Introduction: DIY Miniature Terrarium Waterfall
Third Prize in the
Gardening Contest 2017
Who says you can't enjoy a beautiful waterfall indoors?! This miniature faux one is easy to make and perfect for terrarium gardens. Look into the realistic 'ponds' with rocks and fish... marvel at the streams of 'water'... lovely green moss and ferns! Go find yourself a big glass cloche or container and follow along these detailed instructions.
Step 1: Supplies: for the Waterfall & Terrarium
For the waterfall you will need:
- 1″ thick (or similar) pink or blue styrofoam board (about 8″ x 10″) scraps
- Mat knife or sharp kitchen knife
- low temperature hot glue gun & glue
- acrylic paint (any kind) white, black, yellow, red, blue & brushes
- clear plastic container or bottle (recycled)
- Alumilite Amazing Clear Cast resin
- Shoe Goo/5 minute epoxy or thick clear glue
For the planting of the terrarium You will need:
- container (glass preferred, cloches allow easier access)
- good quality potting soil (built-in fertilizer is even better)
- moisture loving plants like Clubmoss, Polka Dot Plant, Blue Star Fern, Creeping fig, Nerve Plant.
- moss (locally harvested)
- Spray bottle with water
- Utensils (spoons etc)
- Fabric/coffee filter/mesh
Step 2: Step 1: Carving Your Rocks and Waterfall
Set up your bowl for the bottom of the glass cloche. Start to cut the styrofoam with the mat knife and chop off the sides to look like rocks.
Envision a couple different levels for cascading falls. Layer the rocks and also make some basins to catch 'water'. There are no rules here; just be random as that's how rocks are!
To create realistic texture use some found rocks to imprint details. The knife cuts this stuff like 'butter' so be careful. There will be a base of gravel later so I gave it feet to stand on.
To adhere the layers use hot glue that is low temperature. Since the layers are flat it is quite easy. If the glue is bubbling and melting it is too hot. You could also use construction adhesive as well as long as it doesn't have a solvent in it that melts the styrofoam.
Step 3: Step 2: Paint the Rocks
Good job! The hard part is done. Mix up some greyish acrylic paint (add in some warm tones like a bit of red to make it more realistic). If you struggle with colour just go grab a few rocks to see colours.
Start to paint some rocks but vary the colour to make realism. Dry brush (rubbing with little paint on the brush) over the edges to pick up the highlights of texture. Again; no rules here! a bit of this and that, a bit of mossy green. Dribble a bit of dark into cracks for the look of soil.
It is amazing how realistic these fake rocks look! And they don't weigh anything...
Step 4: Step 3: the Cascading Waterfalls
Aren't you amazed?! It is starting to look like a waterfall. To create the 'falling' water cut some slivered strips from clear packaging or plastic bottles. To bend the edge at the top of each hold over a candle briefly to allow it to melt and then hold the bent shape.
Step 5: Step 4: Adding the Ponds and Water
To create realistic water in the basins add some clear resin. I used a Alumilite Amazing Clear Cast resin.
Mix equal parts til clear and pour into the basin. You may have some bubbles but so does water.
Make some super tiny simple goldfish shapes with paper to put in the ponds. Add a bit of tiny gravel and then pour resin into the basins. Prop up if needed to keep from resin flowing out.
To make the cascading look like falling water add some clear thick glue like shoe goo or 5 minute epoxy. Drizzle it with toothpick along the strips of plastic to look like falling water.
Step 6: Step 5: Planting the Terrarium
Since this is for a cloche topped terrarium a shallow container will be the bottom. See here for more help with terrariums.
Fill the container with at least an inch of stone or gravel. This will not be visible so I am using regular non-fancy gravel. If it is visible you can use some interesting colours and layers. Shake in a few spoonfulls of charcoal (see black specs) into the stone to help absorb any impurities.
To provide a barrier before the soil layer use some fabric (dark colour hides in soil colour) or coffee filter. Wetting it helps settle it. Flatten in nicely to provide a good base.
Top with damp soil keeping in mind that some of the plants will have a root ball attached. It is easy to spoon in extra soil later as well. If you are careful, it is possible to do without making a huge mess. Position the ‘waterfall’ where it will sit.
The plants have been snugged in around the falls and moss is tucked into the spaces. Any empty spots can be filled with pieces of locally harvested moss. Moss loves closed spaces and can handle low light.
Step 7: Step 6: Enjoy the View Up Close...
It is best to use a spray bottle to water and maintain terrariums. The ferns love moisture so give them a helping start.
It may take a bit of adjustment at the beginning to get the moisture and light level right. If it is excessively misting on the glass open or remove top for a bit. A bit of fogging is how this eco-system works; like the rain. Water evaporates - condenses on the glass - runs down - waters the plants - drains to bottom - and then cycle repeats.
A well planted terrarium will manage with little care for a long time. Too much direct light will heat it up too much, so indirect light is best. I have terrariums that do so well that I have to open them to cut back the plants as they become so large. Great way to have a garden, no dusty plants.
Open it up and take a whiff; smells like a forest! LOVE IT!
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