Miniature Gardens vs. Fairy Gardens – What is the Difference?

Fairy door and windows.

Not really a miniature garden but very cute! From the "Our Favorite Miniature Gardens" album on HGTV.com

Miniature Gardens vs. Fairy Gardens – What is the Difference?

I opened up a little can of worms the other day on our Facebook page.

Thankfully, I’m a little hardcore when it comes to gardening, I like worms.

A couple of weeks ago, I created a post for the Facebook page that linked to a series of fairy gardens on HGTV.com and suggested that they should start hanging out with us “real miniature gardeners.” I must admit, that was a bit hasty in retrospect, but I didn’t mean to offend anyone so here’s an explanation of where that comment came from.

The first picture in the album was of a couple of windows and a door nailed to a tree with a fairy in front of it. Inside the album, however, there were a couple of pictures that were very pretty little miniature fairy gardens, and pictures of a fairy house and a gnome house.

A very pretty little Fairy Garden

From the HGTV.com album. Fairy gardens are a type of miniature garden and if there is a fairy in it, then the word 'fairy' belongs in the name.

“Why?” asked Patti Sherwood, the founder and leader of the Miniature and Fairy Garden forum on Garden Share.com “… because I truly believe that every attempt at creating a garden of any kind should be applauded and not criticized.”

That was a great question, Patti, and you made an even better point.

But I felt like Martha Stewart. She is always made fun of because of her quest for excellence and perfection. But, you know what? She raised our game. Martha made us want for a better home and a better life through the domestic arts. Heck, we didn’t even call it “domestic arts” until she did! It was called housework and cooking. How unglamorous.

Yes, I think every attempt at gardening should be applauded, especially because plants help the air, our stress levels and the environment, visually and environmentally.

But, promoting any type of gardening is not what I do. My focus is living miniature gardening.

“Lettuce define our terms.”
              – Kermit the Frog

The term ‘miniature garden’ is an all-encompassing phrase for any small sized garden, living or artificial. It can be as big as a small backyard or as small as a thimble-sized terrarium. Dish gardens, bonsai, penjing, rock gardening, railroad gardening, gnome gardening, tray gardening, windowsill gardening, teacup gardening, terrariums, vivariums and Wardian cases are all types of miniature gardens. I’ve probably missed some too.

But they are not literally a living garden in miniature.

So here is the definition of our type of miniature gardening. (Yes, it is my own, I can not think of who else would have the authority and perspective to define it so I’ll claim it.)

Living Miniature Gardens

Living Miniature Gardens include plants, patio/paths and an accessory all in scale with one another.

Definition: A miniature garden is the perfect blend of tiny trees, plants, hardscaping and garden accessories that are in scale with one another to create a lasting, living garden scene or vignette.Living Miniature Gardens include plants, patio/paths and an accessory all in scale with one another.

And maybe that’s it, right there.

Our miniature gardens should be called Living Miniature Gardens to separate our type of miniature gardening from the rest of the group.

And as a leader and a professional (like HGTV.com) I feel it is part of my job to bring out the best miniature gardener in everybody.

So, when one is adding a fairy figure to a bunch of plants and calling it a miniature garden, that isn’t quite right, it is a fairy garden.

A window and door hammered onto a tree is not a miniature garden. It could lead to one – but I would be hard-pressed to even call it a garden. Where are the plants?

From the Fairy and Miniature Garden Forum on GardenShare.com

They are crazy about fairies! This moment of sublime cuteness comes from the Fairy and Miniature Garden Forum on GardenShare.com

A sign propped up in the corner with a fairy a pebble path is a fairy garden, not a “miniature garden” even though it is cute as a button.

And the “Our Favorite Miniature Gardens” on the HGTV.com site was an album of fairy gardens, or miniature fairy gardens, if you will.

Do you agree? Leave a comment below about my current definition of what we do here at Two Green Thumbs Miniature Garden Center and help us define what we do so we can continue to share, enjoy and create living miniature gardens.

 

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15 Comments »

  1. KC said

    This is one of the situations where one will not find a defining definition for miniature garden.

    Is a tiny sized plant that does not grow to a large size actually a miniature? No, not really since it was not reduced in size from a larger item.

    Don’t worry about the definitions just be sure to use the keywords that people might think of using such as fairie and fairy so those looking to create a miniature garden will find you.

