Miniature Gardening 104: How to Find the Plants

Miniature Garden from the Northwest Flower and Garden Show Container Display, in 2004.
Tripping through the photo archive: A Miniature Garden from the Northwest Flower and Garden Show Container Display, in 2004. Jean’s Dilly Dwarf Alberta Spruce in the middle, flanked by different Hinoki Cypress. That chartreuse grass is Miniature Sweet Flag. Alberta Spruces won’t grow well in hot/dry regions, they like their roots to stay cool.

Miniature Garden Plants is Our Specialty!

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 102: Indoor vs. Outdoor Plants

Miniature Gardening 103: The Water

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A Tiny Miniature Garden: The Way to Oz
Tripping through the photo archives: A tiny Miniature Garden: The Way to Oz. With small, Roly-Poly Hen and Chicks. This size of mini garden make the PERFECT little hostess or thank you gift!

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?

Right here!

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.

Baby Boxwood in the Miniature Garden
A Baby Boxwood in an Indoor Miniature Garden. Golden Baby tears on the left and Dwarf Mondo Grass on the right.

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.

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Miniature Garden In-ground
The dwarf Zmatlik Arborvitae is in the upper left corner, with small Hens and Chick at the base, clockwise to the right, Miniature Daisies, Elfin Thyme and Sedum lydium.

 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.

Miniature Garden with a Mugo Pine for full sun.
Tripping through the photo archives: Miniature Garden with a Mugo Pine for full sun. The Mugos are great for containers or planted in the ground.

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.)

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An old Miniature Garden with the Moonfrost Canada Hemlock
Tripping through the photo archives: An old Miniature Garden with the Moonfrost Canada Hemlock. This garden is over five old, the moss took over for the ground covers a couple years ago, it still looked rustic, so I left it alone.

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, by indoor, sun and shade. Use the search at the top right to search by your zone and you’ll be all set.

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 since 2001 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!

Snail at the Miniature Garden watering hole.
Tripping through the photo archives: You can lead a snail to water… Random acts of cuteness may appear in your miniature garden at any time! Have your camera ready to catch it at any time.

Get a little crafty with Two Green Thumbs! Maintenance

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.

Miniature Gardening 105: Sizing Up Your Miniature Garden Accessories

See what other plants are up in our store here.

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