Archive for Conifers

A Favorite Miniature Garden Tree: The Tansu Japanese Cedar

Miniature Gardening with Janit Calvo

This Tansu Japanese Cedar has been with us for over eight years. It’s 15″ tall right now.

A Favorite Miniature Garden Tree: The Tansu Japanese Cedar

I was cleaning up our in-ground miniature garden the other day and found this miniature garden gem, our Tansu Japanese Cedar, (Cryptomeria japonica ‘Tansu’) growing happily in the back corner underneath a big Azalea. We’ve had an incredibly dry summer, but the Tansu is now established (meaning the roots can find their own nutrients) so we water it sparingly with our other established plants in the same bed. It lives in a part sun / dappled-shade spot which helps keep the soil damp. “Right plant, right place” is so true, especially when planting in the ground.

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The same Tansu in late fall of 2007 and looks to be about 6″ tall. It’s planted in a container with a Mother Lode Juniper on the right, Elfin Thyme in front and small Hens and Chicks in the front, left.

The different colored foliage on the Cryptomeria japonica ‘Tansu’ above, is its winter blush. In areas where temperatures dip in the winter, Cryptomerias change color dramatically. It’s a nice change when you need it most. The Mother Lode Juniper on the right is blushing too, the yellow will change to plum and amber in the cold air. Both plants will turn back to their rich green color when the weather warms up in the springtime.

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When you find the Tansu in 4″ pots, they are only 5″ tall.

The Dwarf Japanese Cedars are suitable for zones 6 through 9 or to -10F. You can overwinter it in a garage if you are in a colder area, or treat it like an annual and enjoy it for as long as it lasts – which will certainly be longer than a bouquet of flowers for the same price. If you do, remember to take photos of your miniature garden when it’s done so you can show it off to your unsuspecting friends and family. Lol!

Miniature Gardening with Janit Calvo

The Tansu Japanese Cedar is also available in 2 ½” pots and are cuter than cute. They are 3″ to 4″ tall in this size. Available in a set from our online store linked below.

Enjoy the tiny, 2 ½” conifers in a container for a couple of years to let them get a bit bigger before planting them in the ground. The 2 ½” conifers are available in sets here, in our online store. We’ve paired them with plants that like the same placement, but mix up the textures to make garden design more interesting to the eye.

The growth shape is quite charming as the Tansu gets slowly bigger. They are under 5″ tall when found in the 4″ pots and start as an irregular cone-shape leaning to one side, then the branches billow up to create a gorgeous rich-green canopy. Find it in the 4″ sized here, up in our online store.

Miniature Gardening with Janit Calvo

Fine foliage is critical for realism in the miniature garden. Mix up the textures with broadleaf plants, like the Variegated English Boxwood, another perfect candidate for a part sun / part shade spot. 

Companion miniature garden trees and shrubs for the Japanese Cedar are Hinoki Cypress, Balsam Fir, Hemlock, Elm, Boxwood, Dogwood or Spirea. Miniature garden bedding plants that will work well are any ground cover Thyme, Brass Buttons, Cranesbill, Dwarf Mondo Grass or Fairy Vines.

See all our plants here.

Miniature Gardening with Janit Calvo

The same Tansu in 2012, we planted it in spring of 2010.

See what’s available now in our online store – we’ve sorted our trees into hardiness zones for your convenience! Shop by Zone here. We ship all year long safely, from our studio in Seattle. We are online online only and do the odd show in the Seattle area. Join us here to keep up to date on where we are.

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Miniature Gardening: Get Outside and Play

Our first garden in Seattle in 2002.

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Miniature Gardening: Get Outside and Play

It was when I first moved to Seattle that I found myself looking at my container garden and wanting something to do. The plants were trimmed, watered and fluffed, the pots rearranged, the veggies were fertilized, weeded and growing. There was nothing to do. I wanted to be in my garden doing something creative and playing with plants. It was hot and sunny, but I had the perfect table/umbrella set-up that would suit any tabletop project. I just wanted something to do and to be outside doing it.

Click to enlarge the photos.

Cue: Miniature Gardening

With the sporadic and/or extreme weather across the globe, you might find yourself in the same spot. It’s risky to plant anything in-ground during a heat wave although it is possible (see below.) You can damage the soil by planting when it’s really wet. And, in either circumstance, it’s a bit uncomfortable to be outside too. But you can always put together a container garden or a miniature garden pot and have the satisfaction of a job completed in less than a few hours.

Note that “right plant, right place” still applies to container garden plants too. Choose plants that are at least one to two zones colder than yours. Plants in any kind of pot will be more sensitive to the cold because it doesn’t have the earth to insulate the roots.

The first miniature garden.

Another version of the original miniature garden. The scene is 10 ½” wide. I used lettuce and herb starts to get add texture – needless to say they quickly outgrew the garden. 

The first miniature garden.

The patio made from sand and stone was finicky – so I developed our Mini Patio Mix Kit to create a custom miniature patio that won’t wash away when you water or when it rains.

The first miniature garden.

A baby Monkey Puzzle tree is now 2′ tall and has since been kicked out of the miniature garden. Behind the Hen and Chick is a spinach start.

How to be Stubborn

If you are stubborn like I am, and choose to plant in extreme heat, it is possible. I’ve had success with this method with all kinds of plants: conifers, perennials, some tougher annuals (like zonal geraniums) and tomatoes so far. In general, the tougher the plant, strong stems, thicker leaves, etc., the more tolerant the plant will be in adapting to its new environment.

  1. Make sure the plant’s roots are wet. (You can tell by the weight of the pot. If the pot is light, soak it in a bucket of water until the plant sinks.)
  2. Dig the hole twice the size than you need for the plant’s root ball
  3. Fill the planting hole up with water, let the water drain into the soil.
  4. Repeat step 3.
  5. Pop the pot off the plant, remove all flowers & buds, loosen the roots, plant it.
  6. Make a trough in the soil to corral the water.
  7. Soak the plant and soil again with water, fix the corral if you mess it up.
  8. Shelter the plant with an umbrella.
  9. Give it regular water to maintain the dampness of the soil and do not let it dry out.
  10. Once you see new growth of any kind, you’ll know the roots have recovered and are now ready to give energy to leaf and flower production. (A plant can’t do two things at once.)

