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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.
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.
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. ...
and then this ...
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
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,
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 .
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
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
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 :
"Jane Eyre" and "The Paradise"
How Wardian cases are made
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