Tabletop Woodland Garden

Arrange a lush centerpiece inspired by nature for enjoyment indoors or out, where it will invite appreciation up close.

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This low-growing garden brings the intrigue of a forest floor to a table, where the details can be viewed from all sides. Appearing as if Mother Nature composed it, the scaled-down woodland scene is assembled around a piece of driftwood with added layers of natural elements. It will last for months indoors or out when placed in indirect light.

Start with a base, such as driftwood, a large chunk of bark, part of a downed branch, or a wood slab. Enhance the base by adding bits of dried lichen and preserved moss. Nestle little plants into nooks and curves, wherever they fit. Add earthy treasures, including tiny pinecones, seedpods, bits of bark, or lichen-covered twigs. Complete the scene with miniature accessories, such as a frog figurine, faux mushrooms, and a small piece or two of branch.

Find materials for your woodland tabletop garden in crafts stores, on the Internet, or in a garden center. Forage for twigs, live moss, and other treasures from nature in your yard or a friend's. Ask permission if you're unsure. (Taking plants, moss, and wood from parks, public lands, or other protected areas is illegal in most places.)

Purchase plants at a local greenhouse or garden center. Little potted ferns, begonias, and other low-light houseplants will work well for a tabletop garden. Look for pots labeled "itty-bitty" or the smallest houseplant selections widely available for fairy gardens, terrariums, and dish gardens. Air plants (Tillandsia) are also excellent candidates for a tabletop garden. These epiphytes draw moisture and nutrients from air and need only an occasional plunge into a bowl of tepid water. Young perennials, such as violets and primroses, destined for a woodland or shade garden outside, can spend a few weeks indoors as long as they receive adequate sunlight.

Select plants with similar requirements for light. Keep scale in mind when choosing plants so they are neither too small nor too large for the base. Contrasting plant colors and growth habits will add interest to the garden's design.

Use one of several methods to incorporate plants into your little scene (see How to Make a Tabletop Woodland Garden, below). Plants will need regular watering. Although plants grow slowly with their roots confined, they will eventually need to be repotted and moved to permanent quarters indoors or in the garden.

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How to Make a Tabletop Woodland Garden

Combine foraged finds with a few garden center purchases in a natural display of woodland wonder that will be the envy of guests to the table.

Materials

  • Tray
  • Preserved moss
  • Hot-glue gun and glue sticks or floral adhesive
  • Driftwood
  • Moss ribbon
  • Dried lichen
  • Tree fern pot
  • Plants: air plant, fern, violet, begonia, Peperomia, Pilea
  • Chinese primrose
  • Florist's wire
  • Spanish moss
  • Miniature accessories, such as dried seedpods, pinecones, and tiny figurines
  • Florist's clay

Step 1:

Cover a metal or plastic tray with sheets of preserved moss to make a watertight base for your tabletop garden. Conceal the edges of the tray with bits of moss, holding the moss in place with dabs of hot glue or floral adhesive.

Step 2:

Enhance the earthiness of the driftwood by attaching lengths of moss or moss ribbon and dried lichen here and there. Moss ribbon comes on a spool; it consists of moss affixed to a woven base.

Step 3:

Before adding a plant to your tabletop garden, transplant a small specimen into a tree fern pot. The fibrous container will provide a well-draining home for a plant with a small root ball. Alternatively, wrap the plant's root ball with moss and florist's wire, or wrap its nursery pot with moss, using hot glue to secure it. Cover any bare soil of potted plants with Spanish moss.

Step 4:

Add miniature accessories in scale with the plants to complete the illusion of a woodland garden. Use a pinch of florist's clay to attach a cone, seedpod, and tiny frog or other figurine to the driftwood.

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