And imagine having plants that are rust red, plants that have golden teeth, beige plants with brown markings, white leaves suffused with lavender, and leaves that are striped in pink, yellow, cream and green. Contours, textures and formations are quite incredible. Plants at times seem to be covered with wool, plush, hair, beads, and dust. There are endless variations of patterning in stripes, dots, and mottlings. Flowers come in shapes that defy description, and in every rainbow color. If anything can compete with science fiction, these exotic plants should do it.
It costs no more to buy cactus from a specialist, and if you prefer, you can buy one of the special collections to suit the size of your container. You can get special cactus compost from such suppliers, and pamphlets covering the culture of the different varieties.
To prepare for the desert garden, drainage material should be put in the bottom of the dish or pan. This is covered with either the special cactus soil you buy, or a mixture you make yourself out of one part garden soil, one part leafmold and one part builder's sand, with a little fine charcoal and old crushed mortar added. A thin layer of pure sand, for appearance's sake, goes on top. If you order a plant that requires a different soil mixture the supplier will tell you, but the above mixture does for most cacti.
The desert garden needs plenty of light, warmth and direct sunlight. It needs water, too, but not too much. Be guided by the instructions that come with your selection.
The real desert, of course, is full of wide open spaces, so the planting in such a garden should be sparse, but interestingly varied in form, and naturally grouped. The terrain should be fairly flat, although there can be gentle rises and even an occasional mesa formed by a proper piece of shale rock. An adobe house or two, modeled from clay, might be added, and perhaps some tiny Indian figures for that touch of realism.
THE GLAMOUR OF GLASS
A terrarium is usually a place of magic for children-a dream world seen through the small end of a telescope. Any glass enclosure will do for this. You may use a fishbowl (round or square) a large candy jar, a big, clear glass punchbowl, a large brandy inhaler, or even one of the modern hollow glass bricks. There is a slight distortion in this type of glass but not as much as you might think.
A favorite subject for terrariums is the woodland scene, although the conservatory type of planting also thrives in the tropical atmosphere of the glass garden.