It’s hard not to be impressed with David Latimer’s garden-in-a-bottle, which he started in 1960, and is still going strong. So strongly, in fact, that he hasn’t watered it since 1972!
To look at this flourishing mass of plant life you’d think David Latimer was a green-fingered genius. Truth be told, however, his bottle garden – now almost in its 53rd year – hasn’t taken up much of his time. In fact, on the last occasion he watered it Ted Heath was Prime Minister and Richard Nixon was in the White House. 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.
Photosynthesis creates oxygen and also puts more moisture in the air. The moisture builds up inside the bottle and ‘rains’ back down on the plant. The leaves it drops rot at the bottom of the bottle, creating the carbon dioxide also needed for photosynthesis and nutrients which it absorbs through its roots. It was Easter Sunday 1960 when Mr Latimer thought it would be fun to start a bottle garden ‘out of idle curiosity’. He said: ‘At the time the chemical industry had changed to transporting things in plastic bottles so there were a lot of glass ones on the market. ‘Bottle gardens were a bit of a craze and I wanted to see what happened if you bunged the thing up.’