‘I've got ten terrariums in my bedroom!’

A deep love of nature and wild plants so fuelled young Beth Otway’s desire to help protect the natural world she decided to grow miniature types of orchid inside her Surrey home.

Terrarium-maker and fanatical orchid grower from Surrey

Terrarium-maker and fanatical orchid grower from Surrey

Aerangis luteo-alba and Angraecum elephantinum

Aerangis luteo-alba and Angraecum elephantinum

Horticulturist and writer Beth started collecting miniature orchid species a few years ago, buying plants from specialist nurseries, the Orchid Society of Great Britain of which she’s a member and growers, especially the Writhlington School Orchid Project in Somerset, run by teacher Simon Pugh-Jones. Specialising in aerangis and angraecum from Africa and phalaenopsis from Asia, enterprising Beth grows most things in terrariums, repurposed from glass containers and vases, turning them into miniature plant worlds that mimic the cloud and rainforests in their native homelands. “I’ve so many terrariums, at least ten in my bedroom!” said Beth “I’ve designed some myself, fitting them with artificial illumination, ventilation fans and misting equipment.” It was soon after founding her collection that Beth joined conservation charity Plant Heritage, receiving National Plant Collection status in March 2018.

While the moth orchids or phalaenopsis we see for sale in garden centres are specially bred for the houseplant trade Beth developed her National Collection of miniature moth orchid species to help raise awareness of the threats and dangers these orchids face in the wild. “Many need our protection, as human expansion and activity has greatly impacted the natural world, with areas of forest or scrublands cleared for farming or industry,” she said. “Some plants have become extinct before they have even been discovered, recorded, or described, while others have become rarer as a consequence of human activity. Orchids could have a big potential for medicine, who knows what powers these little plants possess? It’s important to protect these fascinating plants and safeguard their future.”

How you can be a plant hero

You can help preserve unusual plants in your garden! The Plant Heritage charity works to conserve the nation’s garden plants through the National Plant Collection Scheme and Individual Plant Guardians, and is looking for Garden news readers to get involved with its crucial work.

Contact collections@plantheritage.org.uk for more information or visit www.plantheritage.org.uk.