take to the sea terrarium

The coolest place to buy cacti in Toronto

Take to the Sea calls itself a terrarium design shop, which isn't exactly accurate, particularly if the term summons up memories of Grade 3 ecosystem-building exercises.

What they actually are is a new, sustainable floral design shop, using primarily succulents and cacti, as well glass and plastic containers (the latter which they design themselves), semi-precious stones which promote the growth of the plant, and an assortment of carefully-chosen add-ons. Confused? These sorts of shops, aimed at truly sustainable, low-maintenance designs, are taking off in Brooklyn and Portland.

toronto terrarium

The company operates out of a small, sun-filled studio above the current Sanagan's location in Kensington that's brimming with cacti and succulent clippings, containers waiting to be filled, and mason jars filled with moss. Run by Robin Clason and Nicholas Robins, the project was born out of an art installation. They're both artists by trade who were seeking a collaborative outlet--Nicholas works at Cold Tea, and also as an illustrator, while Robin recently graduated from OCAD.

take to the sea toronto

"The popularity of terrariums comes in waves," Nicholas says. "They blew up in the '70s, and now there's what we're doing, which is floral design terrariums." It's a great marriage of function and aesthetics. Pieces of Toronto worm their way into the terrariums--sand from Toronto beaches, crushed granite from streetcar tracks, and broken car glass--and it's unrecognizable in its re-purposed state.

take to the sea toronto

Nicholas comes from a horticultural background--his mother was a florist who turned away from the profession, finding it too disposable--and he nurtured clippings of succulents which they then placed in vessels they'd fabricated themselves, and hung them along a well-lit OCAD hallway in December of last year. The response was instantaneous.

take to the sea cacti

These are plants for people who routinely kill plants--low-maintenance, subtly beautiful, and equally appropriate as a houseplant, and as a statement piece. "The climate's a bit strange here," Nicholas tells me. If you want to keep your terrarium looking as it did when you took it home, exposing it to the outdoors--particularly in summer--is a bit of a crap shoot. You might end up with ambitious little cacti stems that overtake their vessels. Other than that simple rule, they only require three tablespoons of water per week (as instructed by the hand-printed care cards).

take to the sea kensington

The terrariums in hanging vessels (unsurprisingly) sell out very quickly, and there are none in stock when I stop by. The vessels are constructed by heating the plastic and allowing gravity to work on it, then once the desired shape is achieved, it's rapidly cooled and manipulated. It's allowed for some spectacular shapes, and next on their docket are glass-blowing lessons.

kensington floral

The price for a small-to-mid-sized terrarium is $35, while larger arrangements can cost up to $85. They also make small necklaces, suspending miniature stoppered bottles filled with moss or lichen, or stones.

take to the sea

"It's nice to get lost in these little worlds of plants and colours," Robin tells me, and I'm immediately dumbstruck by a highly improbable cacti, which can 'best" be described as the whorls of a brain painted on a stumpy green base. It's beautiful and surreal. "We get to share these otherworldly plants with people," Nicholas smiles. They recently made a sale to London (England), and outfitted the vessel with rootless plants and Egyptian stones for easy transportation.

take to the sea

The custom ordering process is done through e-mail, or you can stop by for a studio visit. Clients can either request specific plant types (currently only in the succulent, air plants and cacti families, many of which originate in South Africa), or give Robin and Nicholas a vague idea of what they'd like. The turnaround is amazing. You can drop off an order in the morning and easily pick it up by the afternoon.


Currently, they're available for purchase at the Drake General Store and the Tinsel and Sawdust design shop carry them for sale as well. Sweet Woodruff is set to carry them soon as well, they're planning to run workshops on how to make your own terrarium, and they're also planning a pop-up event for August.

"Cut flowers are so beautiful, but they're short-lived," Robin laments. "These can live on for years."

Their studio (208 Baldwin St.) is open by appointment only.

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