Welcome to the tenth instalment of my long-term BiOrbAir review. I planted up my BiOrbAir, a specialised, automated terrarium, designed by Barry Reynolds, on 25th September 2014. As this was the first time I had planted a BiOrbAir terrarium, I chose a variety of different terrarium plants and ferns to trial, so that I could monitor how successfully these plants, each of which have differing requirements, would grow inside the controlled environment of this terrarium.
During my BiOrbAir review, I have naturally changed the planting inside this terrarium over time in order to trial a variety of different terrarium plants – this terrarium currently features ferns, mosses, and miniature orchids.
If you’d like to start from the beginning, you can read the first part of my long-term review of the BiOrbAir here. I started writing this first instalment after planting my BiOrbAir in September 2014.
I hope that by breaking my BiOrbAir review into sections it will be easier for readers to digest and use, whether you’re considering planting up your own terrarium, or choosing suitable terrarium plants to create your own indoor garden.
BiOrbAir Terrarium maintenance
Naturally, I will regularly top up the base reservoir of my BiOrbAir with rain water as required. The rain water in the base reservoir will be absorbed by the capillary matting. The capillary matting fits onto the support tray, the support tray sits above the base reservoir. The strips of capillary matting hang down into the base reservoir, where they make contact with the rainwater in the base reservoir below. The rainwater is absorbed by the capillary matting, which in turn moistens the coir compost above. The absorption of rain water through the capillary matting will keep the coir compost moist, and as a result, the ferns, and any terrarium plants, planted into the coir compost, will be watered automatically.
I will regularly top up the ultrasonic misting unit with Humidimist, a pure bottled water, low in electrolytes, available from Reef One, and included as part of the package when you purchase a BiOrbAir. The Humidimist is the only type of water recommended for use in the ultrasonic misting unit of the BiOrbAir, and it is the only product I will use.
Since I planted my BiOrbAir in September 2014, apart from the specially designed orchid feed I have given to the miniature orchids, which are mounted onto cork, (the orchids also receive extra misting) I haven’t added any other plant feed or fertiliser to the plants inside this terrarium. I used the peat-free coir compost sold by Reef One for planting, this compost was included as part of the package when I purchased my BiOrbAir. I didn’t add any additional compost, fertiliser or growing media to the mix – I just used the BiOrbAir coir compost as it was, nothing extra was added.
I have used rainwater to fill my BiOrbAir’s base water reservoir – this rainwater, together with the capillary matting keeps the coir compost moist. Naturally, I have only used the specially designed Humidimist to fill up the reservoir for the ultrasonic misting unit. I have replaced the BiOrbAir terrarium carbon filter as required, following the recommendations on the BiOrbAir website. I have documented any problems I have experienced, and any indoor gardening that I have carried out in my previous reviews. I will continue to update this review in the same manner.
I mist my miniature orchids when I think they would benefit from some additional moisture, I don’t have a set pattern, or set days to mist the orchids, though I try to mist the orchids a number of times a week. I have never misted these orchid more than once in a day, and I haven’t misted the orchids that are growing inside this terrarium, as often as seven times in a week.
To feed my miniature orchids, I use Orchid Focus Grow and Orchid Focus Bloom. I purchased both of these fertilisers from the shop at The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. I feed my orchids sparingly, following the instructions on the pack. These miniature epiphytic orchids wouldn’t naturally receive an abundance of nutrients in their natural environment. Over feeding can be detrimental to your plants, causing further problems. These are the only fertilisers I have ever used inside this terrarium.
The method I use to mount my epiphytic orchids onto cork bark
When I first included miniature orchids in this terrarium, I chose to mount the miniature orchids onto the cork using fishing line to secure the orchids in place. I was thinking purely aesthetically when I chose to use fishing line to secure the orchids – as it’s clear material, and so not as visible – I felt it wouldn’t detract from the beauty of the orchids. I did have real concerns that the fishing line could act as a cheese wire, and slice into the roots of the orchids, but I went ahead and used it regardless – all of the orchids were mounted onto the cork bark and secured in place with the fishing line, which I cushioned to protect the plants by placing moss over each of the orchids’ roots. When I added the first two Restrepias to this terrarium, again, I secured them in place using fishing line.
At the end of March 2016, during a visit to the The Botanic Gardens at Kew, I spoke to the orchid experts in the tropical nurseries, where I found out that Kew use strips cut from stockings to secure all of their epiphytic orchids. Although I hadn’t noticed any problems from using the fishing line to secure my orchids so far, I immediately took the decision to remove the fishing line which was at the time securing all of my epiphytic orchids in place. Where necessary, I re-mounted my orchids, using small strips of material, cut from stockings, to secure the orchids in place.