Here are more blogs about gardening in the heat and watering tips to help your garden beat the heat.

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The first miniature garden.

The original photo that triggered the idea, a one-sixth scale garden. The fence eventually fell apart. 

The first miniature garden.

That’s red-leaf lettuce beside the golden leaves of the Acorus. I think that was a baby Fir tree in the back.

Gardening in Miniature by Janit Calvo

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Happy Canada Day in the Miniature Garden

Miniature Gardening with Janit Calvo

This garden was made for the Lakeside Hideaway project for the Gardening in Miniature: Create Your Own Tiny Living World book. It’s two years old now. It was starting to look like my home and native land, Ontario, so I went with it.

Happy Canada Day in the Miniature Garden

Taking some downtime and enjoying my national holiday from the comfort of my Seattle garden. Of course, I can’t leave well-enough alone and had to make a miniature garden for the occasion. I kept it simple this time, with only a handful of items to help deliver the message. Happy Canada Day!

Miniature Gardening with Janit Calvo

I wanted it to look like central Ontario so I didn’t have to do much to clean it up. I relied on the bushes and rocks to help deliver the theme. (There is a huge swath of rock the goes right through the country left by the retreating glaciers, called the Canadian Shield.)

Miniature Gardening with Janit Calvo

In the back, left corner is a Fernspray Hinoki Cypress with a small Nana Hinoki is in front of it. To the right of the Nana is a Kingsville Dwarf Boxwood and a Golden Devine Barberry on the right. Platt’s Black Brass Buttons mixes in with the moss in front. 

Miniature Gardening with Janit Calvo

The “stubbie” beer bottle is from a Bob & Doug MacKenzie toy. Every weekend until Thanksgiving Day in October, the city of Toronto drives north “to the cottage.” It’s a huge exodus that you can actually feel if you live in a dense area like downtown. 

Miniature Gardening with Janit Calvo

The textures are subtle: an Elf Dwarf Spruce on the far left mingles with a Chabo Yadori Hinoki Cypress. That a Pixie Dwarf Spruce behind them, and another Elf Dwarf Spruce on the right. I found the miniature totem pole at Disney World’s Epcot Park, funnily enough.

Miniature Gardening with Janit Calvo

What the garden looked like before I spent 5 minutes cleaning it up. Lol! If you are comparing it to a photo in the book, you’ll notice we had to take out one of the Dwarf Spruces – it was suffering from being too crowded so we pulled it out last year. 

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New Miniature Garden Trees for the New Hobby, Part II

Miniature Gardening with Janit Calvo

The Fairy Puff Sawara Cypress eventually charmed us with its soft, feathery texture and great color.

New Miniature Garden Trees for the New Hobby, Part II

We are catching up to the new miniature garden plants and trees that we have in stock this season. The last blog covered a few of them, find it here in case you missed it. In this post we have quite the selection, from Siberia to fairies to a new dwarf willow that we are playing with. All are very fun – do keep in touch if you are one of the lucky ones to get your hands on these gems, and let us know what you think of them!

Miniature Gardening with Janit Calvo

Follow the delicate, creamy tips down the branch and you’ll find a rich, gray-green color. Shear it in the winter to maintain this great color scheme.

Fairy Puff Sawara Cypress

A sweet lil’ puff of green goodness! The Fairy Puff Sawara Cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Fairy Puff’) has lovely coloring and whimsical branches leaping out of the globe-shaped shrub, just so. The creamy buds on the tips of grey-green branches can easily be paired with dwarf or miniature spruce, juniper or mugo pines.

To keep the foliage soft, fluffy and bushy, shear it in late winter and it will stay in that tight, cute ball. It grows 1 to 3” per year, but with the shearing, it will slow it down to well under 2” per year. Prefers cooler sun, or a sunny spot where the soil won’t dry out. Hardy to -20F (or -5F in a container,) cold zones 5 – 8, heat zones 8 – 1.

Miniature Gardening with Janit Calvo

Put this into the hands of a miniature gardener, and it will champion the garden when it blooms. Ruby-red bloom turn to pink against the pretty chartreuse green leaves.

Alpine Spirea

Okay, my old sales rep recommended this one to me. If it doesn’t work, I’ll give you his email address. Lol! But he has assured me that the Alpine Spirea (Spiraea japonica ‘Alpina’) is a perfect for the miniature garden – and it certainly looks like it will be a gem. The leaves are the perfect scale with tiny, chartreuse foliage and distinctive, ruby-red flower buds that open up to pink. Let me repeat that just in-case you missed it: ruby-red flower buds that open up to pink flower clusters on top of chartreuse foliage – well, need I say more?

Like all our dwarf Spireas (pronounced spy-REE-ahs,) it will need shearing in the wintertime when it’s dormant. This will help slow-down the 2 to 3” per year growth rate and keep it’s globe-shape. And shear after flowering to clean it up a bit. Hardy to -30F (or -15% if it’s in a container,) cold zones 7 – 9. Heat zones 9 – 1. It likes full-sun but don’t let the soil dry out between watering sessions, I think it will get a bit cranky.

Miniature Garden Plants

The new Siberian Cypress is a ground cover cypress. It will grow to about 1 foot tall and then spread out gradually.

Miniature Gardening with Janit Calvo

Double Delight: A very hardy ground cover cypress AND the lacy foliage is airy and can lend itself to fairy gardens or whimsical themes.

Siberian Cypress

The Siberian Cypress (Microbiota decussata) is a promising candidate for the miniature garden because it’s really a ground cover. It grows to about one foot tall then it will start to grow prostrate (sideways.) The feathery foliage turns bright green in the summer, and a bronzy purple in colder areas in the winter. Apparently it does well in poor soil and windy areas too.

