Welcome to the eleventh 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, orchidarium, vivarium, bottle garden, or choosing suitable terrarium plants to create your own special 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 other 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 (February 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 five months later, in February 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, this orchid flowers. I say ‘if’ as this miniature orchid is not in the best of health, and it is very possible that this plant will die without flowering. Naturally I hope that this will not be the case. I hope that this miniature orchid will grow to be in better health very soon!
BiOrbAir terrarium update
Asplenium nidus ‘Crispy Wave’
The wavy fronds of Asplenium nidus ‘Crispy Wave’ have been damaged by the tiny snails that reside inside this terrarium, so this fern is looking rather tatty!
Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Fluffy Ruffles’
This Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Fluffy Ruffles’ specimen has been growing up the side and into curve of this BiOrbAir terrarium. This fern has now grown quite large and the plant is now looking rather chaotic, as some fronds have fallen over, so it looks rather messy.
Some Nephrolepis exaltata fronds have unfortunately been eaten by the tiny snails which are by now notorious for devouring plants inside this terrarium, which has not enhanced the current overall appearance of this fern. I need to take a few minutes to look at this fern, remove any fronds that have been noticeably damaged by snails, and take out any other fronds which might be damaged or dying back.
Polystichum tsussimense is another super fern to include if you’re planting a terrarium, bottle garden, vivarium, or other indoor garden. So far this pretty fern has yet to be eaten by the snails that reside inside this terrarium.
This Aerangis specimen has also suffered damage from the tiny snails inside this terrarium. This Aerangis specimen has had a number of new leaves eaten completely, or damaged by the snails.
I wish this Aerangis looked in better health. I should so like to see this miniature orchid specimen bloom, so that I could correctly identify the plant, but each month this seems less and less likely and I wonder how much longer this miniature orchid will survive for.
Schoenorchis fragrans is the newest addition to this terrarium. I do hope that this miniature orchid will grow well inside my BiOrbAir terrarium.
This Ornithophora radicans specimen seems to have declined since I last observed it. Although this miniature orchid has produced lots of extended, healthy looking roots, the plant’s leaves have diminished rather a lot over the past month.
This Barbosella australis specimen is also isn’t thriving and has yet to flower in my care.
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. Sadly this Restrepia seketii specimen isn’t the most floriferous of my Restrepias. This lovely miniature orchid produced a beautiful flower last month, which has only recently faded, this was the first bloom that this plant has produced since April 2016, ten months ago now. I have my fingers crossed that this Restrepia seketii specimen will produce a great many blooms in the coming months.
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 has also been the subject of a recent snail feast.
This Restrepia sanguinea specimen has just finished flowering.
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 flowered! I am surprised that this keiki has remained as one, attached to its mother plant for so long.
When the weight of the growing keiki eventually dislodges the baby plant away from its mother, I shall mount the young Restrepia sanguinea plant onto a fresh piece of cork bark.
Lepanthopsis astrophora ‘Stalky’
This Lepanthopsis astrophora ‘Stalky’ specimen is now flowering again. I say ‘again’, although this particular specimen’s flowering has been ongoing since September 2016, it’s just that the number of open blooms has been decreasing since January 2017. Over the past couple of weeks I have been enjoying observing the number of flower buds and open flowers produced by this dear little miniature orchid increasing again.
The flowers produced by this Stelis muscifera specimen are now sadly fading fast. I am not certain of the exact number of days that these Stelis muscifera flower buds have opened. I personally witnessed this Stelis muscifera specimen’s flowers closing on just two occasions.
Although the BiOrbAir’s LED are set to be the same colour temperature as daylight, I assume that this miniature orchid needs a greater degree of real, natural daylight in order to flower well, but I will continue to observe this miniature orchid, along with the other plants that are included inside this terrarium, and keep you updated on their progress and development.
The tiny snails that are residing inside this terrarium have caused a great deal of damage to nearly all of the miniature orchids and ferns that are growing inside this terrarium.
I am now concentrating my efforts, as I endeavour to remove these snails from this terrarium. I have now placed some pieces of cucumber inside this terrarium, which I hope will attract these tiny snails, and will I hope have the additional benefit of making the snails easier to remove from the terrarium, as I will hopefully be able to remove the cucumber pieces complete with snails in one move . Fingers crossed!
Terrarium Snail Update
The cucumber slices were lifted out of this terrarium on the evening of the 14th February 2017, ten tiny snails were removed from this terrarium on these pieces of cucumber. The cucumber slices were then reinstalled inside this terrarium.
The cucumber slices were next removed on the morning of the 15th February 2017, when eight tiny snails were removed from this terrarium. Again the cucumber slices were reinstated inside the terrarium. On the evening of the 15th February 2017, ten tiny snails were removed from this terrarium. The cucumber slices were then placed back inside the terrarium. On the 16th February 2017, six more tiny snails were removed from this terrarium. On the 22nd February 2017, seven tiny snails were removed from this terrarium on the slices of cucumber. The cucumber slices were then again reinstalled inside this terrarium.
On the 23rd February 2017, eight tiny snails were removed from the cucumber slices that had been placed inside this terrarium. Again the cucumber slices were reinstalled back inside the terrarium. Two tiny snails were removed from the cucumber slices on the 25th February 2017.
25th February 2017
Lepanthopsis astrophora ‘Stalky’
Lepanthopsis astrophora ‘Stalky’ continues to delight me with its beautiful, dainty, star-shaped flowers.
This Restrepia seketii specimen is producing a new flower.
To continue reading this BiOrbAir review and plant trial, and go straight to the next instalment, 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.
To read about the Orchid Extravaganza 2017 at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, 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.