Miniature Gardening 104: How to Find the Plants
We’re finally getting back into our groove after a busy spring here at our studios in Seattle. The book is almost to the publisher’s…. almost! Steve is holding down the stores so I can get this together for you, this has been a very popular question this season, I thought to tackle it right away. Click on the pictures to enlarge them.
Here are the previous posts in this series, just in case you missed them:
Miniature Gardening 101: The Dirt (All about soil.)
Miniature Gardening 104: How to Find the Plants
Miniature gardening is such a juicy idea, it can’t help but attract new gardeners to try it out and, in doing so, you can begin to learn about gardening in general. But where do you start?
For Indoor Miniature Gardens
1. Choose the place where your miniature garden will “live.”
2. What kind of light does that spot get?
Bright, indirect light behind a sheer curtain? A full sun window sill?
3. Choose plants to suit those conditions. The soil and the water regime will depend upon what plants you would like to grow. See examples.
Example #1 – Small-leafed succulents love sharply drained soil because their roots don’t like to be wet all the time. Sharply draining soil, is the soil with white bits of vermiculite “well-peppered” throughout the mix. The Succulent’s soil will need to dry out between watering to prevent over-watering.
Example #2 – A baby English Boxwood Tree can be grown in regular potting soil, with a regular watering schedule. Let the soil dry out until wrung-sponge-damp in between waterings to prevent overwatering. (Stick your finger 1” down into the soil to test it.) The soil should not dry out completely.
For In-Ground Miniature Gardens
1. What kind of light does the spot get in spring and fall? Full sun? Part? Shade? In summer, the sun is highest and shines on all areas so it’s not an accurate time to call it.
2. What kind of soil does that spot have? Is there soil? Soil is the rich, brown and full of composted bits of goodness that smells like the earth, dirt is grey and dead.
3. Is the soil moist or on the dry side?
4. What zone are you in? The USDA has figured this out for us, just plunk in your zip code to their interactive hardiness zone chart, and it will look it up for you. (All countries have their own hardiness zones, use Google Search to help you find yours.) Every plant has certain zones that they can be grown in. Banana Palm Trees can’t tolerate the winters in Wisconsin. Alberta Spruces won’t like the long, hot and dry summers in Texas.
5. Choose plants to suit those conditions.
Example #1 – The dwarf Mugo Pines great for a full sun spot, like well-draining sole and prefer the soil just barely damp. Let the soil dry out to wrung-sponge-damp in between watering. (Stick your finger 1” down into the soil to test it.) The Mugos can tolerate dryness, but never for too long, nor too often.
Example #2 – Dwarf Canada Hemlocks of all varieties prefer a part shade spot with damp soil. Part shade includes the eastern side of the house and dappled shade too. Part shade helps the soil to remain damp as they do not like dry soil. (Some Hemlocks can take more sun in cooler climates but the soil really needs to stay consistently damp.)
Now Go Get Plants!
Source #1 – Your local, independent garden center or nursery will carry plants that you can use. If they don’t know about miniature gardening, ask for slow-growing plants, small leafed perennials, low growing, dwarf, miniature, baby or young plants. Note that the words, ‘dwarf’ and ‘miniature’ refer to the growth rate, not the plant.
Also not that the garden department at the “big-box stores” won’t have half as much of a plant selection that your local, independent garden center will have. Call the garden center first to check – either way, for the new gardener, it will be well worth the drive and the effort to get to know them and their store.
Source #2 – From your favorite online Miniature Garden Center. We have them divided up into three main categories, Indoor, Outdoor Sun/Part Sun and Outdoor Shade/Part Shade. All our plant listings have the growth rates, zone information and growing details. In each plant listings, there is a little summary on why we like to grow them in our miniature gardens. We’ve been seriously growing miniature garden plants for over 11 years now and we have found a nice selection of reliable plants that don’t take a lot of attention to grow – just water how they like to be watered and a little love every now and then!
How to maintain the plants in your miniature garden will depend upon the plants you have chosen. Read the plant’s care info and stick to what it says.
Indoor: Note that your situation changes throughout the year: the sun beams sideways into the windows will scorch the leaves and forced-air heaters will dry out the soil faster in winter.
Outdoor In-Ground: The trees, shrubs and perennials will get established after a year of regular watering and, after that, all you have to do is water occasionally in the dry months and pull a weed or two. Divide the perennials every couple of years. Any annuals will need regular water. Keep fertilizing to a minimum – you don’t want it to grow fast.
Links to the plant listings in our online store:
Miniature and Dwarf Mugo Pines
(Link goes to ‘Short Needle,’ look in same department for other Mugos that we have in stock.)
Miniature and Dwarf Canada Hemlocks
(Link goes to ‘Abbott’s Pygmy,’ look in same department for other Hemlocks that we have in stock.)
See what other plants are up in our store here.