Wednesday, February 21, 2024
Aquascaping is the real new ‘edge’

Modern plant growing for the home?

By Clive Larkman

We have been growing plants for food and home for thousands of years. I am not sure when we started growing plants as indoor decorations but it has been for a few centuries. Indoor plants are of course just outdoor plants with a greater tolerance of low light and low air movement. Most come from tropical or sub-tropical regions and are usually selected for their foliage rather than their flowers. When grown well, they can turn a boring loungeroom or bedroom into an oasis of green.

Indoor plants do many things for the quality of life in the house, office and any other building where people live and work. Their beauty and greenness bring serenity and peace to the room. At the same time, they keep us connected with nature and the outside world. However, they also help clean the air of nasty toxins and impurities. Like most plants they take in CO2 and produce O2, making the air even healthier.

Over the past five years, there has been a resurgence in indoor plants. Succulents have been a real hit for a decade or more but now it is the aroids and similar plants. The last time they were so popular, the internet was just making its way into modern society. They were grown by specialist nurserymen in expensive heated glass houses. New varieties were basically grown from seed, collected in the Australian bush or occasionally imported from Asian growers.

This time around, the internet has enabled collectors to see what is trending around the world. It has also allowed them to order plants direct from wild collectors and breeders overseas. Many have been burnt trying to get around Australia’s quarantine laws. Others have tried to do it legally and lost the plants from the required treatments. Even so, the palette available to modern indoor growers is growing and exciting. It is generating a love of plants in a new range of enthusiasts.

So what is next?

Aquascaping and Paludariums are what is cutting-edge. Basically, they are a new wave of aquariums and terrariums using water, sand and general landscaping principles. They can be made with a mixture of different inputs. They all use water and plants in some form e.g, fog but may also include fish, frogs, reptiles, snails and other organisms. 

Paludariums take the old-fashioned terrarium to the next level. In general, they are more tall than wide, and have a layer of sand and rocks on the bottom. The inclusions have a range of heights with the lower parts covered with water. Higher on the back of the container, large rocks and/or branches are positioned to give a vertical perspective. The whole vessel is then planted out with a range of climbers, leafy plants and riparian plants. A small fogging machine is hidden in the upper foliage to create a tropical feel. Then, depending on the design, fish and frogs or snails can be added.

Aquascaping is the real new ‘edge’ and can be best described as underwater bonsai. The Australian designers are world class and their designs are just stunning. There are a few basic types but are not ‘set and forget’ as they do need regular maintenance and trimming, with the actual time requirement dependent on the style and plant selection. One form is an extension of the home aquarium with less fish and more plants. They are planted in swathes of colour, height and form to create an underwater garden. A well-balanced design will not require much cleaning but may need weekly trimming as the plants can grow quickly. These are similar to the traditional ‘cottage garden’ with foliage instead of flowers for colour.

Another more serious form takes several days to construct and has all the principles of a well laid out formal garden. As the display is built, it starts with a layer of sand followed by a collection of rocks, branches and other hard inputs to give perspective and structure. There may be tunnels, small cliffs, dips and whatever the designer can imagine. Like a real garden, once the hard landscaping is in place the plants are ‘planted’, which is usually done using an inert glue. Finally, the tank is filled with water. If fish are included, they are usually small and are there to add another dimension. They are not the main focal point in the tank.  

Aquascapes are usually designed to be viewed from the from the front but some also look great from above, the end or even the rear.

Do an internet search or if possible, go to an Aquascaping display to be amazed by this new trend.

Main photo: The palette available to modern indoor growers is growing and exciting

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