A Visit from the Terrarium Doctor

A dear friend gave us a terrarium as a wedding gift. The glass sphere holds an idealized image of James and I in a wood, with rocks, a stream, and animals. When you look at it closely, and see yourself in this beautiful setting, it’s magical.

Unfortunately, the reindeer moss on the edges of the cliff that miniature James and I, in our bridal finery, are standing on got moldy while we were away. We didn’t know what to do with our ailing biosphere, so we called in the terrarium doctor.

The doctor arrived with a box of moss, some tools that looked like they belonged in an operating room, and a spray bottle. The doctor is Michelle Inciarrano, the co-owner of Twig Terrariums, the two-woman team who made ours.

With calm precision, Michelle reached in with long tweezers and plucked out the ailing moss. In its place, she pressed in a section of furry, green sphagnum buds. Much of the plant life used in Twig’s creations is foraged from friends’ properties upstate, because the moss you can buy online is only “landscape quality,” often with dull coloring, and that’s not up to snuff for the perfect world of the terrariums.

A self-professed bryophile, aka moss enthusiast, Michelle had always loved crafting with her girlhood friend Katy Maslow. As adults, they began making terrariums. They made so many that they needed to sell some, so they set up shop at the Brooklyn Flea, where the Times saw them. They now have a thriving business.

Fabricating the miniscule details in the terrariums requires a delicate touch. Michelle pointed out tiny brown rabbits in ours that I hadn’t noticed, and gradations in the hair of the human figurines, which had been fastened on with epoxy.

As she left, Michelle warned us not to leave “her” (she sees all of the terrariums as her female children) in direct sunlight, as that’s what had caused the mold. The moss needs water, but Michelle told us to mist the terrarium only once every three weeks. Her mantra: “Err on the side of under watering.” When the doctor packed up and left, we had a greater appreciation for our little treasure under glass.

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