There’s something about glass jars that has always held a sense of magic for people. They’re solid but transparent, they’re made of lasting material and can stay intact for ages, and you can close them so tightly that everything inside is sealed off from the world. What haven’t people tried to do with glass jars? Many have famously put letters inside to sail out to the open sea, or buried them with memorabilia from the past hoping it will be dug up in the future. Others make art inside that seems to defy physics. But David Latimer had by far one of the most unique ideas.
David didn’t know exactly what his plan was for this particular glass jar – he had an idea, but nothing more. It was Easter Sunday of 1960, and David was holding a spiderworts seed – something that has been believed to help with health concerns from cancer to your everyday stomachache. He wanted to make this seed grow, but there wasn’t a garden in sight, or anywhere to start one, so he wondered how to do it. Suddenly, the bottle seemed worth a try.
David knew about composting already, and regretted not living in an area where it could be more useful. But he decided putting some inside the bottle was as good a place to start as any, wondering how the glass would affect the natural combination of sunlight and water. Burying the seed into the little compost pile and giving it one watering, he closed the bottle and left it in the sunlight to nature’s natural course.
What happened over the next several decades was just amazing. Through the insulated moisture and energy sourced from the light (photosynthesis), the bottle garden transformed into a mini ecosystem that could sustain itself. Moisture heats and cools inside of the bottle, rising to the top as gas and falling back down on the plant as rain. The rotting leaves produce carbon dioxide inside. The death, decay, and rebirth of plant parts could all function normally – even thrive – in this sealed bottle with just a little moisture and light. And the bottle was not opened even once. Nature wins again.