Hardy, hardy, hardy to -40F! Take that polar vortex! It will need full-sun and well-drained soil, leave the soil to dry out to barely damp in between watering sessions to avoid over watering. Prune to control wayward growth. Hardy to -25F if planted in a container, cold zones 3 – 7, heat zones, 7 – 1.

Miniature Garden Plants

The Dwarf Willow in the spring time. Some pruning is necessary to shape it up and to keep it in shape. A flush of tiny green leaves follows the catkins.

Miniature Garden Plants

The red catkins on the Dwarf Willow. They flush out in the springtime followed by the tiny, shiny green leaves.

Dwarf Willow

We’re still playing with this little Dwarf Willow (or Salix lindleyana.) We had a ground cover called Salix lindleyana last year, and here it is in a tree-form looking all cute and pretty. This must be its natural height, and then it will grow prostrate (sideways.) The pink catkins are very pretty to see in the springtime. We are keeping one trimmed by pruning away the bottom-most branches to show off the trunk. Note that the trees come un-pruned, so you can do what you like with it. See the photos below how we pruned ours, we would love to see what you do with yours.

We know that Willows don’t mind moisture so use this gem in a place where the soil will never dry out and it will be able to handle cool, full sun. Keep it in partial shade if it’s in a pot to help maintain the dampness of the soil. Hardy to -10F (or 5F if in a container,) can be grown in cold zones 7 – 8, and heat zones 8 – 7. Rare, quantities are limited.

 

Miniature Gardening with Janit Calvo

The same tree as above, a few weeks later. Steve and I went back and forth on how to prune this new Dwarf Willow. I liked keeping a couple of the “‘suckers” on the base of the tree to keep the look casual…

Miniature Gardening with Janit Calvo

… so I Photoshopped them them out to see if it looks better! Lol! Okay, it does change the look from casual to a more formal look. It will depend upon how the growth reacts to the pruning now. Stay tuned!

Zoned Out (ICYMI from Part I)

Don’t know your zone? The USDA developed a general cold zone map. And the American Horticultural Society developed a heat zone map for the other half of the country. Put the two together if you are in the southern states, and be sure to double-check to see if the plant you want is the correct heat-zone rating. Right plant, right place – but you may be surprised with a little experimentation too.

USDA Cold Zone Map is here.

AHS Heat Zone Map is here.

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The best book on the new hobby by the world’s top garden publisher. Available wherever books are sold.

 

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Adjusting to the New Winter Weather in the Miniature Garden

Miniature Gardening with Janit Calvo

Oh how we love the miniature and dwarf Mugo Pines for hardy miniature gardening. Most are hardy to -40F. This is a one inch scale garden. The Sedums on the right turn red when stressed and they’ll go back to green when the spring decides to stay. This pot has been together for several years.

Adjusting to the New Winter Weather in the Miniature Garden

As our winters get colder and more ruthless in some parts of the country, we are finding ways to garden around the extreme temperatures and endless snow by planting in-ground, choosing hardier plants, and re-thinking of the ways we use plants. New challenges are in every part of the country it seems: drier in the southwest, colder in the southeast, more of everything in the northeast and a lovely combination of no rain/torrential rain here in northwest.

So as we move into spring, here are some changes that I’ve made to avoid disappointment that you might find useful too. I know I’ll keep killing plants as every gardener does – that is part of the journey of being a gardener – I just hope I don’t kill as many of them if I change, or, ahem, adjust the way that I garden.

Miniature Gardening with Janit Calvo

A half-inch scale garden with a Pixie Alberta Dwarf Spruce flushing out for spring. The plants fared well, the pot didn’t. It was one of my most-favorite pots too and I should have protected it over the winter by bringing it under our covered porch and keeping it close to the house. I knew better… I did!

Container vs. In Ground Gardens

When considering what hardy plants to use, note that the difference between gardening in a container and gardening in the ground is about 15 degrees. Plants grown in a container do not have the protection of the earth to keep it insulated, only the walls of the pot which don’t amount to much if Old Man Winter unleashes his fury. For example, the Mont Bruno Boxwood is hardy to Zone 4 or -30F. It was planted in a pot; the tree would only be hardy to -15F or to Zone 6, (USDA Zones.) So choose hardier-than-needed plants for your pots and you may have more success. (Here’s an overwintering blog for future reference.)

Choose Plants that are Hardier than Your Zone

A fellow gardener chided me on Twitter after I said I’m Zone 5 during a #GardenChat session one Monday night, “You are zone 7.” Not if you take into account the container rule and that’s where I was loosing most of my plants over the winter. Zone 7 means hardy to 0 degrees, Seattle’s coldest temperature to date from the 1950s. Seeing how the climate is changing, we just might get there again. But, I think (Yes, “think” – don’t ya love gardening?) despite the plant’s noted hardiness on the tag, if the plant isn’t ready for a drastic dip in temperature, it is not going to survive that cold snap unless it is hardier than we need it to be. So, I’m going to stay at Zone 5 for my plant choices just to see if that will work. Then I won’t have to worry about where I plant it either – in a container or in-ground – in theory.

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A quarter-inch scale garden with a Dwarf Pagoda Japanese Holly. My in-ground Japanese Hollies fared much better than my potted hollies and I lost several of them this past winter – they are hardy to -20F but they were planted in pots. That’s ground cover Elfin Thyme on the right.

Treat it like an Annual

It’s amazing that we will easily spend $20 on a tray of annual bedding flowers and not consider a tree in the same way. A large portion of our miniature and dwarf conifers are hardy to -20F but in some areas of the country, that is no longer the lowest temperature. So, why not think of that mini garden tree as an annual? Get it into your miniature garden design in early spring and you can enjoy it until the fall. If it overwinters, great! If not, then toss it in the compost and begin again next spring. A $15 tree that will last 5 months works out to cost $3 per month – half the price of a latte that lasts a half hour or a bouquet of cut flowers that only last for 5 days. It’s a bargain!

