Princesses, fairies and dragons, oh my! Whimsical decorations can be one of the most fun parts of a miniature garden. (Editor’s Note: It doesn’t necessarily need to be princesses and flowers either. In the miniature garden at my desk at The Nashville News, a tiny gnome keeps watch over a cactus and an African Violet.)
By Jeanette M. Endres, Master Gardener
Is a miniature garden in your future?
I attended the Midwestern Herb and Garden Show in early February. The speaker, Kathryn Newman, from the Miniature Garden Shoppe (shop.miniaturegardenshoppe.com) began to teach us the art and science of creating our own little landscape. With miniature plants and accessories in hand, I went home to create my own little garden.
My seven-year-old granddaughter helped, and we began filling a container with potting soil then placing miniatures. Of course, we had to add one or two fairies. We took a step back and realized we had clutter not creativity. More study was required so we started over and began searching books on designing, plants and accessories, and maintaining miniature gardens.
First, consider where you locate the garden. A miniature garden can be in a terrarium, fairy garden, a patio container, a basket or a highlighted part of an established garden. Container miniature gardens are most common but you should consider the size of the container. Granddaughter chose a plastic tub size 12” x 9” but a little larger tub would allow more plants and accessories but add to the weight. Place drainage holes large enough so extra water can escape. If using a basket, line it with plastic punching holes in the bottom of the basket.
Next, consider a theme or focal point with a story for the garden. The theme can be seasonal like pumpkins for fall, hearts for Valentine’s Day or birthday balloons. Gardens that tell a story are most interesting. Create action such as a princess coming through the garden gate, greeted by another princess with the table set for tea is one idea. A little girl feeding ducks, or a boy with a hoe heading to a field, taking a dog for a walk all tell a story and stimulate the imagination. Focal points might be a birdhouse, a toy fairy, castle, archway or a table and chairs with tea set.
Children love miniature gardens and there are many accessories for sale. Look for accessories in greenhouses, hobby stores, party or craft supply stores and online. Flea markets and toy boxes often have miniature accessories. Purchase accessories only after you have decided on the theme and focal point since they can be expensive. Use no more than five or six accessories for a 12”-16” container. Add plants as needed.
Children love to use all their favorite accessories and this often leads to a cluttered garden. Some gardeners tend to use too many plants and, again, the focal point is lost. Keep the size of the accessories in proportion to the garden. We used a 1”:12”ratio. This means a 4” doll would be equivalent to a 4 ft. child. Check with the local greenhouse for plants that stay small. We used a 7” palm (Chamaedorea elegans) for the tallest plant and a lemon button fern (Nephrolepis cordifolia ‘Duffii’) and a creeping fig (Ficus repens) for other plants. Before adding soil arrange the plants and accessories on a flat surface to determine if the arrangement looks cluttered or if the theme or focal point is clear.
Next, choose the soil. Use potting soil for most container gardens or amend the soil if the miniature garden is part of an existing outdoor garden. Most plants do well in potting soil. A cactus grows best in a sand based mixture or commercial potting soil. Hydrate the soil and fill the container so the soil is level with the top. Include at least 3 inches or more of soil in the container. You are ready to plant and place the accessories. Select plants that require the same growing conditions. For example, grow either moisture loving plants or dry tolerant plants together. Select plants that are either shade or sun loving. I hope you enjoy creating your own miniature garden as much as we have. We look forward to watching the princesses at tea while the garden grows around them.