

Golden Gate Park Conservatory
workers repairing the Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco

Golden Gate Park Conservatory 2

I'm also drawn to the wires of a birdhouse such as this beauty! Maybe that's why I use them in my garden. The size and shape would make a very impressive Wardian case!

Bird Cage Inspiration
from Formal Victorian by Ellen M. Plante

Mushroom Birds inside my Wardian Case

I'm beginning to think that maybe I can make my own Wardian case for a lot less money. I would design it to look like the Crystal Palace, or a similar glass building or conservatory. I would make the frame and cross-beams out of wood, then have window glass cut to fit the interior. I would line the bottom with some sort of tin tray, and build an elegant stand for it to rest on. I could even add Eastlake details!

I think I'll place it on my to-do list, and plan on constructing it whenever I get around to building the bookshelves for my library.

Some great links:

Labels: ,

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Remembering Our Victorian Wedding


June is the favorite month for weddings, so I thought I'd post some pictures of our Victorian wedding!

Wedding Invitation

We got married in October, almost 14 years ago. I wanted our wedding to be as Victorian as possible, without breaking our budget. None of our friends or relatives are Victorian, so we didn't want to impose our tastes too much on anyone.


We decided to add as many touches as we could that would have a Victorian flair. And when I say "Victorian," I use the term loosely, as my theme was based on the 1906 era. That is my favorite year for women's fashions!

Wedding-Victorian Studio shot

We designed programs that were handed out at the church and reception, describing our themes, listing the music and readings, the dinner menu, the reception musical selections, and some fun facts about us.

Wedding Program

Wedding Program

Wedding Program

After the ceremony, we had some pictures taken outdoors at a nearby gazebo. I loved the idea of a gazebo so much, that a few years ago we had one built for our own garden!


The reception hall was very beautiful and accommodating to our wishes. We set oil lamps wrapped in silk greenery on all the round tables. When the overhead lights were dimmed, the glow from the oil lamps was very Victorian!

Wedding Table

Oil Lamp

Our cake was lovely and very delicious! We chose doves as our decoration for the top, because we both love nature and birdwatching.

Wedding Cake


We had set up an easel with old-fashioned cards describing the different parts of our reception, such as would have been used between the acts of a Victorian play. Some of the other cards were "Dancing," "Cutting The Cake," etc.

Wedding Reception Card

I decided to design and sew my own wedding dress. I scoured old photos and pictures of Victorian fashions until I finally settled on the look I wanted. I also designed and sewed our niece Emily's maid-of-honor dress. Our two youngest nieces, Allison and Elisa, wore cute little dresses I made from a pattern. My dress was white, the girls' were ecru, and our accent color was antique peach. The whole look turned out just as I planned!

Wedding-Pam & Girls

Wedding-Pam & Emily

Terry wore a black tux with tails, a white shirt, white vest and white bow tie. The groomsmen, nephews Joe and Rob, wore black tuxes with white shirts and black bow ties. Very handsome and dashing men!

Wedding-Terry & Boys

Did I mention that we had all our nieces and nephews as our wedding party? Since we were older, we felt most of our friends and relatives wouldn't want to go through the whole wedding party thing, and everyone loved the idea of the kids being involved. Since that day, we've added one more niece and two more nephews to our family!

Our Wedding

It was an elegant day, full of wonderful memories we will cherish forever!

Labels: , ,

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Springtime Beauties

Memorial Day

Memorial Day has come and gone.
The garden had an abundance of new blossoms.
Here are some of the beauties
I was able to photograph this week.

Peony "Immaculee"
Peony "Immaculee"

Peony "Tom Eckhardt"
Peony "Tom Eckhardt"

Peony "Felix Crousse"
Peony "Felix Crousse"

Yellow Loosestrife
Yellow Loosestrife

Rose "Royal Bonica"

Rose "Zepherine Drouhin"
Rose "Zepherine Drouhin"

Lady's Mantle
Lady's Mantle

Rose "Bahia"
Rose "Bahia"

Rose "Chicago Peace"
Rose "Chicago Peace"

Rose "Mr. Lincoln"
Rose "Mr. Lincoln"

Peony "Cheddar Surprise"
Peony "Cheddar Surprise"

Baby's Breath
Baby's Breath

Peony "Rose Marie"
Peony "Rose Marie"

Rosa Rugosa "Blanc Double de Coubert"
Rose "Blanc Double de Coubert"

Bathroom Bouquet"
A beautiful bouquet for the bathroom.
The lovely fragrances lasted all week!


Last but not least,
the prettiest of them all,
my niece Kate,
who tap danced this weekend
in her yearly performance.

Great job, Kate!!

Labels: ,