For many years now, I have used stockings as ties for trees and other garden plants, with great success. I hadn’t previously used stockings to secure my epiphytic orchids. This was purely for aesthetic reasons – the strips of stockings, even when cut thinly, are very visible at first, and this does detract somewhat from the beauty of the orchids and the terrarium when viewed as a display. However, I am certain that securing the orchids using soft, flexible strips of material cut from stockings is better for the orchids, and these plants are my priority. When using this method – using strips of material cut from stockings, there isn’t any risk of slicing through any of the orchid roots, as there was when using the fishing line.
I removed all of the fishing line from this terrarium on the 9th April 2016. All of the orchids were then secured in place using strips of material cut from stockings. Since April 2016, any miniature orchids that I have added to my terrariums have been secured using strips cut from stockings. I am very happy using this method, I will continue to use strips of material, cut from stockings, to secure and mount all of my orchids and any terrarium plants going forward.
As you can see in my photographs, the stocking material does age and colour over time – making the material blend into the background somewhat. The mosses inside my terrarium have also managed to grow over the stocking material, which has softened and disguised their appearance a little.
BiOrbAir Terrarium Planting list
You can see the full planting list which includes of all the plants that I have trialled growing inside the BiOrbAir featured in this review here, where you’ll also find the full details of all the nurseries and garden centres I used to purchase the plants, ferns, miniature orchids, mosses, and cork for this terrarium.
Currently (January 2017) the following plants are growing inside this BiOrbAir terrarium:
- Aerangis fastuosa*
- Asplenium nidus ‘Crispy Wave’ (PBR)
- Barbosella australis
- Lepanthopsis astrophora ‘Stalky’
- Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Fluffy Ruffles’
- Ornithophora radicans
- Polystichum tsussimense
- Restrepia antennifera
- Restrepia purpurea ‘Rayas Vino Tinto’
- Restrepia sanguinea
- Restrepia seketii
- Restrepia trichoglossa
- Stelis muscifera
- Schoenorchis fragrans
Of the plants growing inside this terrarium, the following plants were included in my original, first planting of this terrarium, back in September 2014. After numerous changes and re-plantings, these ferns are still growing inside the terrarium today – over two years and four months later, in January 2017:
- Asplenium nidus ‘Crispy Wave’ (PBR)
- Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Fluffy Ruffles’
- Polystichum tsussimense
* I received a question from a reader in January 2016, who asked if my Aerangis fastuosa, might in fact be an Aerangis fuscata – a rarer miniature orchid, which is also from Madagascar. When the Aerangis fastuosa arrived in the post, I had a question mark in my mind as to whether I had been sent the orchid that I had requested when I placed my order. I referred to a number of library books on orchids and searched online for photographs of different Aerangis cultivars. Currently I cannot say with any certainty which variety of Aerangis I have received – I have shown photographs of this orchid to a number of orchid experts from around the world, but so far no one has been able to identify the specimen. The best and easiest way to identify this orchid will be if it flowers. I will continue to refer to this orchid as Aerangis fastuosa for ease of reference – as that’s how I have always referred to this plant, but I do hope to make a definite identification, if and when, the orchid flowers.
BiOrbAir terrarium update
The three ferns that reside inside this BiOrbAir terrarium, were included in my original planting of this terrarium back in September 2014. These three ferns – Asplenium nidus ‘Crispy Wave’, Polystichum tsussimense, and Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Fluffy Ruffles’ are very well suited to growing inside terrariums. These three ferns thrive in the high humidity and the moist environments that terrariums create – I’d highly recommend these cultivars if you’re looking for ferns to include in your own terrarium.
Asplenium nidus ‘Crispy Wave’
Over the past few months, I have enjoyed watching a number of new Asplenium nidus ‘Crispy Wave’ fronds unfurling. I have also enjoyed watching some of the young Asplenium nidus ‘Crispy Wave’ fronds start to change shape and develop the characteristically wavy form that this cultivar takes on as each frond ages.
Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Fluffy Ruffles’
Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Fluffy Ruffles’ is a super fern to grow in a terrarium. Beautiful, delicate looking, but robust and resilient, Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Fluffy Ruffles’ really is a beautiful fern to include in a terrarium.
I was delighted to see that this Aerangis specimen is producing a new leaf. Sadly, a pest, I suspect a tiny terrarium snail, has already been eating the leaf. I hope this leaf will survive, I hope this Aerangis will produce more leaves, which will be untouched by snails or any other pests.
Schoenorchis fragrans is the newest addition to this terrarium. I do hope that this miniature orchid will grow well inside my BiOrbAir terrarium.
I purchased this Ornithophora radicans specimen in bud, in August 2015. The buds opened, this miniature orchid flowered shortly after it arrived, but despite over seventeen months passing since this flowering time, this Ornithophora radicans specimen has yet to produce any further blooms.
This Barbosella australis specimen is another miniature orchid grown inside this terrarium that has yet to flower. I wouldn’t describe this miniature orchid as a plant which has thrived since it has been growing inside the BiOrbAir terrarium, but it’s doing ok, the plant has greatly increased in size since I purchased it.
