Re-Defining the Miniature Garden and Creating History

Miniature Gardening at Sorticulture
Our display at Sorticulture highlights the gardens I put together for The Book.

Re-Defining the Miniature Garden and Creating History

I think it’s safe to say it. It was probably safe to say it last year – and maybe the year before that too: We’ve made it into the garden history books.

And it only took over 12 years of a full-on-sprint to get it done. (“It” meaning, create the market, define the hobby, then write The Book <- not a good business plan. ;o) But, hey, time to dance in the streets, eh? But first, let me explain myself if you are new to what is happening here.

Miniature Gardening at Sorticulture
Miniature Trees: Boyd’s Willow on the left with the round leaves, Sky Pencil Japanese Holly in the back, the Silver Fox Hoary Willow in the middle and a Thyme-Leaf Cotoneaster on the right, with the “apples.” See what’s in stock here.

What We Know For Sure

We know the term ‘miniature gardening’ has long been used as a broad description for all kinds of gardening small. Teacup gardening, dish gardening, terrariums, bonsai, Penjing, gnome gardening, toad gardening, fairy gardening, dollhouse gardening, trough gardening, railroad gardening, windowsill gardening, rock gardening, alpine gardening, small-space gardening, indoor gardening…  and I’ve probably missed a few too.

Less than a few years ago, when I said  ‘miniature garden’ to the average gardener, one of four things would normally happen:

(a) they used to think of it as any kind of small garden,
(b) they assume it was a fairy garden,
(c) they would not know what I was talking about because the term was so vague and unknown, or
(d) they thought I was talking about an artificial dollhouse garden.

And yes, there have been books on fairy gardening and railroad gardening throughout the last few years that have used the term “miniature garden” as well – but I think we can chalk that usage up to the old definition by now – ONLY because AND quite frankly – what else would you call our style of gardening in miniature?

And this is where the changing history comes in because we have now redefined the term “miniature garden.”  This is not the first attempt at changing this definition but it will certainly be the time when it will stick only because too many people have fallen under its spell.

Miniature Gardening at Sorticulture
Having fun with the our Cover Garden. We found when using bright, strong colored accessories worked better when we used multiples of it to balance the distribution of color.
Gardening in Miniature

The Official Definition of a Miniature Garden:

“A miniature garden is a living garden in a tiny scale and looks like a full-sized garden that has literally shrunk in size. It consists of a slow growing dwarf or true miniature plants, in-scale bedding plants, a patio or pathway, and miniature accessories where all the elements relate in scale, are proportioned to each other and stay in scale and proportion as the garden grows together.”

And hey, this is becoming an even bigger historical movement in the garden world, especially if you do take into account all the fairy gardeners too. Which brings us to the question,

“What exactly is the difference between miniature gardening and fairy gardening?”

Fairy gardens are created specifically for fairies with whimsical houses, fantastical furniture and a fairy figure, or two are hidden among the regular-sized garden plants and herbs.

For most people, using this highly imaginative theme compromises the realism dramatically and reduces the enchantment that only an authentic and realistic miniature scene can deliver. Notice the next time you see a really good fairy garden that it is the realistic items in the scene that delivers most of the message – whether it be a realistic window on a house, a tiny book laying on the table or a miniature rake propped up next to the fairy house.

Miniature Gardening at Sorticulture
Serenity Now: A miniature garden with an Adirondack chair and wee pond quietly prods us to relax and take a moment.

And It’s Generating a Huge Miniature Movement

It is just a tiny garden idea with incredibly rich possibilities and it is quickly capturing the hearts and the imaginations of people worldwide. Miniature gardening is a personable, creative, accessible, share-able, scale-able, play-able and a productive way to get your creative juices flowing and, at the same time, can be very grounding and centering. Now don’t just sit there, help make history.

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Miniature Gardening at Sorticulture

12 thoughts on “Re-Defining the Miniature Garden and Creating History

  1. 12 years! I’m just now getting into the hobby and would like to add it to our redesigned furniture business as a sideline. I’m excitedly waiting for your book that I have pre-ordered. Those little accessories are soooo expensive, though! Keep going, stop, keep going, stop. 12 years, huh?
    I’ll keep reading. Thanks for your insight.


  2. I am so fascinated with this kind of it!!


  3. Pingback: Anonymous
  4. “definition of miniature garden is”

    According to whom? I like the definition but I’d be most grateful if you could elaborate on the source or clarify whether this is this your own definition.


    1. Lol! Really? Well, Pete, it’s according the person who triggered this trend in the first place, who started in 2001 and busted her butt to get it noticed and into the mainstream. It’s according to the person who built the business model that everyone quickly copied adapted – and they still follow the model and adapt any changes now. It’s according to the person who the gift manufacturers look to for new product ideas that they can get remade in China and brought back here for mass distribution and for their own profits. And, lastly, it’s according to the author of the only definitive book on the hobby, Gardening in Miniature: Create Your Own Tiny Living World, that is still a bestseller for the world’s top-horticultural publisher, Timber Press – and it’s still a bestseller on (It still is the only title in the history of Timber Press that they had to order a 2nd printing before the book was even launched.)

      If you can find a better, more experienced person to define this new hobby, I would like to meet her.


      1. Okay thanks Janit, I’m fairly new to this having just picked up “Gardens in Miniature” by Anne Ashberry published in 1967.


      2. Although I think her first book on miniature gardening was published in 1954 so she was at it for a long time too ; )


      3. Anne Ashberry is the grandmother of miniature gardening but I didn’t find her explaining it in any definitive way. I have read her books, although “Gardens in Miniature” has just came to the surface recently so I’m not yet familiar with that one. Her book, Miniature Gardens, was actually first published in 1951. She, and other people wrote about it throughout the years, you’ll also find books by John Constable and John Chasty, among others, but no one brought it to the marketplace – and nor were they able to package it for the masses to enjoy.


      4. Thanks Janit, I’ll check out those other sources too.


      5. HI Pete, I do have that Gardens in Miniature book by Anne Ashberry – it came without a cover so I didn’t recognize it. I found that there were a lot of plants mentioned in there that are too big for the miniature garden scale, like all her bulb suggestions for example. I have yet to figure out how she grows her indoor gardens too – they are filled with outdoor plants and most of her suggestions wouldn’t last the winter in a typical American home. I’ve tested some of her suggestions years ago and they only lasted a couple of months before showing major signs of stress.


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