As advocators for eco-living it was only natural that when we heard this story of a miniature ecosystem living for the last 40 years having been completely sealed off from the outside world. I’m sure some of us would like the opportunity to do this ourselves at times, and although a good luxury camping UK holiday can help, we do so often have to return to normality. However, this indoor variety of spiderworts (or Tradescantia, to go by the plant species’ official scientific Latin name) has thrived, filling its spherical bottle home with vigorous foliage.
Easter Sunday 1960 was the exact date that Mr Latimer decided it would be fun to start a bottle garden ‘out of idle curiosity’.
A cleaned out ten gallon carboy, or globular bottle, once used to hold sulphuric acid was used as he poured some compost in. He then carefully lowered in a seedling using a section of wire.
He initially put in about a quarter of a pint of water and it wasn’t until twelve years later in 1972 that he gave it another ‘drink’.
Following that, he greased the bung so that it wedged in nice and tight and hasn’t watered it ever since.
The bottle garden has impressively created its own miniature ecosystem. In spite of being cut off from the outside world it has thrived and this is because it is still absorbing light through the bottle which enables it to photosynthesise, the process that sees plants convert sunlight into the energy they need to develop.
Photosynthesis creates oxygen as well as putting more moisture into the air. The moisture in turn builds up inside the bottle and this effectively recreates rain that falls back down on the plant.
The leaves that the plant drops then rot at the bottom of the bottle, producing the carbon dioxide that’s also needed for photosynthesis and nutrients which are absorbed through its roots.