Restrepia trichoglossa is another miniature orchid which has yet to flower in my care.
This Restrepia seketii specimen is my favourite of the Restrepias that I have growing inside this terrarium. This miniature orchid last flowered in April 2016. Happily this miniature orchid is now in the early stages of producing a new flower bud. I am so looking forward to seeing this pretty little Restrepia in flower again in the coming weeks!
Restrepia antennifera keikis
This Restrepia antennifera specimen is a rather chaotic and tatty looking plant! The plant itself has produced a large number of keikis in a relatively short space of time; although many of the keikis have been entirely devoured, or at least extensively damaged, by a number of the tiny snails that are currently residing inside this terrarium.
Restrepia purpurea ‘Rayas Vino Tinto’
This Restrepia purpurea ‘Rayas Vino Tinto’ specimen is incredibly floriferous, having flowered almost non stop from the 8th February 2016 to November 2016. After a short rest, Restrepia purpurea ‘Rayas Vino Tinto’, then resumed flowering in December 2016. Although on the day that I I took these photographs, the plant did not feature any open blooms.
Restrepia sanguinea keiki
This Restrepia sanguinea specimen is in the process of producing its second keiki. This new, baby plant, although still attached to its mother plant, has already produced its first flower bud!
Restrepia sanguinea blooms
This Restrepia sanguinea specimen has been flowering profusely of late, which has been a joy to observe.
Sadly, I still have tiny snails living inside this terrarium, which have been enjoying the delicate texture and taste of Restrepia sanguinea‘s blooms.
Lepanthopsis astrophora ‘Stalky’
This Lepanthopsis astrophora ‘Stalky’ specimen is now coming to the end of its flowering period. I have been overawed by the beauty of this diminutive miniature orchid and its charming star-shaped, tiny blooms. This particular specimen’s flowering over the past few months has been absolutely spectacular to observe! This miniature orchid has been decorated with clouds of tiny, purple coloured, star-shaped flowers, it really has been a joy to see.
Back in November 2016, I was over the moon to realise that this Stelis muscifera specimen was producing a flower spike! This Stelis muscifera specimen is currently still in bud. I cannot wait to watch these pretty and delicate orchid blooms opening.
I must say that the Stelis muscifera flower buds are taking longer than I expected to open – I have wondered if this Stelis requires a far greater degree of natural daylight for the blooms to open; as this terrarium is situated in a very dark room, which receives no direct natural daylight, any light that the room does receive is of a very low quality. I have noticed for some time now, that the flower spike that this Stelis muscifera specimen has produced, has been leaning and moving towards the small amount of natural light that the room offers.
I’ve been discovering increasing numbers of tiny snails inside this terrarium. Snails have also been a problem inside my Miniature Orchid Trial BiOrbAir Terrarium. Inside my Miniature Orchid Trial Terrarium, the snails have been particularly partial to the taste, and delicate texture of the Masdevallia decumana blooms.
I will be keeping an avid and vigilant look out for snails inside both of these terrariums, over the coming months, removing the snails as quickly as I am able to.
13th January 2017
Stelis muscifera flowers opening
The 13th January 2017 was a particularly bright and sunny day, I sadly did not see this terrarium during the daytime, but early this evening I noticed that the Stelis muscifera flower buds had opened. As I photographed this miniature orchid, the flowers rather rapidly closed – due to the natural light fading.
I observed this Stelis muscifera specimen the following day, when the weather was dull and overcast, I noted that none of the flowers opened at any time during the day.
15th January 2017
Restrepia sanguinea keiki flowering
The Restrepia sanguinea keiki is in flower, it’s lovely to see its large, raspberry pink coloured blooms.
22nd January 2017
Stelis muscifera flowering
I have waiting in anticipation today to see if the Stelis muscifera specimen that’s growing inside this BiOrbAir terrarium would open its flower buds. Sadly, today the buds remained firmly closed.
25th January 2017
Restrepia sanguinea keiki flowers
Restrepia sanguinea flowers
Restrepia seketii flowering
Restrepia seketii is my favourite of the Restrepias in this terrarium. I am so happy that this specimen is flowering again, it last bloomed in April 2016.
30th January 2017
Stelis muscifera flowering
Restrepia sanguinea flowering
Restrepia seketii flowering
To continue reading about this BiOrbAir review and terrarium trial and go straight to the next instalment and update, please click here.
Other articles that may interest you…………
To read a planting list of miniature orchids suitable for growing inside terrariums, please click here.
For information about special snowdrop gardens, talks, events and open days for 2017, please click here.
To read a longer planting list of a variety of suitable terrarium plants, please click here.
To read about the Writhlington Orchid Project, please click here.
To read about the features of the BiOrbAir terrarium, please click here.
To read about using decorative features in your terrarium or bottle garden, please click here.
To read the first part of my Miniature Orchid Trial – Growing Miniature Orchids in the BiOrbAir, please click here.