Wardian Cases

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Many years ago  I used to make Wardian Cases  to create a little bit of "pocket money".  Labour intensive,  they were a delightful distraction from my "proper"  work but they were never going to make my fortune. So  I quietly dropped the practice.   Now though and by popular demand ,  I am  making  cases  again -  largely on commission.


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The cases I make  often resemble  Victorian engine houses or  similar. I try never to use modern "old glass". Where coloured glass is used, it invariably  comes from architectural scrap yards. Consequently the coloured glass is usually low key, and rarely bright like modern  coloured  glass.  Finials I usually turn up from brass bar, sometimes in wood.

For more examples of recent  work please have a look at the pieces  I made for

Pinewood Studios (Jane Eyre) and the BBC  (The Paradise).  

and   two more 

Recent Commissions.

So what is a Wardian Case you ask.  The short answer is that there is plenty of information to be found on how Nathanial Bagshaw Ward came across the notion of  a sealed case  in which plants would thrive.  This link develops the story very nicely.  ...  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wardian_case.   and  then this ... http://www.telegraph.co.u/gardening/3296777/The-remarkable-case-of-Dr-Ward.html

A Wardian case is  a  sealed  glazed case and the objective is to maintain a  plant in a healthy condition . A Wardian case should  not   be thought of as a mini greenhouse because unlike a greenhouse, there is no movement of air or moisture in or out.  The better sealed the case is, the more effective it is as a method for  preserving plants.  Upon sealing the case you should think of the environment  created within as a static ecosystem. ... 

1) There are no draughts to dry the soil or chill the plant. There is a finite amount of moisture in the case; it evaporates from leaves and soil and condenses on the glass, it is then absorbed back into the soil  and the cycle repeats.

2)  When the door on the case is closed, the  amount of carbon/carbon dioxide  within is, like the water, also finite so; it is  either in the plant, in the air within or within the soil. Similarly, the amount of oxygen  within  the case is fixed. Air change is very slow and  only because there are  small gaps around the door(s).

3) The cycle whereby  a plant absorbs carbon dioxide and produces oxygen is therefore a very slow one.   The plant nevertheless remains healthy  because the conditions for life  are always being fulfilled i.e. light, moisture, warmth.

Some example cases ...Top of the page  and below

One of my bigger Type Wardian cases, loosely modelled upon a Victorian Engine  House . Tall  (about 18" or 460mm) with arched windows, this commission was delivered  without a door so it is  not a true Wardian case. It does however provide a "macro climate" sufficient to protect quite fragile plants like  "Maidenhair fern"  (Adiantum) from dying off.

This case  as with all  of my pieces used scrap greenhouse glass (with all the flaws that horticultural glass has) and some  modern 2mm picture glass plus  coloured Victorian glass .


Below ..

Another example.... 

This "Type Victorian"  was  some 600mm high  Simple in style it has a wide base that allows for a lot of low planting with sufficient room for at least one  tall specimen plant. The door on this type simply "leans back" against a stop.



Above and below

This  "Type Victorian"  is  made with an endless  number of  variations:  Hexagonal  other times Octagonal. All of them around  1foot (300mm) high as per the ruler, and  with high or  low pitched roofs. The design like all my designs  tend to evolve as I make them largely depndent upon the glass that I have.   In the  type below, the purple "bobbly" glass is used sparingly and  is hard to find.  It  was often used in Victorian windows to create a frame within  a frame .

Please click on all images to make them larger.


Here  the door is hinged , and it can be lifted off for cleaning. There is a little pin (top left of the door) that is dropped into  place to hold the door shut.  




This type has a  roof where four of the panels have been made in a symmetrical pattern. Notice the low key colours, as per glass that is over a hundred years old. At the risk of stating the obvious, the trick here is to make each panel identical to the others. Harder than it may at first seem.



Below:  Another case, with  different colours in the roof.



See also :

Private commissions.

Public  commissions "Jane Eyre" and "The  Paradise" 

How Wardian cases  are made

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