In Conversation with Emma Sibley - London Terrariums

Emma Sibley

Back in September we met Emma Sibley in her beautiful Terrarium shop and studio, on New Cross Road in South East London. We caught up to find out all about how London Terrariums came about and the workshops and interior displays they offer. Read on to find out more and see how terrariums are made!

Can you tell us a little about yourself and London Terrariums?

I am the owner of London Terrariums, a South London based Terrarium studio/shop. We run workshops both in the shop and all over London as well as corporate and team building events teaching people about the history and science of these miniature ecosystems and how to make them.

Where does your passion for terrarium making stem from?

So I started LT about 5 years ago and it basically started out of the love of gardening but not having a garden in London so a few friends and myself started making bottle gardens! It quickly became very addictive and before I knew it my hobby had turned into a job! It has all been a very organic process, there was never a business plan or even an education in horticulture it has all been self-taught and every single day has brought something new to learn about running a business.

Emma Sibley

What creative process do you go through when making terrariums and what inspires you?

The first decision is which vessel to use to make, my favourite is our Boiling Flask, we get these from a laboratory supplier so we know the glass is strong enough they also come on lovely hand cast concrete/jesmonite bases. The next decision is which plants to use, my personal favourite is all green, ferns, lots of moss, Ivy, Ficus Pumilla. I get surrounded by what we see around and I am forever taking cuttings and testing things out in terrariums. I have so many little jars of moss, which sounds weird but honestly they are some of my favourite possessions!

Where do you source the beautiful elements that make up your terrariums?

We source most of our plants and moss from New Covent Garden Flower Market in Battersea, most of the smaller vessels we get from a wholesale company in Germany and the large Carboy vessels are all second hand and antique.

Emma Sibley

Can you tell us more about the workshops you run and the interior displays you create?

So we run workshops for all ages at all locations! Some we run at the lovely SMUG in Islington, this is a beautiful shop and only holds 6 people for workshops so it is very chilled, we all sit around with cups of tea and learn, to the other extreme we have held a workshop with Adidas in which we were teaching 60 people to make terrariums - rather more chaotic! But basically our workshops consist of a brief intro into the history and science behind terrariums followed by a demo on how to make them and then the rest of the session is up to everyone else to get stuck in and make their own! We recently did a residency at the & Other Stories store in Covent Garden and that was great as we got to create displays throughout the store as well as one of the front windows!

Why do you think indoor gardening has had such a renaissance in recent years?

I really think it is a mixture of a few things, people are becoming much more conscious of the world around us, green living has taken hold. Reconnecting with nature when you are working in an office all day staring at a screen has become so important, that's why our workshops are so busy I think. As well as this, city living not only means many people are lacking a garden it also means that due to the curse that is 'generation rent' people are moving around from place to place much more and plants become that constant wherever you go to.

Emma Sibley

What does a typical working day look like for you?

The most strenuous days start with a dawn trip to New Covent Garden Flower Market and end with a workshop - those are long days and sometimes happen a few times a week. In between you can find me in the shop, often with Walnut making terrariums or catching up with emails.

How do you make your clothes work for you and your busy lifestyle?

I have quite a good separation of work clothes and not work clothes, mainly due to the fact I like white and cream things and these do not work well when I am at the shop, forever getting covered in compost! Things to wear at the shop need to be warm and comfy, it's all about many layers and roll necks especially in this weather as we don't have heating!

What are your go-to wardrobe staples

Something with many pockets! Jackets, trousers as long as they have pockets usually filled with receipts, lone bank cards and dog kibbles!

Emma Sibley

And finally...
If I wasn't running London Terrariums... I would probably still be working in digital design/ecommerce.
The best thing about my job... Getting to meet so many great people at workshops and being part of this new wave of gardeners. Everyone is so friendly and welcoming but not many of us have had any formal training so we all feel pretty fraudulent!
My favourite plant... Monstera Obliqua
My ideal breakfast...I am definitely a pancakes kind of girl! Oh and crumpets!
Words to live by... Only do it if you are happy.
On my Christmas list... The Gourmand Dog eat Dog calendar.
My favourite London hangout... Eating St Johns doughnuts from Maltby Street and walking around Nunhead Cemetery with Walnut.

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Photography by Jutta Klee @juttaklee
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