“You can’t control the direction of the wind,
but you can adjust your sails.”
– adapted quote from Jimmy Dean

So, what about you? Have you made any adjustments on how you chose plants for the changing winters in your area? Please leave a comment below and include where you are and what zone you are in. Don’t know your zone? Here’s the USDA site where you can look it up with your zip code: http://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/#

And see our unique and specialized collection of plants for miniature gardening up in our online store here.

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A Look into the Future: Miniature Garden Trees

Miniature Garden Trees from Two Green Thumbs

From the cover of the bestselling book on the subject: Gardening in Miniature: The Elf Dwarf Spruce stays in a tight canopy and gradually gets bigger as the trunk lifts the canopy off the ground.

A Look into the Future: Miniature Garden Trees

It’s that time of year, Fellow Miniature Gardeners, the time for new trees, new plantings and new ideas realized. It’s been a long, cold and dreary winter for a large part of North America, and it’s still going in some parts with snow last night. Ugh! I feel your pain, I’m a transplant from Toronto. Please hold on. Spring is coming! Also note that we can hold your order until spring arrives in your area. Simply place your order through our online store and then email us to tell us when to send them! Purchase reserves the trees. Easy-peasy!

If you’ve been following us for any length of time, you know that we’ve been miniature gardening full-time since 2001. With that kind of intensive, relentless focus, we have had the opportunity to watch how the trees grow-up to see how long they can stay a miniature garden tree. I think it’s safe to say, a long time!

It came as an “uh-oh” moment over a decade ago when I was selling the completed miniature gardens at street markets and craft fairs: I realized I needed to keep some miniature gardens to know what these trees look like when they grow up. I started collecting my own gallery of miniature gardens so I could share the results with you. Here are just a few of them shown in the miniature garden, and I’ve included a “regular” photo from the grower’s website – it’s how the plant would look if we left it alone and did not shape it into a miniature tree.

From photo above – see the growing details of the Elf Dwarf Spruce here.

Reminder Memo: “Dwarf” and “miniature” describe the growth rate, not the plant. Dwarfs grow from 1″ to 6″ per year. Miniatures grow less than 1″ per year.

Tompa Norway Spruce – Picea abies ‘Tompa’

The Tompa Dwarf Spruce was labeled a dwarf when I planted it in this container 10 years ago – now the grower calls it a miniature, with a growth rate of less than 1” per year. So easy to grow, it never complained at all. After 10 years, I grew impatient and needed to see what was going on and unplanted it – but I didn’t have to, it could have stayed in that pot for another couple of years, I think.

See the growing details, up in the store here.

Miniature Garden Trees from Two Green Thumbs

Here’s what the Tompa Norway Spruce looks like when you buy it from our Miniature Garden Center in a 4 inch pot.

Miniature Garden Trees from Two Green Thumbs

Here is what the Tompa Norway Spruce looks like if it is left alone to grow in a “full-size” garden bed. Quite handsome!

Miniature Garden Trees from Two Green Thumbs

And here is the Tompa Norway Spruce in the miniature garden, after about 6 years with no pruning. The purple flowers are from the Ajuga, which is fairly aggressive in-ground but surprisingly very well-behave in a container.

Miniature Garden Trees from Two Green Thumbs

And here is the Tompa Norway Spruce, after over 10 years of growing in a miniature garden container. I pruned into a tree by cutting away the lower branches to show more of the trunk.

 Intermediate Sawara Cypress – Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Squarrossa Intermedite’

This little ball of goodness grows up into a fun shape that can suit a number of themes or garden-styles. If you leave the Intermediate Cypress to grow, it will get leggy like the photo of the miniature garden below and “grow-up” to be an informal tree form. If you shear it every winter when it is dormant, it will stay bushy and full (it’s great for topiary.)

See the growing details, up in the store here.

Miniature Garden Trees from Two Green Thumbs

This is how the Intermediate Sawara Cypress looks like when you buy it from Two Green Thumbs Miniature Garden Center

Miniature Garden Trees from Two Green Thumbs

This is what it looks like when planted in a “full-sized” garden and left to grow.

Miniature Garden Trees from Two Green Thumbs

And this is what the Intermediate Sawara Cypress looks like, left to grow with minimal pruning. The tree to the right is a Dwarf Pagoda Japanese Holly. I’ve left this garden a bit over-grown, it has a “sister-garden” that’s formal and I use them as bookends in the garden.

Top Point Dwarf White Cedar – Chamaecyparis thyoides ‘Top Point’

The Top Point Dwarf White Cedar is a very versatile tree. It does well in many zones, included the southern states, where not all conifers appreciate the warm, humid temperatures. I think you can shear it to encourage bushiness and branching, check out the difference:

See the growing details, up in the store here.

Miniature Garden Trees from Two Green Thumbs

The Top Point Dwarf White Cedar – how it looks when you get one from Two Green Thumbs Miniature Garden Center.

Miniature Garden Trees from Two Green Thumbs

This is how it looks when left alone to grow in a regular, full-sized garden bed. What a great color and shape!

Miniature Garden Trees from Two Green Thumbs

And how the tree looks in the back of a miniature garden after a few years living in the same pot. The two shrubs on either side are White Pygmy Sawara Cypress that are just starting to flush out in their creamy growth for spring. The “grass” or the Irish moss is surprisingly tolerant of the limited space to grow, I’m not usually that lucky with this plant, and after 2 or 3 years, it usually needs to be replaced.

Blue Star Juniper – Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’

The Blue Star Juniper was a little surprise to see as it grew up – it really takes on the look of a big, fluffy tree in miniature. Drought tolerant, loves the sun and the stars on the tips of the branches keep me delighted throughout the year. It really is a super star! It loves well-drained but evenly damp soil and can tolerate some dryness – but not too often nor for too long.

See the growing details, up in the store here.

Miniature Garden Trees from Two Green Thumbs

The Blue Star Juniper, how it looks when you get it from Two Green Thumbs Miniature Garden Center.

Miniature Garden Trees from Two Green Thumbs

The Blue Star Juniper if left alone to grow in a full-sized garden. Look at that blue color!

Miniature Garden Trees from Two Green Thumbs

And the Blue Star Juniper after a 3 or 4 years in the miniature garden. I keep the leggy branches in check with a little winter pruning. 

