One of Robert’s counter displays: this one includes a moist terrarium (far right) with humidity-loving plants; a still-life shell and stone terrarium (center) and a terrarium habitat with a live, active tarantula creeping about in it (far left).

Another happy discovery I made at the Puerto Vallarta Botanical Gardens – fun terrariums made by the garden’s founder and curator, Robert Price. My photographs do not do them justice! Hopefully you can see beyond the abysmal light and reflective glass to gain a glimpse into the interior of these magical creations populated not only by Vallarta area plants, stone, and shells but also giant, colorful living beetles and spiders. One terrarium contained an enormous, hairy, and beautiful creeping tarantula. Like Mexico’s sometimes rickety city buses and 8-foot high sidewalks without handrails, terrariums containing tarantulas are certainly not something you are likely to find in an American shop!

There are so many kinds of terrariums out there – a rudimentary on-line search will bring up an astonishing array of styles and components, including kitchy figurines and toys, miniature beer cans, plastic plants and garishly colored sands and rocks. But for me, the loveliest terrariums somehow manage to distill nature, allowing people an opportunity to see and relate to the natural world in an intimate way. Thanks to months of close work with Amy Bryant-Aiello for our upcoming book Terrarium Craft, I admit I’ve become a little prejudiced: I’m less fond of fussy, kitschy styles and more partial to earthy, subtly-colored terrariums made from natural – and even local, when possible – materials including plants, mosses, lichens, bark, and insects. Not only are natural terrariums aesthetically delightful and a joy to make; they can also help us all develop a closer relationship to the natural world. And that is a good thing.

Enjoy!