    • JanitC said

      Thanks, Karin, but that is what this blog post is about – defining what we do! I’m not worried about keywords and people finding me, those who want to know more will, if they haven’t already. I’m the only one writing and blogging about this hobby on a consistent basis and have for years as you know. It’s fun being a leader in this trend… ;o)

      And here’s one of my blogs on defining what miniature plants are:
      https://minigardener.wordpress.com/2010/03/25/miniature-dwarf-plants-the-true-meaning/

  2. Mairead said

    After reading your very informative post, I know now what I am, I am a miniature plants person. Well, since I am definitely not miniature, I should say, I am a ‘miniature plants’ person. I keep my plants in large tubs, troughs and fish boxes, which you may or may not be acquainted with – they are large plastic boxes for transporting fish, which I found on the local beach or my mother-in-law’s in the west of Ireland, usually after stormy weather. I give them the best of soil that I can manage to suit their needs, and a layer of stone or scree, and I let them get on with it. Landscaping of these mini gardens is not for me, so I now accept that I am not a mini-gardener. Whatever I am, the plants seem happy.

  3. Dorothy said

    I have nine fairy gardens in containers in WISCONSIN. I use annuals for the foliage. Finding and keeping miniature plants over the winter is expensive and difficult. I made the faries out of clay and have themes in each garden. The grand-kids, the King and Queen, fairy babies, story time, Happy Birthday, Unicorns, tea party, etc. They are very cute and have been fun to work with but I think fairy gardens are different from miniature gardens.

    • JanitC said

      I can help you with finding miniature plants that will work in your area, Dorothy! I have many customers in WI. Email me your zip code and I’ll do some digging for you ~ info@twogreenthumbs.com. I may be able to find a local nursery for you too.

      And I’m glad you can appreciate the difference between the two. Both kinds, miniature and fairy gardens, are equally enchanting and inspiring! ;o)

  4. Stevie said

    This is very clear and I completely “get” your point here. I am fascinated by what you create in your miniature gardens.

  5. Linda said

    Hi I’m Linda, and I have retail greenhouses in Spooner Wi.(Yellow River Gardens) and I totally agree with Dorothy. There are very few truely dwarf, perennial plants that over-winter in Wi. Any plants that winter in containers or even raised gardens are a challenge up here!
    We’ve experimented with several plants…… the hardiest are in the sedums and a few in the evergreens. There are shrubs that can be used, but finding them available for sale in a small specimen is also few and far between…..we’re working on that. Also, your examples of gardens are fun and inspiring….Thanks

  6. Martha said

    Hi Janit, I love your definition of a miniature garden! In fact, do you mind if I use it when people ask me what a mini garden is? I will, of course, give you full credit. :). However, although I rarely use fairy figures in my mini gardens, I always invite the fairies to come in and enjoy them. And as you might remember, I was taken up on that once and now again most recently, I believe. :)

  7. tvland said

    I am so glad to see you put together a definition! I am new to the miniature gardening world though I have dabbled in dollhouses and trains in the past. I get aggravated clicking on links to “miniature” gardens and seeing it full of fairies with no plants in sight! I feel your frustration! I have nothing against fairies and I have a house full of gnomes but I want to recreate a true to life scene in a miniature. I was thinking of myself as getting into bonsai but now realize bonsai is miniature gardening. :-) Greatly enjoy your website and your facebook posts.

  8. […] the edge of the pot, or have enough room for a small house or building, a particular favorite of fairy gardeners. We talk about the different kinds of pots that can be used miniature gardening in our new book […]

  9. […] Note the new category for Best Fairy Garden. There is some overlap between the two hobbies but they are different. Simply put: Miniature gardening is based on realism. Fairy gardening is based on fairies. Here’s a blog with more about the difference between the two types of gardening small. […]

  10. Rhonda Mueller said

    So if a fairy is added to a miniature garden, what is it?

    • Hi Rhonda, If you add any type of figure to a miniature scene, the story switches to that figure as the main character. So, to answer your question, if you add a fairy to a miniature garden it becomes a fairy garden – or the fairy’s garden. We tend to enjoy our scenes without figures, so the focus goes to the garden and the story is left up to the viewer’s imagination. We find there is more enchantment this way, because the story is undefined and open-ended it leaves a lot of room for everybody to enjoy.

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