How to Add Authenticity to Your Miniature or Fairy Garden

Elf Dwarf Spruce for the Miniature Garden

Stripped of accessories to see the tree, an Elf Dwarf Spruce stands majestic the miniature garden.  What once was a cute shrub is now a “big tree” for the mini garden at 10″ tall.

How to Add Authenticity to Your Miniature or Fairy Garden

Trees and shrubs are the backbone to any garden. I know, I know, I’m biased, I come from Ontario, the land of the deciduous Maple trees, and I live in Seattle, the land of the evergreen conifers. And, I love trees. I get it from my Grandmother who worked for the Forestry Service in Ontario for many years. She would always call out the names of the trees as we walked by them and if she didn’t recognize it, she would grab a fallen leaf or cone, or tell one of us to jump/climb up and get one, to bring home to look up in her library.

In full-sized garden design, trees and shrubs are the anchor points that we design our full-size garden around. If there aren’t any trees, the garden designer will usually start with placing the trees and shrubs – or the garden “bones” – in the garden first, then plan/plant around them.

In other styles of garden design that call for a lower profile, the garden designer will rely solely on shrubs as the main anchor points – then fill in with perennials, grasses and annuals. The presence of trees and shrubs is constant – perennials go dormant and annuals only last for couple/few of months – so they are often called anchor points or “the bones” of the garden.

In gardening in miniature, we learn from “full-size” gardening for developing a realistic miniature or fairy garden that can look as if it has been there for years and years. Since our reliance on trees and shrubs are the same, we need authentic looking “miniature trees” for the garden. Beware because there is a difference between a true miniature or dwarf tree and rooted branches grown for a quick sale.

Here are some visual examples of trees that we have growing in our in-ground miniature garden that. Note that I’ve left most of the accessories out of the photos because I want to show off how much these trees and shrubs can really add to your miniature or fairy garden setting. Creating a garden normally starts with plants and ends with accessorizing and with so many great trees and shrubs out on the market these days, there really is no excuse for not having great garden bones in your miniature or fairy garden.

Nana Dwarf Hinoki Cypress in the Miniature Garden

The Nana Dwarf Hinoki Cypress is a reliable grower that you can gradually train into a tree form by pruning away the lower branches. Estimated growth over 7 years is 9″. It was about 5″ tall when we got it (estimated 3 to 4 years old at that time) and it’s about 14″ tall now.

Verdoni Dwarf Hinoki Cypress for the Miniature Garden

The trunk of the Verdoni Dwarf Hinoki Cypress gets thicker every year, looking like authentic tree in the miniature garden, instead of a “rooted branch.” Planting the trees in the ground to let them “grow wood” to train as a bonsai is one of the many benefits of gardening in miniature

Under the canopy of the Verdoni Dwarf Hinoki Cypress in the Miniature Garden

Under the canopy of the Verdoni Dwarf Hinoki Cypress in the Miniature Garden.

Picea glauca 'Conica'

This Conica Spruce is, in my opinion, a bit too big for this scene. It’s one of Steve’s trees that we are growing in for a one-sixth scale garden. That’s a Golden Sprite Hinoki Cypress on the right – it’s a bit greener than usual because its under the shade of the spruce tree.

Zmatlik Dwarf Arborvitae in the miniature garden

The Zmatlik Dwarf Arborvitae is the perfect tree to for a forest look. Sturdy, reliable and slow growing. This little guy is about 3 feet tall now and a strong anchor point for this corner of the garden. That’s the start of a Helmond Pillar Barberry hedge on the right.

The Conica Spruce and Zmatlik Dwarf Arborvitae in the miniature garden

The Conica Spruce and Zmatlik Dwarf Arborvitae on either side of the riverbed. Without the fallen leaves on the ground, one may just be fooled, thinking it was a full-sized scene.

A younger Elf Dwarf Alberta Spruce.

A younger Elf Dwarf Alberta Spruce works as a perfect shrub. That fence is about 2″ tall. A comparable on that we have in stock is the Little Gem Norway Spruce, that has the same growth rate but more defined branches and the cutest little needles!

Golden Sprite Dwarf Hinoki Cypress for the Miniature Garden

Golden Sprite Dwarf Hinoki Cypress for the Miniature Garden. We’re going out in the garden today to get those weedy violets and wayward sedums under control – should take about 6 minutes!

Tansu Cryptomeria japonica in the miniature garden

Tansu Cryptomeria japonica in the next phase of our miniature garden. It was planted last fall and is now ready to be developed into the scene. We’ll start with some “bedding plants” and a patio area and go where it takes us.

Fall is the perfect time to plant your trees into the garden. They will get established over the winter and be “ready to grow” next spring. They will need less maintenance too – only help with the watering in the dry months is needed.

See our huge selection of trees now up in the store:
Trees for Sun/Part Sun
Trees for Shade
Trees for Indoors

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  1. Roberta Elwell said

    I really like the idea of miniatures in the yard, their own little world. Can you suggest some plants or trees that would work well in Wyoming? Our winters are cold and summers hot.


  2. Joy Pexton said

    I’m from New Zealand and would love to be able to put real trees in our fairy gardens. My Granddaughters who live with me at the the moment have their own gardens I haven’t been able to find miniature Trees out here and don’t think I would be able to bring them in so would really love to know how to do it for our own use.


    • Irene Foss said

      Maybe your local nursery has baby trees that grow in your area or could tell you where to find some. Then you could put them in pretty pots and plant some tiny leafed ground cover in a clump or two just to look pretty. I’ve never tried to grow a baby tree myself. It might be fun to try. If you were to go online to look for how to make a bonsai tree you could probably get some good information on how to get started.
      I hope this helps a little.


    • Hi Joy,

      Here’s a blog post of what to look for in your area. Not everybody knows what a “miniature garden plant” is like so use terms like, “bonsai starts,” “alpine plants,” “slow-growing baby plants,” “miniature or dwarf conifers” etc. Here’s blog with more insight:


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