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Garden in a bottle

Jul 12, 2013


David Latimer first planted his bottle garden in 1960 and last watered it in 1972 before tightly sealing it shut 'as an experiment'

The hardy spiderworts plant inside has grown to fill the 10-gallon container by surviving entirely on recycled air, nutrients and water

David Latimer was a green-fingered genius. Truth be told, however, his bottle garden – now almost in its 53rd years, the last occasion he watered it Ted Heath was Prime Minister and Richard Nixon was in the White House.

For the last 40 years it has been completely sealed from the outside world. But the indoor variety of spiderworts (or Tradescantia, to give the plant species its scientific Latin name) within has thrived, filling its globular bottle home with healthy foliage.

The bottle garden has created its own miniature ecosystem. Despite being cut off from the outside world, because it is still absorbing light it can photosynthesise, the process by which plants convert sunlight into the energy they need to grow.

Photosynthesis creates oxygen and also puts more moisture in the air. The moisture builds up inside the bottle and ‘rains’ back down on the plant.

The leaves it drops rot at the bottom of the bottle, creating the carbon dioxide also needed for photosynthesis and nutrients which it absorbs through its roots.

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

He hopes to pass on the ‘experiment’ to his grown-up children after he is gone.

If they do not want it, he will leave it to the Royal Horticultural Society.