A Studio Ghibli Appreciation Bottle Garden

Well, it’s probably no secret that I love Studio Ghibli animes and their magical worlds and being. And I wanted to do a bottle garden for a while, the jar has been standing in the cellar for ages. A bottle garden is a close eco system, where the plants produce oxygen and carbohydrates that then gets consumed by the microorganisms that feed on the decaying plant matter. They’re an invention of 19th century botanists that needed to transport their precious plant samples by boat. The closed boxes don’t need water or fertilizer and there are some that are decades old.

I finally decided what I wanted to do with it and got some supplies, only to be foiled by transport damage. I love the kodama, the little tree spirits from Princess Mononoke  and happily ordered some on Etsy, only this is how they arrived:

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The seller promised quick replacement, but I didn’t want to wait because who could tell if I had time then, so I glued them back together. They’re extremely detailed gypsum casts, so I covered them with clear nail polish because I was afraid that otherwise they’d melt inside the bottle garden. Then I wanted a small dead twig from our old apple tree and ended up tearing off a big branch…

Next: assembling the garden. First layer: pebbles for drainage.

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I actually wanted to add a layer of clay substrate, but I couldn’t find it anymore. I won’t claim to have a photographic memory, but I have a very good memory for “where did I see this last”, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to deal with my chaos. Mr, not so much, and while I don’t blame him, it’s endlessly frustrating to know that he put something somewhere and him not even remembering that the thing exists. Well, the pebbles do the job anyway.  You could now add some charcoal, which I’m probably going to do retroactively.

Next: potting soil and plants.

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This is pretty moist and probably a thriving ecosystem already. I planted an offspring of one of my succulents and a semper vivum (next pic). those are not ideal plants for a bottle garden. We will see how they do. If they don’t thrive I need to remove the lid and keep watering them like ordinary plants (I only keep orchids and succulents indoors because I suck at watering them).


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Next step: Moss and decoration

I collected the moss from a tree stump in the garden. Did you know that by now you can by “moss for decorating” in the garden centre? Like, what?

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Sadly, taking the pics through the glass is, well. The light just refracts too much.

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I added some fairy lights by drilling through the lid and then sealing the hole with hot glue. Pics are even worse like this.

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They do look happy in their new home, don’t they? Now I got to balance the water and hope that they like it in there.



  1. brucegee1962 says

    Hey, I ordered those exact same kodama for my daughter’s plants! They arrived intact, although as I recall it took them about two months to get here (I think they were shipped from China).

  2. lumipuna says

    Re: Ghibli

    I almost noted on the recent “virus snowflake” posts that the concept reminded me of the giant fungal spores in Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind. That movie is wonderfully weird, and the original manga more so.

    Now, for the next project, you may consider setting up a miniature Sea of Decay in a closed glass jar…

  3. says

    I think they’re handmade by a small business in Berlin. I’d prefer getting my paws on the casts, though.


    Now, for the next project, you may consider setting up a miniature Sea of Decay in a closed glass jar…

    Oh, we regularly do that. We just call it “Damn, I told you to empty your school bag at the start of the holidays!”

  4. Ridana says

    How fun! I hope all the plants thrive!

    There’s an interesting bit of trivia regarding the movie poster for Totoro. It depicts a girl standing with Totoro at the bus stop, but that girl is not in the movie. This is what the scene from the movie looks like, showing both Satsuki and Mei.

    Apparently Totoro began as a children’s picture book, but for reasons, got expanded during its transition to anime, and the single girl became Satsuki and Mei. But when it came time to design the movie poster, Miyazaki couldn’t let go of his original vision and so we have the image seen in the poster.

  5. says

    I have no clue whatsoever what studio ghibli is, but this looks pretty and it does have an atmosphere. I hope the garden thrives.

  6. Jazzlet says

    Maidenhair fern (Adiantum sp.) ought to work, they love moist environments and don’t like to be disturbed, I don’t know if any are small eough, but environment has a huge effect on plant size so there would probably be at least one suitable secies. I love them, but I never wondered about the name until just now, apparently they produce an oil that can be used as a shampoo!

  7. says

    @Giliell, probably plants that tolerate high humidity would be more suitable for this. In a closed bottle, the humidity probably reaches an equilibrium at the higher end no matter how much/little water you put in.

    I had accidentally a stinging nettle growing in a fully closed soda bottle for one full year (details are weird and hard to explain). It did not grow much, it did not die either.

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