Slowmound Mugo Pine – Pinus mugo ‘Slowmound’

The dwarf and miniature pines are a delight to grow and can work well in the southern regions with evenly damp soil – plant it in part sun to help maintain the even dampness – but it can tolerate a little dry soil from time to time. Just don’t let it dry out too often for too long.

See the growing details, up in the store here.

Miniature Garden Trees from Two Green Thumbs

Slowmound Mugo Pine in it’s 4 inch pot from Two Green Thumbs Miniature Garden Center.

Miniature Garden Trees from Two Green Thumbs

The Slowmound Mugo Pine after many, many years in a regular garden bed.

Miniature Garden Trees from Two Green Thumbs

The Slowmound Mugo Pine after a few years in the miniature garden. Next winter, I’ll top-prune it to keep the overall shape in check and see if it needs some more pruning on the lower branches to show some more trunk. Once an accessory is placed next to it, it will cinch the scale.

Moonfrost Canada Hemlock – Tsuga canadensis ‘Moonfrost’

This charmer is a favorite with the colors changing throughout the year, but it can be pruned into a tree form. Winter shearing keeps up the color changes, otherwise it will stay a celery green color all year.

See the growing details, up in the store here.

Miniature Garden Trees from Two Green Thumbs

The Moonfrost Canada Hemlock in its 4 inch pot from .

Miniature Garden Trees from Two Green Thumbs

If left alone in the full-sized garden bed. She sure is pretty!!

Miniature Garden Trees from Two Green Thumbs

Pretty lil’ thing! The Moonfrost Canada Hemlock, shown here after about 3 years in this pot. I’ve left out the accessory on purpose so you can see the tree. 

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Gardening in Miniature at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show

Miniature gardening at the NWFGS

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Gardening in Miniature at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show

It is our Two Green Thumbs’ 10th anniversary display at the country’s best garden show, the Northwest Flower and Garden Show this year! We decided to give you a better peek into what we do, so we modeled the display after our studio and it contains as many miniature gardens as we could logically fit in – we actually had to bring some back home! Lol! Miniature gardens of all ages, shapes and sizes demonstrate the many things you can do with this idea – and they all start with “fun.”

I’ll be in the Hood Room on Sunday at 10:45 am with a slide-show and talk about ideal miniature garden plants and how to get started in the hobby. See you there!

You can find all the plants, parts and pieces at www.TwoGreenThumbs.com

Miniature gardening at the NWFGS

We have indoor, outdoor, 10 year old miniature garden trees and new trees less than 3 years old.

Miniature gardening at the NWFGS

The inside of the studio – not entirely unlike our studio at home – but a lot tidier. ;o)

Miniature gardening at the NWFGS

Miniature gardening is an amalgamation of several different hobbies, craft and art forms. The many variables can keep a crafty gardener entertained for years.

Miniature gardening at the NWFGS

The shelves in our “real” studio tend to develop into a collection of miniatures, raw materials, samples and local artwork too. That mosaic pot in the center is by a friend from our Fremont Market days, over 10 years ago.

Miniature gardening at the NWFGS

Steve made the ceramic camper. That dinosaur was a toy that I rusted. I found the clothespin-chair at a thrift-shop and superman reminds me to be strong every day.

Miniature gardening at the NWFGS

Lil’ Valentine’s Day garden has a tiny Jean’s Dilly Dwarf Spruce and a Tsukomo hinoki cypress on the left. That’s a Butter Ball hinoki cypress with lacy foliage in the 2″ pot in front-right.

Miniature gardening at the NWFGS

Tiny gardens all lined up on the shelf. This size is perfect for cheering somebody up, or just for a laugh. They make great hostess and thank you gifts too.

Miniature gardening at the NWFGS

Baby date palms are great tropical trees in miniature – they take awhile to grow up so we have a few years to enjoy them in the miniature garden while they do.

Miniature gardening at the NWFGS

An Emerald Green Hebe on the left beside the sculpture, a Majestic Japanese Holly tree on the right with Dwarf Mondo Grass in front of it.

Miniature gardening at the NWFGS

A tiny Nana Lutea hinoki cypress keeps the deciduous Golden Torch Barberry company while it begins to bud – one the prettiest time of year for barberries.

Miniature gardening at the NWFGS

What to do with your overgrown miniature garden? Go with it! This little tree-hut is made from a block of wood attached to stilts to look like a secret getaway.

Miniature gardening at the NWFGS

12th Man Represents!! We are very proud of our Seattle Seahawks. They were the laughing stock of the NFL after the draft-picks they chose last year – no one thought they could win the Super Bowl Championship – but they did with hard work, faith and focus. Go Hawks!

Miniature gardening at the NWFGS

Jervis Canada hemlock grows slowly from a shrub to a grand miniature garden tree – just plant it in the right place, water it regularly, and trim off some of the foliage and bottom branches.

Miniature gardening at the NWFGS

Jean Iseli Dwarf Hinoki does the same: it grows from a darling little shrub to a substantial miniature garden tree with very little effort.

Miniature gardening at the NWFGS

An older date palm on the left makes a great match for a Norfolk Island pine behind it on the right and a Haworthia in front of it beside the ramp. Can you feel that tropical island breeze?

Miniature gardening at the NWFGS

Another Jervis Canada Hemlock that has grown into a perfect miniature garden tree.

Miniature gardening at the NWFGS

See this display on the skybridge at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show at the Seattle Convention Center – it’s on until February 8th. See you there! 

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Football and Gardening, Part II

Miniature Football Gardening, The Plants

Do the miniatures give us an excuse to plant a garden? Or, does the gardening give us an excuse to make miniatures? BOTH – it’s just too much fun!

Football and Gardening, Part II

As a continuation of the ongoing frenzy and the upcoming battle with Seattle Seahawks versus the San Francisco 49ers this weekend for a chance at the Superbowl, we decided to share some more details on our 12th Man* miniature garden display. How else can you blend two very different pasttimes?

