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Gardening in Miniature

March 4, 2012

Browsing garden centers that specialize in miniature gardens gives one all sorts of ideas. I spent a snowy afternoon at K&W Greenery in Janesville, Wisconsin among their gardens.

Credit: Doreen G. Howard
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Soon I’ll be up to my elbows in dirt outdoors, cleaning up beds, spreading mulch and planting the first cool-weather veggies like cabbage, radishes and onions.  But, I’ll still tend my gardens in miniature, the ones that have kept me a happy person all winter indoors.

A terrarium, hanging air plants and assorted miniature gardens (including a fairy garden) have brightened windowsills and my heart through days of limited sunlight and the occasional snow.  Kids love them, too.

I started with a succulent, Blue Fingers (Senecio mandraliscae), planted in a rectangular bonsai dish.  I used it as a tall tree under which I positioned a gnome laying on a rock.  To that I added pebbles and assorted accents. Easy to make, easy to maintain and gorgeous to view.

My first attempt at constructing miniature garden was simple.  I used a succulent that needed little water or care.

Then garden geek friend, Steve Asbell from Jacksonville, Florida, sent me what he calls a Rainforest Drop. He packed a grapevine ball purchased at a hobby store with shredded orchid bark and poked rhipsalis plus a couple of other epiphytes (plants that grow in the air) including a blooming tillandsia , into the ball.  It had a long wire attached, and I hung it above the kitchen sink in an east-facing window.  It’s grown greener and thicker all winter, and I enjoy it every time I go to the sink.

My second tiny garden, with thanks to Steve Asbell, contains air plants stuffed in a ball.  I only water it twice a month!

I was bitten with the bug, after those two easy successes, and started researching miniature gardening.  I spent two happy afternoons at area garden centers, looking at their plants and accessories, and formulating ideas.  Miniature gardens are trendy, especially fairy gardens.

What’s the difference?  I asked my friend Betty Earl, who has written Fairy Gardens, a book that will come out in late April.  She say fairy gardens are miniature ones that give the illusion of tiny creatures living in them.  They located in small, secluded parts of the garden and in containers full of miniature plants, structures and whimsical accents.  “Above all,” Betty says, fairy gardens are about letting our inner child out and having fun.”

I had to make a fairy garden after that conversation!

My fairy garden was fairly easy to make.  I love the way she peaks out from the tree to look at the world.

Mine started with ten-inch square container, fast-draining soil, pebbles, moss and a fairy.  An English boxwood, trained into a narrow tree, two pots of silk flowers and a tiny frog soon joined them.  The fairy hides under the low-limbed tree, surveying her world and casts spells upon intruders.  It’s magical!  And, it’s low maintainence.  The English boxwood is slow-growing, thrives in dim light and doesn’t mind being pruned.

Here’s list of other plants suitable for miniature gardens.

Baby tears

Blue moneywort

Miniature Mondo grass

Irish moss

Pink creeping thyme

Little stonecrop (sedum)

Jade tree (train succulent as a small tree)

Rosemary (train into a tree)

Primrose

Creeping fig (it climbs over fences and arbors)

Heron’s Bill—pink, white or lavender flowers on a tiny mound of green foliage)


Doreen Howard has written for The Old Farmer's Almanac All-Seasons Garden Guide for 15 years and is the former garden editor at Woman’s Day as well as a photographer. She has grown more than 300 varieties of heirloom edibles and flowers in the last two decades.

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Look for Doreen's newest book, Heirloom Flavor: Yesterday's Best-Tasting Vegetables, Fruits and Herbs for Today's Cook. Find in stores everywhere including Walmart and on the Web including amazon.com.

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Comments

Fairy gardens are MUCH MORE

By Fairy Garden Queen

Fairy gardens are MUCH MORE than miniature plants and trinkets and baubles. They are the home of a fairy. The plants and accessories should be those that are useful to the fairy or have a special meaning to him/her. One must know about fairies and do some homework to plant a proper fairy garden. Come visit my facebook page Fairy Garden Queen (community) to learn more!

I'm reading a fantastic book,

By Etta

I'm reading a fantastic book, "Restoration Agriculture" by Mark Shepard. He talks about moving our planting consciousness from "annuals" to "perennials"! I've always had a perennial flower garden but Shepard has helped (and horrified) me into realizing that the greatest civilizations have been brought low by monocrops (annuals like corn,soy,wheat) which also are VERY low in nutritional value compared to perennials (walnut/chestnut/hazelnut, peach/pear/plum, apple, berry, fungi/mushroom). I planted a peach tree 2 years ago and had a bumper crop last summer. It's healthy and ready to blossom now~so excited! * p.s. to Marybeth K. living with only a woodburning stove: have you heard about "Air Plants"? Supposedly, you don't need a green thumb.

Sounds like a fascinating

By Doreen G. Howard

Sounds like a fascinating book. The author's supposition makes sense. Mono-culture of annual foods has lead to famine and destruction of many societies.

Thanks for the link!

By Cheesehead Gardening

Thanks for the link! Miniature gardens are super easy, and I think it woud be a great way to get kids interested in garden.

i have always enjoyed

By kat dillard

i have always enjoyed gardening but have recently moved and don't have a outside yard available. i really like your photos and ideas espeicially the fairy gardens and the air ball...i'm got incentive now. thxs

Hello! I always had a fairy

By Marybeth Kammer

Hello! I always had a fairy garden outside in the back yard! this year I will create one out of an old wheel barrel. My question is ; I only have a wood burning stove in my house for the winter months. most all of my house plant die because of the cold! Do you have any suggestions for me? thank you Marybeth

Pot-quilts around your

By Gina Richardson

Pot-quilts around your planters can help keep roots warm. You might also 'blanket' the top of the soil with leaf or grass mulch. Don't forget to keep water always simmering on the woodstove so neither you nor your plants dry out. :)

Marybeth, try succulents.

By Doreen G. Howard

Marybeth, try succulents. They endure cold, drafty rooms nicely, as long as they have plenty of light. Put the garden in a west or south-facing window. Also, miniature conifers will take the cold. Put pebbles around the soil in the container. They help gather heat from the daytime sunlight and radiate it back to the plants at night.

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