Terrariums: Victorian Storytelling under Glass

I’m delighted to welcome steampunk author Nikki Woolfolk to my blog.  She’s just released The Men of Summerly, a sweet and steamy romance! She’s dropped into the salon to talk about terrariums–a fine way of keeping a piece of the Victorian garden growing even when things aren’t quite as “summerly” outside. Yes, bad pun. Smack me, but do read on …

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If green thumbs exist I am lacking in having one, but it doesn’t keep me from trying. My mum has the ability to make the most fragile plant grow even if it seems dead. When it comes to me I can kill a cactus in the desert. How sad is that?

Several years ago I decided to try my hand again at growing plants, but I needed something that was almost fool proof. At the time I had been living in a Second Empire Victorian home and I was trying to understand the era in which my house had been built. I stumbled across many Victorian ways of gardening including creating Terrariums.

On the East coast the winters can get pretty harsh so what better way to keep the vibrancy of Spring in the Winter than with a plant in a glass case?

The more I read the more I fell in love with the idea of creating my own terrariums. The beauty is that you can keep plants and moss flourishing while creating a scene inside of your creative glass jar or cloche. As a storyteller by trade this tickles me. Soon I began dreaming up scenes from my favorite novels and trying to figure out how to recreate that one moment in a tiny terrarium. It sounds simple unless you are like me and have fish stick size fingers and not the delicate digits I longed for as a kid. Nevertheless, I’ve found creating terrariums to be quite relaxing and allows me to take a break from my writing whenever I find myself stumped.

This relaxing pastime has spilled into my writing and became something my “prince”, in my newest Steampunk novella THE MEN OF SUMMERLY, uses as a way to settle his nerves from his daily tasks as a trade envoy. In a world filled with steam, gadgets, gears and goggles there’s something quite grounding in playing with nature, manually cross pollinating orchids and building terrariums. In regards to the meaning of plants the orchid, in all its delicacy, is a symbol of the beauty of life even if fragile. When you understand the symbolic meanings of plants and flowers it opens up a whole new world of how you view a terrarium scene.

The British trade envoy, Simon Leatherby, fills his rare downtime from a day scheduled with meetigns to attend to his terrarium, but even in creatign a perfect world under glass the outside world has different plans. Here’s an excerpt of Simon, the British trade envoy, finally getting some downtime from a hectic day.


The high summer sunlight from the open window illuminated the round glass work of art Simon created in the center of the table. The environment made of miniscule plants, stones, moss and delicate porcelain figurines was one that he had completed months before arriving in the States. He had tended to the creation across the ocean on the ship, and then over the mountains on the airship. This was the world he had created inspired by Shakespeare’s play, Titania asleep beside a donkey headed Bottom. “I know a bank where the wild thyme blows, Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows, Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine, With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine.”

If the winds of fortune had blown a different way, Simon believed he could have had great joy as a botanist owning a terrarium business. Family pressure led him down a different path. To have taken up a trade would have been a slap in the face to his fortunate birth as a black man in this day and age.

Simon put on his loupe and adjusted it until it magnified his view of the Cymbidium Orchid within the ecosystem he had created. He adjusted the tweezers to pollinate manually the exotic flower hoping to create a hybrid. He loved seeing the beauty of change, nature evolving. He loved being a part of creation.

Henri cleared his throat. “I beg your pardon, Leatherby, but there is a matter that needs your attention.”

Simon sighed and removed the loupe. “Herrison, I cannot abide any more visitors.”

“No, sir. It is not that. Apparently this town has never been the host of the person of your position and though they have been informed to make your extended visit hospitable I believe they misunderstood.”


Henri’s nervous mustache bristled. “Sir, I have been listening to what people have been saying, and I have noticed a change in the types of gifts we are receiving.”


“I believe the town of Stubborn has mistakenly thought that the town’s resources of gas and coal aren’t the only things up for negotiation. And I am afraid we are going to require more space…”

Simon’s brows furrowed. “Speak plainly, man.”

“I believe the town intends on finding you a spouse.”

Simon fell backwards into the chair and raised his hand to his head.


Clearly, the town will challenge Simon’s desire for quiet. Though as he’ll learn that though gorgeous to look at, there’s a message and a world beyond the glass terrarium that is one of hope, beauty, and magic. What story do you tell in your terrarium?


bookCover_big_withBleedTradition is as quaint tradition does.

So thinks British trade envoy Simon Leatherby as he settles into his temporary home in the mountains of Stubborn, West Virginia, to negotiate an equitable export trade agreement. As the guest of honor at the annual Midsummer Night’s Dream Costume Ball, Simon is charmed by the beauty of this rugged country and matchmaking townsfolk, but only business is on his mind.

Ashland “Ash” Gottschalk, a sweet tempered glassblower, is caught up in a horrible set of circumstances, no thanks to an evil manager and his two wicked assistants heaping abuse on all the downtrodden workers of the Pantoufle Glass Factory. With a clever plan, borrowed items, and a touch of magic, Ash’s friends transform the kind cinderfella into a proper gentleman for one stolen evening at the ball.

A chance meeting at the celebration turns into a magical evening to remember as Ash and Simon meet their match. When the clock strikes midnight and the mysterious Ash disappears as suddenly as he appeared, Simon moves heaven and earth to seek out the keeper of the glass trinket left behind on that starry night.

Will Simon find his ‘prince’ before time runs out or will the evil management’s last cruel trick destroy his happy ending with Ash?

Find The Men Of Summerly HERE on Amazon.com


Nikki Woolfolk grew up with her southern father’s good cooking and tall-tales and her mother’s science fiction loving influence early Silicon Valley. In 2013, a friend challenged her to mix her two loves, science and writing, to create a romance novella. Considering herself more nerd than a romantic, Nikki wrote her version of a romance in which she gets to “have a parkour chase scene, blow sh*t up, and make sure the good guy and gal get the girl” with food on the side when the adventures work up an appetite.

Nikki lives in New England with her son and her partner and is working on the next book with more original recipes for the Steampunk Romance Sweet & Steamy series. For more details go to her blog: thedrunkenmousse.wordpress.com or find her on Twitter!








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