This miniature football garden is meant for full, cool sun, and because the box it is only 5 ½” deep, I’ve chosen drought tolerant ground covers as the bedding plants – BUT the soil should not be left to dry out completely as the tree’s roots prefer evenly damp soil. See my notes underneath each photo for more miniature plant insight.

Miniature Football Gardening

The Jean Iseli Hinoki Cypress started as globe-shaped shrub and eventually grows up and out to resemble a full-sized garden tree. The Nana Dwarf Cypress is very similar, but a little slower growing. Hardy to -20F, full sun to part sun.

Find the Nana Hinoki Cypress here.

Miniature Football Gardening

The Thyme Leaf Cotoneaster will delight you with the most perfect little flowers in springtime. Get the camera! The flowers turn into berries that look like apples in miniature (Inedible!) Here, we’ve trimmed it to look more like a tree. It grows a bit fast, but it doesn’t mind the pruning. Hardy to -20F, full sun to part sun.

Find the Thyme Leaf Cotoneaster here.

Miniature Football Gardening

The leaves of the White Variegated Rockcress blushes pink in the colder temperatures. In the spring, clusters of delicate white flower will shoot up on 3″ to 4″ stems. A sturdy plant for full sun, hardy to -10F.

Miniature Football Gardening

The Baldwin Hinoki Cypress will get a bit leggy if you leave it untrimmed. Keep it sheared if you want it to stay bushy. It’s great for a miniature hedge too. The foliage blushes a bit amber in the colder months as you can see above. Hardy to -20F, best in part or cool sun.

Miniature Football Gardening

Shhhh – it’s sleeping. Lol! This little guy is still dormant. When looking for Hen and Chicks for your miniature gardening, choose the smallest ones by looking at the ‘adult’ rosettes. Some varieties can grow up to 6″ tall and wide. Hardy little things too! Full sun, well drained soil.

Miniature Football Gardening

A test “miniature garden bedding plant” that we’ve been growing since last summer. Marble Cream Rupturewort, or Herniaria glabra ‘Marble Cream.’ It’s very similar to the ground cover thyme but we are finding it a little faster growing. Love the yellow & green coloring. Tiny white flowers in summer. Will turn red in colder areas apparently. Hardy to -20F. Full sun.

Miniature Football Gardening

A hedge of podocarpus anchors the right side of the container. Miniature gardening is a great platform for playing with different garden design ideas. That’s our favorite Dwarf Mondo Grass in front of the hedge – both are hardy to 0F.

Find the Dwarf Mondo Grass here.

Miniature Football Gardening, The Plants

And here are some more views on the garden shed. We made the deck out of popsicle sticks and it can be removed – it’s for display only. Little pots and garden accents can really bring the a lot of interest to the scene.

See our terra cotta pot set here.

Miniature Football Gardening, The Plants

We painted the inside of the shed for fun. It was an opportunity to do something I wished I could to in full-size – so I painted the potting bench that wonderful lime green too. The shed comes without a floor so you can create a variety of themes with it quickly and easily.

See our cedar garden shed here.

Miniature Football Gardening, The Plants

A good spot for all the little miniatures collected along the way. After all, it’s a workshop and it doesn’t need to be perfect.

We’re always on the lookout for medium sized garden accessories – see what’s in the up in the store today.

Miniature Football Gardening, The Plants

A good reason to keep a stash of your aged and weathered miniatures: there is always a spot in every garden that will look a little unkempt. We used our old bricks, crates and “stuff” for underneath the deck.

Miniature Football Gardening, The Plants

Love the peekaboo views through the windows! We make the shelves from popsicle sticks and painted them to match the walls.

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 (*Seahawk fans are called the 12th Man because of the roll they play whenever the Seahawks play at home. They are officially registered as the loudest fan base in the NFL and their cheering registers as a tremor on the seismic scales. It’s a controversy as to whether it is fair play or not – much to the chagrin of any team that plays here because they can’t hear the calls of the quarterback when they are on the field, and they are not used to playing in such a din.)

See part one of Miniature Football Gardening here.

Gardening in Miniature book

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DIY Christmas Decor for the Miniature Garden

Miniature Christmas DIY

Cuteness! Tiny homemade details can easily reflect your personal style. You’ll spend just as much time getting these ingredients together than you will doing this tutorial. Make a few at the same time and have fun with them, you’ll get better after the second one you make.

DIY Christmas Decor for the Miniature Garden

Here are a couple of do-it-yourself tutorials for Christmas decorations for your miniature garden. Use the same color scheme as your “full-size” decorations throughout your house and garden, it will just add to the cute factor. Find miniature decorations up in our store, or I’ve mentioned where I’ve found them throughout this blog.

Here’s yet-another benefit from growing miniature conifers and small-leafed trees and shrubs: you can harvest them for miniature holiday decorations just like you would in “full-size.” Whenever I can, I save my miniature pruning duties for this time of year so I can use them for decorations. “Limbing-up” from the base of a dwarf conifer can shape it to be more tree-like. Prune way-ward branches from the top canopy of the tree to maintain the round-ness or over all shape of the foliage. Pruning also helps to send messages to the wee tree that you want the plant’s efforts and energy to be used elsewhere, like growing a thicker trunk and branches. Got a lot of pruning? Try wiring a miniature garland together.

The branches we used here were soaked in a solution of glycerin and water to help them last longer. Place 1 part glycerin and 15 parts water in yogurt tub or similar, and make sure the branches are submerged. Leave it in there for at least overnight, 24 hours is better. Glycerin is found in hand lotions, among other uses, and it helps to seal in moisture – which is why we love to soak our naturals in it to help them retain color and supple-ness, at least for a few weeks while we can enjoy them. Otherwise your wee branches would do what they normally do when brought inside a heated house: dry out and go brown within days. Experiment with different ratios for different plants and how long they will stay preserved. Add dye to the glycerin/water solution to change the color of light-colored naturals. Glycerin can be found at any art store or most drug stores. It comes in a small bottle and doesn’t cost much.

