Wednesday 13 November 2013

Things To Make & Do – Wild West Terrarium

A few months back I needed to make a quick birthday present for my friend Alan, you know the drill you think 'Ooh I must get something really nice for their birthday in a few weeks' then promptly forget until a few days before. After I calmed down from the panic, I realised there was something I could make that would be really quick, would incorporate something of Alan's past into his present (boom, boom!) and be, fingers crossed, something that he would love!

I worked with Alan for many years before he retired. We spent many a pleasant afternoon listening to his stories and old radio plays such as Round The Horn and The Goon Show whilst sipping tea and clicking away at our computers. Some of his most enthusiastic tales were those of his love of playing Cowboys and Indians when he was little in the 50s, so I knew a gift that incorporated this would be a tick in the box. I also knew that before working for our company he had worked at Britains (another scale model company famous for toy soldiers and the like) so I knew that some Britains scale model cowboys would make that a double tick!

So with all of this in mind, my plan was to make him a Western Terrarium, I had made myself two a year or so ago now (they are here on Kollabora), and knew all it would require was a quick trip to the DIY store and a few bits from eBay, which luckily I already had.

Western Terrarium
This is a really quick make, which cost very little and I think looks great!

What you’ll need:
  • A large glass vase, or storm jar
  • Mini cacti - or two depending on size of vase
  • A handful of clean gravel/Compost – Houseplant compost is preferable but not essential
  • Sand – I used children's play sand as it had the perfect colour
  • A scale model or two, this could be anything at all!
  • Spoon or small trowel for inserting the soil and sand
So let's begin...

1. Ensure that your both your vase and gravel are clean, before adding a thick layer to the base of your Vase. I washed my gravel by leaving it some boiling water for a bit and then rinsing it under the tap once cooled.

2. Remove cacti from its pot and arrange in the vase, add a layer of compost, to support the cacti. Be careful, I chose the cacti with the least amount of prickles for this vase, but it still got me!

3. Next, add a thick layer of sand. You will find over time the sand will work its way down the sides of the vase hiding the soil, which may mean you have to add more a little later on.

4. Finally, arrange your chosen figures, and if you desire a bit more realism add some gravel.

Then you are done! Time to sit back and enjoy!

Tips for aftercare:
When I researched terrarium making the general rule was not to use cacti. Boo! Now,I have had no problem with my ones so far, but Cacti do thrive in conditions where they are flooded with water which is then followed by a drought. This is difficult to achieve in a small moisture retaining vase. I get around this by watering once every 3 weeks or so and using a squirty bottle (it was recycled from a hair dye kit, washed thoroughly) to aim the water directly at the roots give it a good glug, this way it's not filling the whole vase and so gives the cacti enough water to make it happy.

If I had given myself a little more time I would have loved to have fashioned some tombstones out of polymer clay, to give it that added touch, but either way Alan was as pleased as punch with his unique gift and told me he remembers working on the technical drawings for some cowboys during his time at Britains, so it could well be he had drafted one of these! 

Wendy x


  1. Aww, this is so awesome and such a special, fun gift. I can see that Alan would have been totally chuffed with it!

  2. That's a really crazy but lovely idea. I've never seen something like that before. Great!