Create your own incredible underwater wonderland with this Norwich shop
- Credit: Archant
The aquascaping trend is growing – but what exactly is it?
During lockdown, many of us turned to caring for our gardens as means of switching off and having a break from the news cycle. But if you haven’t got any outside space, or if you’re finding an afternoon in the garden less enticing as autumn sets in, there’s no need to miss out of the benefits of growing and nurturing plants.
Houseplants have never been more popular – a quick search of Instagram returns 4.7m hits with the hashtag #houseplants. But a shop in Norwich can help you take it to the next level.
Scaped Nature, in St Giles Street, specialises in aquascaping and naturescaping.
Described by shop owner Ray McCune as “an artform”, aquascaping is about creating beautiful, plant-filled environments to keep your fish in – the days of decorating your tank with a plastic novelty castle are long gone.
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“It’s a hobby which enables people to connect and enjoy the beauty of nature indoors,” says Ray. “It brings together a love of nature and plants together with fish keeping,” he explains.
Ray discovered aquascaping when he was setting up a fish tank for his young son.
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“Whenever we’d go into a pet store, he’d get excited about the fish. I didn’t know anything about fish keeping until I started setting up the tank.”
Ray came across aquascaping videos by the likes of George Farmer and Green Aqua, which is based in Hungary, on YouTube and soon found himself immersed in his new hobby creating underwater wonderlands.
“When I saw what some people were creating, after I set up my son’s tank I got another one and did one for myself and a little while later I got another one,” he says.
“It’s a very mindful activity. When you are working on your tank, you are not thinking about anything else. You’re in the moment and there are a lot of benefits in terms of mental health. It’s got the caretaker role to it – it’s very nourishing looking after it and it’s a very interactive thing, something that evolves over time and is always changing, it’s really engaging.”
Ray’s wife, Gill, a natural health therapist with a particular interest in women’s health, enjoys making terrariums, miniature gardens in bottles and jars, and kokedama, a type of Japanese hanging basket which can be displayed indoors or outdoors.
And they decided to open Scaped Nature to pass on their passions to others. George Farmer and Green Aqua provided advice along the way and the shop opened in January 2019.
“I had left my previous job and had been a full-time Dad and it was time to go back to work,” says Ray. “And a lot of people have got into the hobby as a result of coming into the store.”
They stock tanks and cabinets, lighting, rock and wood decorative items and plant care products – and plants, of course.
For inspiration, tanks are on display in the shop, and they’re very happy to chat and provide advice.
“Anubias, Bucephalandra, Microsorum and mosses are all very popular groups of plants in aquascaping,” says Ray. “There are many different varieties of these plants and they’re all classified as easy, meaning they’re relatively undemanding in terms of light and CO2. This means they can be grown in low or high energy tanks. They’re also epiphyte plants which means they are attached to rock or wood and have no need for soil making them very versatile in all sorts of layouts.
“Some of the most popular plants we use to create terrariums are small ferns, marginal grasses, fittonia, mosses and the occasional ficus ginseng in larger layouts,” he continues. “We find these plants work well together, enjoying the same conditions (high humidity and moist soil) while having contrasting colours and textures. Most of our terrariums make use of bun or cushion moss because of its neat, ornamental look.”
While Ray describes having to close the shop in March as “a bit of a scary time”, they were able to move their focus to the web.
“Luckily we found that online came to the rescue and started to compensate for the sales. During lockdown people who were already into it started spending more time on their tanks, which really helped us. I think a lot of people found it a therapeutic activity.”
Scaped Nature is open by appointment. Visit scapednature.com or phone 01603 761900 for information.