These little terrariums planted with succulents and cacti are one of our most popular bits when The Spring Shop pops up at weekend markets. As a result I've become a bit of a deft hand at gardening in very tight spaces. Since we first began stocking our range of hand-blown glass terrariums I've been playing with different methods of creating what looks to me like a verdant thought bubble... And today I'm finally ready to share my tried and tested recipe for getting it right.

The first thing to know is that little cacti and ground covering succulents with a shallow root system work best.

Since cacti like to hug their roots in tight, I nestle them into a bed of pebbles still encased in the tiny plastic pot they've grown up in. The next step is to cover with sand to get a decorative dessert scene going (one teaspoon tipped around the cactus as a time) then add in a few shells and pretty stones to complete the look.

If you're a succulent lover, the key is still to start with a base of pebbles for drainage so your little plants won't suffer wet feet. On top of the rocks add a layer of succulent potting soil (or a mix of one part regular potting soil to one part builders sand). Snip a few tendrils of ground covering succulent and wriggle them into the soil then, like with any other planting, drizzle them with a few teaspoons of water to get them settled in. Cover with decorative pebbles and enjoy!  Cacti like a teaspoon of water once a month, succulents like the same amount every two weeks.

Catherine Roberts