To be a botany buff on Instagram is to have instant access to an endless supply of “serenity now” moments. Radish hauls à la Valencia. Cactus flowers à la Walden. And don’t even get us started on all the peony porn.
It was on Instagram that we stumbled onto the wondrous work of Ms. Katie O’Dare. Her new Knees of Leaves brand of eco art includes a wondrous collection of necklaces with tiny terrariums for pendants — miniature glass jars containing moss (like marimo straight from Japan, suspended in water) and stones (like amethyst) flanked by winsome charms (deer, seashells, teapots). The online store opened only a few weeks ago, but the brand’s 5,000+ Instagram followers seem to indicate that a chord has been struck. And yes, we were among the legions in her comments section begging to be notified when the shop finally launched.
Launch it did, and C ended up buying a butterfly-inspired style that is now — literally! — close to her heart. Last week we caught up with Katie, an Orlando-based digital artist by day, and asked her via email about the joys of terrarium tending, about growing up on an organic farm, and why marimo moss is so darn special.
What inspired you to start designing terrariums big and small?
I started out making full-size terrariums after reading a cool 1960s gardening book. A local vintage and handmade shop in Orlando, called Etoile Boutique asked me to start selling them. Going into Etoile and looking at all their super cute fashion inspired me to do something that people could wear. Thus, the terrarium necklace was born.
I created an Instagram for Knees on Leaves to let people in Orlando know when I was bringing in new goodies. I was surprised to see the huge global response I was getting and created an online store. My vision is to continue to grow Knees on Leaves and share the living energy with everybody!
What exactly grows inside your micro ecosystems?
For my full-size terrariums I use assorted succulents and ivy, but for the terrarium necklaces I think it is best to use moss. I use a variety of different mosses to create unique textures. I choose moss because it is the easiest plant to care for. The tiny jungles are perfectly balanced and do not need any attention after I seal their jars. I also use marimo moss balls for my miniature aquarium necklaces. I started using these cool little creatures from Japan because they live for upwards of 150 years and bring good luck to the wearer.
Did you grow up among plants?
My Dad had an organic farm when I was a little one, and my sister and I would help plant seeds and harvest veggies. Also, my Mom always kept fresh flowers in our home. I think the mix of the two definitely ignited my plant passion. In my apartment I mostly have terrariums because I’m not that good about remembering to water regular houseplants. Terrariums just need a little love and I’ve got plenty of that to give. Outside, I have a succulent garden and I propagate new succulents for my tiny jungles.
And where did the name come from?
Knees on Leaves came to me while I was literally outside planting succulents on my knees. When I stood up, a bunch of leaves and sticks stuck to my knees. I liked how the words rhymed and felt like it would be a great name because it sounds a little racy.
How do you feel when you wear your necklaces or look into your tabletop parks?
I feel proud. I’m so happy that I’ve started doing something that makes others happy. I am digital designer and having the opportunity to create something with my hands instead of a mouse is so rewarding. The satisfaction I get when I look at one of my nature collages after it is complete is really gratifying.
So, where does Tucker fit into all this?
Tucker is my beagle buddy. He goes on long walks with me through Florida’s forests. I feel so safe with him, he is my little protector. He’ll sniff out the coolest succulents around (usually to nibble on the leaves!) and I take clippings of them for my succulent garden. We also pull fresh air plants from oak trees and use those for the terrarium kits I sell on my site.
How do you care for your necklaces?
My terrarium necklaces don’t require any plant care, just remember that they are glass bottles, so do be careful. The marimo ball aquarium necklaces will grow over time and like sunlight.
What are some unexpected benefits to wearing a terrarium?
My terrarium necklaces are oozing with good vibes and living energy. I think wearing something alive brings you that little extra spunk. Nature is around us everywhere, but when you can hold a little world in your hand, you’re bound to smile.