Miniature Garden Beginnings: Still Crazy After All These Years
In celebration of 10 years of miniature gardening, here is a visual trip back to the turn of the century.
Did I make mistakes? I made quite a few.
Did I get weird looks when people found out that I was doing this for a living? Yes.
Do I ask myself questions in the third person? Apparently, I do. ;o)
Click into the photos to enlarge them. All of the photos were taken on 35mm film and were scanned from prints. (Was it only 10 years ago that we didn’t have digital cameras, iphones or portable video cameras?)
The very first miniature garden was an impromptu board with soil on it that was created for the greeting card line. I used small weeds and rocks to fill up the space. Lake Union in the background in the above photo.
At about the same time, I was working at Swanson’s Nursery here in Seattle and found the miniature and dwarf conifers that suited my purpose perfectly. The search for miniature “bedding plants” opened up a wealth of choices. My brain was doing flips at the possibilities! After assembling the above scene in a homemade, 3 foot container, it grew together quite nicely.
It soon attracted everybody’s eye who visited. Friends wanted one for themselves, for their sister or their mother. I brought the above photo to Swanson’s Nursery and showed it to one of the gurus that worked there. She passed it back quickly and said, “That’s nice, Janit.” She did not notice that it was a miniature garden scene. I knew I had something then…
When I started making miniature gardens to sell, I wanted to put them in pots to be carry-able so I shrunk the idea even further. At first, I was designing with color and texture, and not paying attention to what plants needed to survive. In the photo above, I mixed full-sun plants with part shade plants, a combination that did not work for long.
I got the look of the patios down just by mimicking “full-sized” gardens and used flagstone, marble, stones with miniature sand as the “grout.” (Yes, play sand was too big! ;o) The patio kept getting washed out with the overhead watering and the Seattle rain – I had to fix it all the time! I developed the Mini Patio Mix Kit to create a permanent miniature patio keep it looking nice all the time. I don’t like fussy things.
It was a cold, wet, rainy November day in Seattle. Yuck. As you can see by the look on my face in the photo, I wasn’t completely sold on the idea at first. But right after this picture was taken, we got a flurry of activity that made me come back the next Sunday and the next… It got to the point where I could not make the gardens fast enough. Then something changed and the do-it-yourself movement started; people wanted to make their own miniature gardens. So, I switched gears and started to supply the plants, parts and the pieces instead.
By 2003, with help from Steve and the purchase of a used pick-up truck, we got the Miniature Garden setup down to a system. It was not easy work maintaining and schlepping the heavy, “living” inventory with the tiny and meticulous, miniature accessories.
During the summer months, I did up to 3 markets a week with Steve helping on Sundays. It really help spread the word. The Fremont Market was where I met the most out-of-town visitors and tourists, so I gave out postcards, set up a website, started a mailing list. I began to sell plants on Ebay to test the idea online.
“If people aren’t laughing at your ideas… you are not dreaming big enough.”
– Loosely quoted, until I find the source. – J.
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