Miniature Garden Ideas for Every Taste

minature garden basket
Hurrying between tasks and to-do lists, you might find yourself dreaming of a universe where everything is just as you wish it to be. Do you imagine a vacation basking in the Mediterranean sun, or would you prefer a rustic cabin hideaway? Any experience you might envisage can be the inspiration for a tiny garden escape. Tend to any fast-growing plants by giving them an occasional light pruning to maintain the tiny garden illusion. It's a small world, after all!

Natural Order

Vintage printers trays are perfect for displaying tiny plants and nature’s curiosities. Sun and water will degrade the wood over time, so choose your tray accordingly. Collect various dried mosses and lichen, a small bottle or vase, pretty pebbles, shells, and other natural materials. Fill some, but not all, sections with your precious finds, making a pleasing arrangement across the tray. Plant small succulents, such as low sedum varieties and hens and chicks (Sempervivum spp.), in a few of the sections, and rest air plants (Tillandsia spp.) in others.

Good to know: Give your tray at least six hours of direct sun daily, preferably morning sun. Water the air plants and succulents at least weekly -- plants this small can get too dry very quickly. 

Mossy Fantasy

Fill a large round planter bowl with potting soil. Cut the stems of dried lotus pods (painted or natural) to 2 inches, and insert them in the soil to create a pod pathway. Surround the pathway with assorted dried or live mosses and natural dried floral materials, such as tall okra pods, dried mushrooms, and a bell cup or two. Nestle three small preserved moss spheres in a cluster. Create a tiny arbor by bending several lengths of grapevine into an arch, wiring the vines together at the ends. Push the ends into the soil, burying them 2-4 inches deep. Plant with pink polka-dot plant (Hypoestes spp.), purple waffle plant (Hemigraphis spp.), and trailing variegated vinca. Tuck a friendly frog figurine in the bell cup, and set the planter in a shady spot.

Good to know: Mist live mosses frequently, and do not allow the soil in the planter to dry completely. 

Fern Loft

A shallow wooden pedestal bowl and a large round wire tray are the foundation pieces for this charming tableau. Begin by lining the basket edges with dried or live mosses, then fill it to just below the rim with potting soil. Pat the soil gently in place and level it, then lay a wood slice on the soil to create a sturdy base for the pedestal bowl. Top the bowl with dried mosses and a miniature house. Plant three to five small ferns, such as the ones shown here, clockwise from top right: Pteris quadriaurata tricolor, Asplenium ‘Crispy Wave’, P. ensiformis ‘Evergemiensis’, and P. cretica var. albolineata. Arrange moss over the soil, leaving a space for the path to the house, then fill the path with small pebbles (aquarium rock is perfect for this). Make a ladder by gluing pieces of bamboo skewers together, then prop it in place. Finally, tuck in the details: small bits of bark and twigs, decorative toadstools, tiny furniture, and animals.

Good to know: Place the ferny scene in dappled light or shade, and do not allow it to dry out. 

Ancient Urn

An urn or tall pot with a long vertical crack in the front becomes the relic of an arid clime with a tapestry of succulents tumbling from it. If you need to create a suitable pot, draw a line where you want the break, and use a masonry bit to drill small holes every 1⁄4 inch along the line. Use a hammer to gently remove pieces. If you accidentally take too much, you can glue some sections back in place. If your pot doesn’t have a drainage hole, drill a 1⁄2-inch hole in the base. Fill the pot with soil formulated for cacti and succulents, and, starting at the bottom, tuck in trailing sedum, green and purple sempervivum, and other succulents. Insert large pottery shards to hold plants in place, creating layers of soil and plants as you work your way up.

Good to know: Set your urn in the sun, and water sparingly.

Pretty Little Pond

A square wooden planter box at least 4 inches deep, 12-16 inches wide, and with a broad, flat edge provides the basis for this semiformal water garden. If the box does not have any drainage holes, drill two or three holes before beginning the project. Fill the garden with potting soil up to 1 inch from the rim, pressing gently to level. Plant a creeping thyme (Thymus ‘Elfin’, or other low creeping variety) in each corner. Cut wood skewers, chopsticks, or long crafts sticks to size to create edging for the pebbles and pond, and pin them in place with U-shape floral pins. Plant a small ivy (Hedera helix ‘Spetchley’, or another small variety) in one corner of the center section, trimming it to one or two long stems. Settle a miniature pond in the center, tucking preserved moss around it. Arrange small, flat river stones on the moss around the pond. Press a miniature arbor in place over the pond, then twine the ivy through one side of the arbor. After all is placed to your liking, carefully arrange the pebbles, filling the area at least 1⁄4 inch deep. A pair of small Adirondack chairs and tiny potted plants make it feel homey and inviting.

Good to know: Keep your little pond garden in bright light, but protect it from hot afternoon sun. Water the plants regularly. 

Picnic in the Pines

Transport yourself to a cabin in the forest with a picnic basket outfitted for planting. Line the basket with a plastic sheet or bag. If you plan to display the basket outdoors where rain will fall on it, poke a few drainage holes in the bottom of the plastic. Fill the plastic-lined basket with potting soil. Trim the plastic just above the soil line. Plant two small rounded dwarf conifers (two Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Fairy Puff' are shown here) and one taller, narrow conifer (such as C. pisifera 'Blue Moon'), pressing the soil firmly around the roots. Cover the soil with dried or live mosses. Purchase or make a miniature house for the garden and place it in the center. Gather small twigs, approximately 5 inches long, to create the fence. Push the twigs into the soil all around the edge of the basket, leaving a gap for the path to the house. Add flat river stones to create a path. Use a toothpick to tuck small clumps of green reindeer moss firmly around the stones and anywhere else you want to cover edges and corners. Complete your mini cabin scene with a woodland creature.

Good to know: Miniature conifers typically love full sun, but check plant tags for specific care information.

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