Some people are fascinated by aquariums and seeing fish thrive in an enclosed space that’s curated to look appealing. But this approach isn’t only limited to fish since plants can also be grown in small enclosures. These setups are called terrariums.
Terrariums are like miniature greenhouses; these are small, enclosed environments for particular plants. These are often kept as decorative or ornamental pieces that embody nature because of the elements used to create the small garden inside it.
Many are enamored by the concept of being able to create a small garden through terrariums, including Froilan N. Aloro, a registered nurse by profession but who is currently working as an operations manager in BGC for a US-based company.
“I grew up rearing my garden in the province because my father is a farmer and my mother has always been planting flowers and trees in our backyard that I followed after them. Here in Manila, after seeing an article about a closed terrarium created by a man, with which it hasn’t been opened for six decades, I kind of grew interested in making my terrariums,” Aloro said.
But because of the scarcity of resources, Aloro interest was put on hold until he had time on his hands to pursue his passion.
Finding resources locally
When Aloro started making terrariums in July 2020, he found that resources were still scarce and very limited just as they were before the pandemic hit. One particularly rare item was the moss, which is a favorite among terrarium artists. According to Aloro, this item can only be ordered online and usually comes from China. But given the pandemic, Aloro had to be resourceful and turn to local areas to acquire his materials.
“So with some knowledge on the possible source, I ventured and traveled to the likes of Antipolo, Rizal, Batangas, Cavite, Zambales, and all other places to scout and hunt for mosses,” Aloro said.
Aloro’s favorite type of terrarium is a mossarium or a native terrarium. Mossariums normally use moss as the primary and majority of the materials while a native terrarium on the other hand uses the available plants and materials found in the surroundings of the artist, thereby it is mostly made up of local materials.
But Aloro doesn’t just get moss from anywhere. He shared that his method is to only get the mosses found on street sides, pavements, drainage areas, and on places where picking the moss won’t affect the local flora and fauna.
Overcoming this challenge in his journey in making terrariums has been beneficial for Aloro. Not only did he get to prove his mettle but this also made him the pioneer and leading supplier of mixed moss-in-a-tub, which eventually progressed to ferns-in-a-tub, and then moss/fern-in-a-slab.
Aloro is also proud to say that there are designs and methods that he has pioneered. Plus, the mosses he propagated in his nurseries were prolonged and had a lower chance of rot and molds.
Scouting for moss from local areas also propelled Aloro to produce his first retail line: The Ugly Mossarium Series and The Ugly Mossarium Home Kits which highlight the use of several moss varieties with only one unique hardscape per jar to emphasize the beauty of the moss and the unique hardscape used.
Hardscapes refer to the solid, hard elements in a design that are moveable yet unchanging. Some examples include rocks, wood, and other similar materials.
Creating a group for hobbyists like him
One trend that is becoming popular for some time now is the creation of Facebook groups that cater to a certain group of people who share the same interests. With the intent to share his experiences and passion with other terrarium hobbyists, Aloro created Terrarium Philippines.
“The primary purpose of creating Terrarium Philippines is for it to become the local leader as a knowledge-sharing platform and also to be the center of all things terrarium locally: supplies, materials, network, business, even merely as a source of entertainment for those who would want to appreciate the beauty of terrariums,” he said.
It was established in July 2020, around the same time Aloro created his brand TerraPlantae. Since the group is now three-thousand members strong and consists of a large percent of hobbyists, previous aquascaping artists, students, teachers, plant and animal experts, pet lovers and pet shop owners, and newbies.
Because terrariums are usually made to embody nature or create a tiny ecosystem, animals such as reptiles, amphibians, or insects can be kept in these as long as they are well provided for and thrive in their dainty environment.
Members get to share their knowledge and experiences with others through the group. Aloro himself shares how he scouts moss with consideration for the ecosystem, a practice that he strictly encourages hobbyists in the group to follow.
Using this group, his brand, and social media, Aloro hopes to promote terrarium gardening as both a business opportunity and hobby for those who show an interest in it. He hopes that it may catch on to the public and become the next phase in the gardening trend.
Aloro’s resourcefulness allowed him to pursue his passion for terrariums. But despite being keen on acquiring materials, he maintains respect for nature and takes only what he can without disrupting its balance. In turn, Aloro became known for his moss terrariums where he gets to show his creativity and knowledge on the subject.
Photos courtesy of Froilan N. Aloro