Elizabeth Finney meets Kay Suppamas, founder of Leafage, a start-up that offers terrarium workshops, to unearth their history, uses and potential
The world’s first official terrarium was called the Wardian case. Unlike the modern version, which is mostly used as home décor, the Wardian case revolutionised horticulture, making it possible to transport plants around the world by boat, giving botanists access to extraordinary, exotic and often extremely useful flora.
“It was invented by a medical doctor called Nathanial Bagshaw Ward, who loved anything to do with botany,” Kay Suppamas tells me. “In 1829, he accidentally discovered a tiny fern growing alongside some moss and a moth chrysalis he’d placed in a sealed glass jar for three months.” Ward went on to detail his discovery in a book, On the Growth of Plants in Closely Glazed Cases, which was published in 1842, noting that due to the horrible pollution and smoke in London, his attempts at cultivating a home garden up until the discovery had failed.
Photography courtesy of Sophie Carefull Arthur Miller Radnall