Miniature Wreath Tutorial:

Make a REAL miniature wreath for your miniature garden! Here’s how to make one from a spruce branch, and from a Boxleaf Euonymous branch. Any sturdy but bend-able branch with small leaves could work but experiment first if you are creating an important holiday display.

Miniature Christmas DIY

What the wreaths are made of, from top left clockwise: Mugo Pine, Euonymous, Cotoneaster, Dwarf Spruce

DIY Miniature Christmas Decorations

From the top left, clockwise: Cotoneaster, Mugo Pine, Thyme, Dwarf Spruce, Euonymous, Hinoki Cypress (lime green branch under Cotoneaster.) I didn’t mention varieties on purpose, you can use almost any type of small-leafed branch.

Dwarf Spruce Wreath

Miniature Christmas DIY

You’ll need a branch or two, some jewelry wire, needle-nosed pliers and a pair of flat-nosed pliers. Silver wire was used for this tutorial so you can see it, otherwise I would have used dark green wire to blend into the foliage.

Miniature Christmas DIY

If the branches are too short, wire two of them together to make a longer one.

Miniature Christmas DIY

Loop them around to make a wreath and wire them together. Work gently and do your best to work the wire in between the needles.

Miniature Christmas DIY

It may seem out of balance when you first start, but just go with it for now. Leave the wire ends for now, they will come in handy later.

Miniature Christmas DIY

Add some more wire wraps where its needed to tuck in some of the smaller branches closer to the circle.

DIY miniature christmas decor

Tiny details can be accumulated throughout the year. Miniature tinsel and glittery pompoms can be found at Michael’s Crafts along with the cherry picks. Tiny candy canes can be found at your local miniature store. I trimmed the ends off of a larger velvet bow to make a miniature one. Use tiny leaves and colorful branches for more texture and interest.

 

Miniature Christmas DIY

The bow is wrapped around with its own wire, the smaller details are hot-glued on. Notice the tiny sprig of hinoki cypress is used to brighten up the berries. BUT the bottom has too many branches and the top – not so much…

Miniature Christmas DIY

Decide on the “right” branch to snip off the bottom. This chosen branch was on the back of the wreath and could be easily cut off to lessen the bulk.

Miniature Christmas DIY

And, with a little bit of hot-glue, we add it to the top to help it balance out a bit.

DIY Miniature Christmas Tutorials

That’s better!

Small Broadleaf Wreath

Broadleaf is a fancy name for a plant that has leaves – as opposed to needles on a pine tree for example. A lot of broadleaf plants are deciduous like Maple, Elm and Oak, but some are evergreen and keep their leaves throughout the seasons – thankfully, they help keep the landscape “green” in the middle of winter. We used an Euonymous branch for this tutorial. Same idea as the spruce wreath above, but with a different twist because of the leaves.

Miniature Christmas DIY

A way-ward branch pruned from a Boxleafed Euonymous from our in-ground miniature garden.

Miniature Christmas DIY

Strip away the leaves inside the natural curve of the branch .

Miniature Christmas DIY

You can pinch off the more tender, top branches as you work along the stem.

Miniature Christmas DIY

Ready to shape into a circle.

Miniature Christmas DIY

Bend it around carefully. Wire it in place. Work the wire in between the leaves gently to get to the stem. The leaves and stem toward the top of the branch are going to be more tender so don’t force the wire too much or it will cut right through the branch.

Miniature Christmas DIY
Gently pull the wire taunt to hold the branches where you want them.
Miniature Christmas DIY

Twist the wires gently together with your fingers, tighten them gently with flat-nosed pliers. Leave the excess wire in place – don’t cut it off yet.

Miniature Christmas DIY

Now that you have the wreath shape, edit out the leaves that clash or distort the design.

Miniature Christmas DIY

Use the excess wire from the wrapping to create a loop on the back of the wreath to hang it with. Round-nose pliers work well to make tiny wire loops.

Miniature Christmas DIY

Wrapped with a little tinsel garland, hot-glued the poinsettia flower with more lime-green hinoki leaves to finish it off. Looks like a holiday!

When you are in you miniature garden, harvesting branches for this fun diy, choose a couple of sets of each type of branch that you want to work with; if you totally mess up you have a couple of chances to get it right.

MAKE IT LAST: If you are keeping your miniature wreath indoors for a couple/few weeks throughout the season, make a couple of them to rotate in and out the scene. Because they are living wreaths, they will do better in the cold and damp than inside in the forced, heated air. Make a 2 or 3 or 4 wreaths, treat them like a corsage or boutonniere and keep them in a take-out container in the fridge with a damp paper towel on the bottom of the container. The amount of time they will last will vary, depending upon how long you soaked them in the glycerin/water solution, what kind of branch they are and what conditions they are displayed in.

Quick Miniature Garden Holiday Garden Art

Some things are worth repeating, huh? If you haven’t explored your local fabric store’s selection of seasonal buttons, it’s worth the drive. There are a ton of different ideas out there. Here is a fast and fun way to make decorative garden stakes for your miniature garden.

Miniature Christmas DIY

These were made about eight years ago: buttons hot-glued to plastic lollipop sticks. Some of the glue has yellowed, but you would have to be up-close to see that. Other ornaments needed a bit of highlighting with a touch of gold or silver to refreshen the details.

Miniature Christmas DIY

The reindeer buttons were mounted on the sticks to look like they were galloping. This fun project is one that kids can do too.

Miniature Tree Ornaments

The same buttons can be use for ornaments. Instead of trying to painstakingly wire or loop each and every ornament to tiny branches, use metallic pipe cleaners to make an ornament from any button. Poke the wired-button into the tree’s branches, it’ll stay there if the tree isn’t moved around a lot. If do want to make a decorated tree that will be moved or carried, use strands of garlands and miniature lights and wire the ends of the strings in place. This will save you a lot of fussing around.

Miniature Christmas DIY

You will need: buttons, lollipop sticks, pliers, hot-glue gun and about 5 minutes. The lollipop sticks can be found at Michael’s Crafts.

