On Easter Sunday of 1960, David Latimer planted a seed of spiderwort (or Tradescantia in Latin) in a glass bottle purely out of curiosity of what would happen. He began the experiment by pouring compost into an old globular wine bottle and carefully sewing the spiderwort seeds into it using a long wire. After adding a pint of water to the mix, Latimer then placed the bottle in a sunny corner of his home and let life’s process take over.
Aside from a single watering in 1972, the garden in a bottle has remained sealed and completely cut-off from fresh air and water for over 50 years. It continues to flourish and thrive by harnessing the sunlight that it receives through the glass and photosynthesizing it into the energy that it requires to grow. During this process, oxygen and trace amounts of moisture are produced within the bottle, slowly accumulating until it reaches a threshold at which point the moisture ‘rains’ down onto the plant and produces the self-sustaining ecological cycle that has kept it alive for decades.
Of the design, Garden designer and television presenter Chris Beardshaw said, “It’s a great example of the way in which a plant is able to recycle… It’s the perfect cycle of life.”
He went on to mention that this process is one reason why NASA developed an interest in taking plants into space.
“Plants operate as very good scrubbers, taking out pollutants in the air, so that a space station can effectively become self-sustaining,” he said. “This is a great example of just how pioneering plants are and how they will persist given the opportunity. The only input to this whole process has been solar energy, that’s the thing it has needed to keep it going. Everything else, every other thing in there has been recycled. That’s fantastic.”
“It’s 6ft from a window so gets a bit of sunlight,” said Mr Latimer, 83. “It grows towards the light so it gets turned round every so often so it grows evenly. Otherwise, it’s the definition of low-maintenance. I’ve never pruned it, it just seems to have grown to the limits of the bottle.”
It is astonishing what Earth’s plant life is capable of with nothing more than a little sunshine and some room to grow. Latimer hopes to either pass the bottled rainforest along to his children or, should they not want it, give it to the Royal Horticultural Society. Below, you can find a couple of photographs of Latimer’s ‘experiment’ as well as a short clip that offers some helpful information about starting your own home terrarium. (h/t: daily mail)