Friday, May 29, 2009

Wardian growing case for orchids

Modern homes and open-plan offices lend themselves very well to miniature indoor orchid greenhouses - the modern counterpart to 19th century's Wardian cases. They are available in great variety and styles to suit any location.  They are constructed either in traditional materials, using a wooden framework for the plate glass sides, or with stainless steel frames to suit a modern setting. 

This type of orchids growing may not satisfy the compulsive gardener, but it does enable orchid lovers with very limited time to have an aesthetically pleasing growing area with vast collection. A growing case is also the perfect answer for flat dwellers, or handicapped people who may not be able to go into the garden.  The attractive Wardian case with it's automatic heating and lighting in the picture was featured in one of the orchids shows.

The origins of Wardian cases go back to Victorian England. Horticulturists and wealthy patrons was hiring collectors to roam the world's remote regions in search of rare orchids. In the race to discover new species and stake claim to exclusive rights on behalf of their employers, collectors ransacked the sites and literally stripped bare vast areas of forest, so that certain species became rarer then ever. This collecting mania, together with the hazards of long-distance transportation inflated the value of precious plants beyond all reason. 

So, throughout 19th century there was a ridiculously heavy traffic in orchids. They were dispatched to Europe in their hundreds of thousands, carelessly and inappropriately packed, often destroyed by insects en route. Only a small proportion reached their destination in a more or less satisfactory condition. 

In 1860 important progress was made when the English horticulturalist Nathaniel Ward invented a closed glass case, virtually a portable greenhouse, in which orchids could be planted in moss or a slightly moist compost. The Wardian Case, as it was called, enabled orchids to be transported in far better conditions and these days this name used for special portable orchids greenhouses.


  1. I love that second one - if I had the room (and money).

  2. That's fascinating. I'd never heard of wardian cases before.

    It's the top one that interests me. Wouldn't it be good to have ones like that in modern shopping malls?


  3. Wardian cases come in many types and styles and yes, they would fit very well in shopping malls, offices, hotels, etc - anywhere where beautiful plants can be displayed to the public

  4. I love the Cases and your orchids. Thanks for picking my post.

  5. What an interesting post, Klara! Never heard about Wardian cases. I tried and failed to grow orchids. I love to look at yours!

  6. Intriguing post. I tried orchids when I lived in Brazil. Perhaps it is time to try again.