Thriving since 1960, my garden in a bottle: Seedling sealed in its own ecosystem and watered just once in 53 years
David Latimer first planted his bottle garden in 1960 and last watered it in 1972 before tightly sealing it shut ‘as an experiment’. The hardy spiderworts plant inside has grown to fill the 10-gallon container by surviving entirely on recycled air, nutrients and water.
For the last 40 years it has been completely sealed from the outside world. But the indoor variety of spiderworts (or Tradescantia, to give the plant species its scientific Latin name) within has thrived, filling its globular bottle home with healthy foliage. Yesterday Mr Latimer, 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.’
The bottle garden has created its own miniature ecosystem. Despite being cut off from the outside world, because it is still absorbing light it can photosynthesise, the process by which plants convert sunlight into the energy they need to grow.
He added that this process is one reason why NASA was interested in taking plants into space. ‘Plants operate as very good scrubbers, taking out pollutants in the air, so that a space station can effectively become self-sustaining,’ he said. ‘This is a great example of just how pioneering plants are and how they will persist given the opportunity. ‘The only input to this whole process has been solar energy, that’s the thing it has needed to keep it going. Everything else, every other thing in there has been recycled. That’s fantastic.’