To look at this flourishing mass of plant life you’d think David Latimer had a magical green thumb. Truth be told, his bottle garden, now almost in its 53rd year hasn’t taken up much of his time. In fact, on the last occasion he watered it Ted Heath was Prime Minister and Richard Nixon was in the White House.
Pensioner David Latimer planted his seedlings in a 10 gallon glass container and gave it a last quarter of a pint of water in 1972 before sealing it shut as an experiment. For the last 40 years it has been completely sealed off from the outside world. But the indoor variety of spiderworts (or Latin name, Tradescantia,) within has thrived, filling its globular bottle with healthy foliage.
Mr. Latimer now 80 said; “It’s 6ft from a window so gets a bit of sunlight. It grows towards the light so it gets turned round every so often so it grows evenly. Otherwise it’s the definition of low-maintenance. I’ve never pruned it, it just seems to have grown to the limits of the bottle.”
It was Easter Sunday in 1960 when Mr. Latimer thought it would be fun to start a bottle garden out of idle curiosity. He said: “At the time the chemical industry had changed to transporting things in plastic bottles so there were a lot of cheap glass ones on the market.” At that time bottle gardens were a craze and Mr. Latimer wanted to see what happened if he tried growing one himself.
The bottle stands on display under the stairs in the hallway of his home in Cranleigh, Surrey. The same spot it has occupied for 27 years after he and his wife Gretchen moved from Lancashire when he retired as an electrical engineer.
His bottle garden was revealed to the world when he took a photograph of it into BBC Radio 4’s Gardeners’ Question Time and asked the panel of experts if it is ‘of scientific or horticultural interest’.
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.
How A Bottle Garden Works
Bottle gardens work because their sealed space creates an entirely self-sufficient ecosystem in which plants can survive by using photosynthesis to recycle nutrients.
The only external input needed to keep the plant going is light, since this provides it with the energy it needs to create its own food and continue to grow.
Light shining on the leaves of the plant is absorbed by proteins containing chlorophylls (a green pigment).
Some of that light energy is stored in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a molecule that stores energy. The rest is used to remove electrons from the water being absorbed from the soil through the plant's roots.
These electrons then become 'free' - and are used in chemical reactions that convert carbon dioxide into carbohydrates, releasing oxygen.
This photosynthesis process is the opposite of the cellular respiration that occurs in other organisms, including humans, where carbohydrates containing energy react with oxygen to produce carbon dioxide, water, and release chemical energy.
But the eco-system also uses cellular respiration to break down decaying material shed by the plant. In this part of the process, bacteria inside the soil of the bottle garden absorbs the plant's waste oxygen and releasing carbon dioxide which the growing plant can reuse.
And, of course, at night, when there is no sunlight to drive photosynthesis, the plant will also use cellular respiration to keep itself alive by breaking down the stored nutrients.
Because the bottle garden is a closed environment, that means its water cycle is also a self-contained process.
The water in the bottle gets taken up by plants’ roots, is released into the air during transpiration, condenses down into the potting mixture, where the cycle begins again.
Mr. Latimer’s garden in a bottle is just another way to make a terrarium. Terrarium’s are fun to make and are very low maintenance. They don’t cost a lot to make and maintain, although it’s prudent to pick out a good container to plant it in. After all, it will be the plant’s home for a lifetime.
Source for story quotes and story idea-Daily Mail UK
Keep On Bloggin’!