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.
Miniature Mondo grass
Pink creeping thyme
Little stonecrop (sedum)
Jade tree (train succulent as a small tree)
Rosemary (train into a tree)
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.