Miniature Christmas DIY

Clip off button loop with pliers.

Miniature Christmas DIY

Look at the front of the button to see which way you want it mounted on the stick. Squeeze glue in a small line to get maximum surface contact.

Miniature Christmas DIY

Stick the stick the way that you want it stuck. ;o)

Miniature Christmas DIY

If the button pattern is asymmetrical, mount the buttons on the stem in a different rotation so they look different.

Want to add snow? Here’s what we found out about that idea – click here.

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Miniature Christmas DIY

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New Miniature Garden Plants for Indoor or Outdoor

Miniature Garden in a trug

A miniature garden to go. Jervis Canada Hemlock on the left, Elf Dwarf Spruce in the middle and the Jacqueline Hillier Elm on the right. Note the cute little trunk of the Elf Dwarf Spruce.

New Miniature Garden Plants for Indoor or Outdoor

We have been working hard at restocking the store for the fall and holiday season with a ton of new miniature garden plants and accessories – and we’ve outdone ourselves this time. I think we’ve amassed the largest collection of miniature garden trees shrubs and plants for retail sale all in one place. Over 75 different trees, shrubs and bedding plants for your miniature gardening pleasure!

We also had a chance to source some different plant choices for different climates too. The Red Tip Podocarpus is a great plant of for the southeastern U.S.; the Mugo Pines are still perfect for northern climates with a hardiness of -50F. Brrrrr! But let’s run down a few more of the new and exciting plant additions this season.

 

Baby Boxwood for the Miniature Garden

Baby Boxwood plants from left to right: Justin Brouwers, Variegated and Suffruticosa. Slow growing plus a little trimming keeps them small in the miniature garden.

Baby Boxwood

We have two new boxwood trees, the Justin Brouwers and the Suffruticosa boxwood. As with all our boxwood that we use for miniature gardening, these plants are baby plants that you can keep trimmed small for your miniature garden. All varieties can be grown indoors with plenty of light and some direct sunlight. They like regular water, potting soil with no additives, and your container must have a drainage hole in the bottom – these plants do not like their roots wet.

The difference between the two: Justin Brouwers wears a darker green and smaller leaf and the growth habit is more upright or shrub-like. If left outside over the winter months, Justin Brouwers will hold its green color. The Suffruticosa’s leaf is a bit bigger and more rounded but the overall shape is similar to a young tree. If kept in full sun outdoors, it will turn that bronzy color in the winter.

Dwarf Spruces for the Miniature Garden

Dwarf Spruces for the Miniature Garden. The Elf Dwarf Spruce is the one on the cover of Gardening in Miniature

Tis the Season for Dwarf and Miniature Spruces

An accidental moment of cuteness has happened, we have nine different dwarf and miniature spruces all together at once. It’s like a family reunion without the bickering. Big and tall, round and small, we have one to suit almost every situation. Spruces are an outdoor plant but they can be brought in for up to 2 to 3 days to enjoy over the holidays here is a blog on how to do that properly and safely.

Gardening in Miniature book

The tree on the cover is an Elf Dwarf Spruce

As requested, we have stocked up on our cover-girl-tree this season, the Elf Dwarf Alberta Spruce. That is the tree on the front cover of the Gardening in Miniature book. We’ve had that little guy approximately 13 years by our calculations – they are 3 to 4 years old when we get them in from the grower. In a couple of years, you will wake up one fine morning and discover the cutest trunk lifting the wee canopy up off the ground and it just gets better with age.

For the holidays we have a trifecta of Alberta spruces here for your every need. The dwarf Alberta spruces, the ‘Pixie’ and the ‘Pixie Dust,’ are both miniature spruces with slower growth rates than the popular ‘Jean’s Dilly.’ The main difference is the ‘Pixie Dust’ gets a blush of creamy white tips in the middle of the summer that looks somewhat like pixie dust.

 

Dwarf Hinokis  for the Miniature Garden

New dwarf Hinokis for the miniature garden offer new colors, textures and shape.

Oh Hinokis!

We also have several new and exciting and Hinoki Cypress to offer. The new Thoweil Hinoki Cypress proves to provide a gorgeous wall of green-ness for the miniature garden. Look forward to this one growing up and out and provide an upright broad shape that can anchor the back of the miniature garden.

Two new little balls of green goodness have arrived as well. The ‘Ellie B.’ and the ‘Gnome’ Hinoki Cypress look the same when young but will grow up into two different shapes: the Ellie B. will grow upright into mounds of congested foliage, looking like a cloud, and the Gnome will stay globe-shaped and close to the ground.

New trees on standard for the miniature garden

New trees on standard for the miniature garden. Thyme Leaf Cotoneaster on the left, Streib’s Findling Cotoneaster on the right.

Cotoneaster = “Coh-tone-ee-ahs-ter”

And now that miniature garden is out of our backyards, in the mainstream and is practiced worldwide, our beloved local growers have caught up to us and are attempting to furnish our needs. If they would only ask us, huh? But we certainly can give them points for trying. The two plants that happen to be in question are both Cotoneasters on standard. Who’s up for trying one?

“On standard” usually means the plant has been grafted onto a long trunk. For these Cotoneasters, the grower has groomed the plant’s own trunk to be the standard, so you will see new growth along the stem throughout the year. Pinch off any new shoots that pop out when you see them to keep the trunk clean and the plant’s energy going to the top.

The Thyme Leaf Cotoneaster has really tiny leaves and the branches will grow up and out from the middle of the shrub. You can trim it into a ball, square, or any shape you like.

The Streib’s Findling Cotoneaster has larger leaves and will naturally cascade down. This will create an opportunity to trim it into umbrella-shaped canopy, which will be very charming in miniature, especially when it flowers in spring.

Both Cotoneasters will produce the cutest little white flowers in spring followed by red berries for the fall and winter months. I’m not sure you can go wrong with either one; we’re keeping a set for ourselves and looking forward to seeing them grow in the miniature garden.

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The Great Annual Miniature Garden Contest

Join us for The Great Annual Miniature Garden Contest – imagine the possibilities!

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