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Mossy Mojo Terrariums creates sustainable environments in glass

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A resurgence in 1970s gardening trends has happened in the past few years. From rattan planters to macramé hangers, new gardeners have taken a shine to what we now consider “vintage” hobbies. This resurgence collided with the pandemic, which seemed to create the perfect storm for both outdoor and hip indoor gardens of the ‘60s and ‘70s.

During the pandemic, droves of people took up gardening as a way to find fulfillment with their extra time spent at home. This wasn’t just regulated to backyard vegetable gardens, though, as bringing the outdoors in was high on the priority list of those working from home.

I’ve noticed this swell of interest in indoor gardening has persisted — including obsessive interests in houseplants, seed starting and plant propagation, and my favorite — terrariums.

When you stop and think about it, terrariums are perhaps the most perfect way to bring nature into your home. With its own little ecosystem, a terrarium captures all the beauty and simplicity of nature, requiring little work on our end.

Over the course of the last year, a local couple has turned their love of building terrariums into a business. Mossy Mojo Terrariums is the brainchild of Moriah Gendy and Josh Myrick, a small, green business that aims to provide sustainable indoor gardens for their clientele.

Partners Gendy and Myrick are self-taught terrarium gardeners, a hobby that was sparked from Myrick’s experience creating and maintaining fish tank aquascapes. Learning to understand the biological filtration aspects of aquascapes sparked an interest in the terrestrial spectrum, as well.

“We’ve learned to do this over the years ourselves,” Gendy said. “It started as a hobby just enjoying it for the love of natural scapes. This is our first year selling, even though we’ve been making them for about four years. It grew slow at first, and then this year with the pandemic and being at home a lot, we really took it to the next level.”

Mossy Mojo has been a vendor at Winston-Salem Fairgrounds Farmers Market, Cobblestone Farmers Market and has participated in numerous craft fairs. The business also has a vendor space at Design Archives in downtown Winston-Salem.

Focused on closed system terrariums, Mossy Mojo use a variety of lidded glass jars and containers to create small living environments, which are completely self-sustaining.

“A closed system means that everything is self-contained,” Gendy said. “That’s why they all have their lids, nothing will ever escape. It has all the water it needs forever. People never have to water them because it is going through its own water cycle. Water evaporates and condensates inside the jar, then trickles back down. So it’s always self-recycling its own water.”

Each terrarium created by Gendy and Myrick is unique. From the glass container to the different plants used in the design, every finished terrarium is its own little work of art. The thing that each one does have in common is consistent layers, which are necessary for the function of the enclosed ecosystems.

“There’s really three compartments,” Myrick said. “You’ve got the open area for the plants; you’ve got your soil and you’ve got your drainage. The drainage is really important. Any excess water is sitting down in your drainage layer and your soil stays fresher longer.”

The drainage layer in Mossy Mojo Terrariums consists of pea gravel, which is topped with their own custom soil blend. Modeled after the lauded Atlanta Botanical Garden (ABG) terrarium substrate mix, Mossy Mojo’s soil blend is hand mixed to achieve a fluffy consistency with good water retention and efficient drainage. Some of the soil components include peat moss, coco coir, tree fern fiber and orchid bark.

Most of their finished terrariums are filled to about a third capacity with drainage pebbles and soil, and the rest of the open space contains moss and plants. This allows plenty of room for the plants to grow and stretch their legs. Gendy and Myrick regularly use begonias, nerve plants, ivy, polka dot plants and a variety of ferns.

Terrariums work well as closed systems for a variety of reasons. Obviously, the lids are imperative to keep in moisture. The drainage layer serves as a water reservoir, encouraging plant roots to seek moisture. And critical within these terrariums are tiny insects — springtails — which aid in decomposition of decaying plant material and mold.

“As you can imagine, these are very humid environments,” Gendy said. “So just like in nature, you do have decay that happens. These systems are bioactive, a combination of plant life and animal life. The animal life in the terrariums are springtail mites. They are a decomposer. They’re a super important element to this system.

“Springtails exclusively eat mold and decay. They don’t eat away at any of your live plants. It’s all a balanced system where it’s ebbing and flowing, just like you see in a forest.”

Gendy and Myrick have built Mossy Mojo Terrariums on a sustainable platform, sourcing all of their materials as locally as possible. They have modeled their business after their environmentally conscious personal principles, an admirable trait in a homegrown venture.

“In terms of a business perspective, we want to be as sustainable as possible,” Gendy said. “All of our jars we upcycle, and we really try not to buy new glass. We shop as much as we can locally, we go to a lot of vintage and antique stores.”

“We forage for our own moss, we do our own cuttings and propagate our own plants. We do occasionally buy plants, but we typically try to buy from local shops. And we try not to order online and ship. We try to have a small footprint.”

This keen focus on sustainability is incredibly important to Gendy and Myrick in all aspects of their personal and professional lives. To them, a terrarium is a perfect model of sustainability, one that they hope others can observe, reflect on and ultimately learn from.

“A terrarium is a small reminder in your life, in your home about what nature does on its own every day, without needing to be seen or heard,” Gendy said. “Nature is always reusing its own energy and recreating itself all the time. I think we can learn something from it.”

Amy Dixon is an assistant horticulturist at Reynolda Gardens of Wake Forest University. Gardening questions or story ideas can be sent to her at www.facebook.com/WSJAmyDixon or news@wsjournal.com, with “gardening” in the subject line. Or write to Amy Dixon in care of Features, Winston-Salem Journal, 418 N. Marshall St., Winston-Salem, NC 27101.

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