Gardens in glass: Denny Mo mimics landscapes in miniature

14 May 2017 - 02:00 By Roberta Thatcher
"There are no limits to what you plant inside your terrarium," says Danny Mo (pictured).
"There are no limits to what you plant inside your terrarium," says Danny Mo (pictured).
Image: Dillon Kin

Cape Town designer Denny Mo specialises in creating modern terrariums, or as he describes them "carefully crafted forests housed in geometric glass". He tells us more

I named my businessAngles and Earth. "Angles" represents the glass, as all my glass is cut in straight lines at different angles, depending on the shape. "Earth" because I don't plant plants in pots. I plant a little piece of the earth into the terrarium instead.

I designed the logo myself, and shortened the name to Ae, because people kept calling me Angels+Earth, which kind of made me sound like I was starting a unicorn cult.


I opened my new store in November 2016. The space brings together my passion for plants, landscapes and geometric shapes. I'm always adding bits and pieces - I recently got my hands on some Spanish Moss and hung it. I don't think there's any other job out there that would let me buy all the plants I want.

My store is located in lower BoKaap. I love the area as the community is so caring. There's also a lot of drama in the neighbourhood, which keeps me entertained. The broadcasted Muslim prayers bring a sense of peace to the shop. My dog Cabbage helps to ward off zombies that come wandering in. He's no threat, really, on his worst day he'll just lick you to death.

My terrariums are carefully crafted forests housed in geometric glass. The first terrarium I planted was in October 2012, and since then I've been experimenting. I failed many times, but never gave up. I consulted orchid experts, university professors and even visited the Bio-dome in Singapore to further this art and share it with the world. I've never stopped working to improve my art. I'm still a student of nature and continue to learn and better my art.

My "wallscapes" or wall-mounted terrariums are new, and this year they have really taken off. It's been great to break away from the four-sided frames we are so used to and give people a chance to frame something new. As they don't have a drainage base, they're limited to certain types of succulents or air plants. But you could also use them as a floating vase - just add fresh flowers.


Denny's tips for planting up a terrarium

• There are no limits to what you plant inside your terrarium. We have conquered desert, woodland and rivers. The key to building a long-lasting terrarium is to understand the environment and plants you are growing, and replicate this within the glass.

• A layer of pebbles at the bottom of the container assists with soil drainage. Activated charcoal filters the water during condensation and evaporation, providing a healthy environment in which plants can thrive.

• Planting is my favourite part of creating a terrarium, as it allows me to be creative and take my time in perfecting the details. If you buy one of my empty terrariums and want to plant it yourself, I find it helps to have a few pictures on hand of the landscape you want to create. Some advice: don't cram everything in. Ensure you leave enough space for the plants to breathe.