Miniature Gardening in the Southeastern States
When you start looking for the plants that will suit miniature gardening, you’ll find a new world of plants will open up to you. The same thing happened when I was asked to do a talk at the wonderful Epcot Flower and Garden Festival at Disney World. Southeastern climates with extreme heat and humidity will need plants that can withstand those conditions if you want them to thrive. I started my search with my short-list of ways to find plants for miniature gardening, consulted my library and found that some of our plants that we’ve been working with for years will work too. Here are the results.
What’s a Miniature Garden Plant?
Not everyone knows what a “miniature garden plant” is yet, and some nurseries are mixing up the fairy garden idea with miniature gardening. Just because it has a “fairy” name, doesn’t mean it will work as a miniature. And, just because it has small leaves, doesn’t mean it will suit either. Here, on the other hand, is what will work if you focus on the right combination of small leaves, slow growth rate and the height of the plant and its flowers. Note that what I mean by the height will depend upon whether you are using that plant as a tree, shrub or bedding plant – and that includes flowers too. Look for small-leafed and slow growing: – Rockery plants – Miniature and dwarf plants, (‘miniature’ and ‘dwarf’ are growth rates) – Alpine plants – Baby plants – Ground covers
Tips for growing Two Green Thumbs’ trees in southern climates:
A lot of the trees that you buy in 4” pots for miniature gardening are little balls of young foliage. In cooler climates the air helps keep the plant at a comfortable temperature if you keep the conifer dieback cleaned out of the center where it tends to collect in the young shrub. In more humid climes, you can help the young shrubs get air circulation into the wee canopy by “opening them up.” With a little patience and a sharp pair of garden scissors, carefully prune out the middle branches on the shrub.
Work gradually and always take the entire plant into consideration before each snip. Cutting the wrong branch or a “big” branch can compromise the overall look of the shrub. Start with cutting away any criss-crossing branches, snip any downward branches and then concentrate on shape.
Plant in part shade or part sun to avoid that strong afternoon sun. Many of our plants can handle the full sun in northern climates where the sun is a bit cooler, and the ground stays evenly damp. You can mimic these conditions by giving the plant a cooler spot to grow in with cooler sun, eastern sun, dappled light or on the northern side of the house.
Don’t over plant. Our tendency is to fill up the garden right away to get that look of a “real” garden – and that’s one of the joys of gardening in miniature: instant gratification. But, in some southern regions where there is a lot of humidity, the trees will appreciate any extra air circulation that they can get. So not only help the tree/shrub with a little pruning, plant the plants further apart so the air can go through the plants to keep them healthy.
Rethink your plant selections. You can always change your thinking and consider the miniature and dwarf conifers as annual plants that will last for a couple/few months. Hinoki Cypress or any dwarf Spruce can certainly be enjoyed over the holiday months until they start to fade. Don’t’ think of the initial cost of the tree as an expense, but rather as entertainment, and amortize the cost over the 4 to 6 months that you can enjoy your miniature garden – I bet it’s cheaper than a latte!
And, it’s easy to replace too – swapping out a miniature garden tree for a fresh one takes minutes – and you can still go to work on Monday morning a brag about all the gardening you got done on the weekend. Lol!
Here is a list of miniature garden plants that we stock in our online store that don’t mind the heat and humidity of the southeastern garden. Note that not all plants are not available at all times and there may be some trail and error needed in finding out what they need to be happy.
Red Tip Podocarpus – Podocarpus aplinus ‘Red Tip’
Blue Star Juniper – Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’
Groundcover Juniper – Juniper horizontalis
Tansu Japanese Cedar – Cryptomeria japonica ‘Tansu’
Ulmus parvifolia ‘Hokkaido’ – Dwarf Chinese Elm
Dwarf Mondo Grass – Ophiopogon japonica Nana
Fairy Vines – Muhlenbeckia complexa
Lily Turf – Lirope spicata
Sedums – small leafed
Please refer to our online store for what is available here. Not all the plants are available at all times.
I’ve shown the results of the demos on our next blog here.
The books I consulted in my library, in addition to our bestselling Gardening in Miniature Book: Create Your Own Tiny Living World or find in our Amazon affiliate store here.
Succulent Container Gardens, by Debra Lee Baldwin, published by Timber Press (Our Amazon store.)
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