Wardian Cases

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How they are made and cared for.

How are these cases made then ?

Traditionally "Lead Came" has been used for  "Leaded lights" i.e. windows built up using clear and coloured glass; from churches through to Art Deco doors and windows.  "Lead came" formed into an "I" section grips the glass. At the joins,  a large soldering iron is used to fuse  the "cames" together.

Back in the 1890s Louis Comfort Tiffany developed the use of copper foil for making his - now famous - lamps. The point being, that copper foil is altogether lighter-  literally and figuratively. With copper foil one can develop light and intricate patterns.

Copper foil with a heat resistant  adhesive back is "wrapped"  around the edges of the cut glass.   When any two "wrapped" pieces of glass are brought together and solder is run into the seam between them, the effect is to build up an "I" section around each edge of the glass. This is it;  the lead  cools becomes solid  contracts and  "grips" the glass. No glue, no chemical bonding.  There is nothing beyond what may be thought of as a tight grip on the glass.

For this reason  cases should NEVER be held by or suspended from the finial.  The lead seaming will stretch and the entire case will crash to the ground - sooner or later.  In the past when I have made cases  specifically to be hung, I have buried picture wire in the seams.

How to look after your Wardian Case.

Not many rules. In a modern house a case set back from the window will thrive. Sunlight should not be direct  or prolonged on a southern or western facing window (in the summer at least) otherwise everything inside  the case will "cook up". 

In the first instance do not  over water. To underwater is preferable. Remove any and all dead material at the outset, pounce on any new dead material and remove it. If any rotting is evident leave the door open on  the case for a few days to allow the soil to dry out then close up without adding any more water. Do not feed. 

Condensation on the inside of the glass first thing is fine in the morning,  it should quickly clear with sunlight. This means that the placing is pretty much spot on.  Another  sign of a successful placing is the gradual development of a green growth on the inside of the glass at and below soil level on the surfaces  facing the light .

Occasionally wipe the surface of the glass with lint free cloth or kitchen towel,  a touch of a clear window cleaner  helps to bring up a lovely smear free surface.


Bright green plants  tend to set off a case and vice versa . Here planted up with Adiantum  (also known as maidenhair fern)   and helexine soleriolii   (aka  "mind your own business" ) used as a simple ground cover.

More Wardian cases

For more examples of my work .....

Private commissions,   

Public  commissions  "Jane Eyre" and " The  Paradise"

Wardian cases

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