Doing Things Differently Part 2: How We Use Plants

Our Desert Island Miniature Garden from our Gardening in Miniature Prop Shop shows how we use trees differently than other forms of gardening. A straggly cypress becomes a safe haven for a little tree house. This photo was taken in February of 2016.


Are you ready for something completely different?

Welcome to our continuing blog series to introduce you to how we do things differently with this wonderful Miniature Garden hobby!  (Here’s part 1, if you missed it.)

You see, we’ve become tired of the way things are going with the gardening in miniature hobby so we’re taking a stand. We have had the amazing opportunity to (re)build this hobby from scratch while others have only taken the miniature garden idea, and tried to stuff it into pot with whatever plants they can find, which just doesn’t work. We ARE different.

AND we are tired of:

  • Video after video of how “garden experts” and talking-head-sponsored-promoters over-plant their miniature gardens and fairy gardens with the WRONG plants and trees. Then shove a resin house in it, throw down some gravel and call it “a miniature fairy garden.” (Which in itself is redundant, fairies are miniature!)


  • These so-called-experts trick you into thinking those plants will work because they were given the plants to flog for free – obviously by a company that just wants to sell plants too – and they don’t want to research, test and find out what will actually work well for YOU! They’ve been sponsored to flog those particular plants, instead of showing you what plants do work in a miniature garden, in your situation. So, if you’ve followed their advice, you probably wasted your money, time, and energy, all while watching your wonderful creation become a complete mess within the season.


  • These so-called “experts” are doing it because they get paid by the sponsor, and/or for the advertising revenue they get from your eyeballs and your clicks.


  • Heck, one “award-winning-garden-expert” (and previous freelance editor for my first book,) whipped together a book on our hobby just to get something published to get ahead – now she’s an “award winning garden author” in the garden world and has done the same thing to a number of other authors. That is pretty wrong in our books and yet, the garden writer groups just applaud and give her more trophies. That is just ridiculously unethical.

    We, however, prefer to sleep at night and we’ll tell you if something won’t work but, more importantly, we’ll tell you WHAT WILL WORK.


No one is paying attention.

No one cares.

We’re done being silent.

We are SO not like them.

We DO care because it’s OUR HOBBY TOO.

And we want our hobby back.


AND that’s not the only thing we are doing that is different.

Two years later with minimal maintenance. All I did was make sure it got watered so you can see how easy miniature gardens are to take care of. Once those Hen & Chick flowers are finished blooming, (the flowers are the light green-colored plants that are in the forefront,) I’ll cut the understory back a bit so we can see the scene a bit better. This photo was taken July, 2018.


Miniature Gardening with Janit Calvo


We do just about everything our own way. We didn’t just pick up this topic just because it needed updating and saw an untapped market – because there was no market when we started! We started out of a love of gardening and miniatures and we wanted to share the joy and the creativity that keeps us up at night. We love crafting and building and growing and gardening and everything to do with miniature gardening – just like you. 

This is the second excerpt from the introduction of our latest bestselling book, Gardening in Miniature Prop Shop: Handmade Projects for Your Tiny Living World on how we are different. Part 1 is here.

We can appreciate all kinds of miniature and dwarf plants and include the leggy shrubs and broken trees in our work because we will use them as authentic additions to our specific miniature scenes. We adore the tiny conifers with their little buds and needles not as collectors, but because they are genuine landscape trees in miniature.

We don’t practice the art of bonsai, but we will gladly use the ancient techniques for pruning and looking at plants in a new way. We use the same bonsai tree-starts but instead of cropping off the roots to fit them into shallow trays, we lovingly place them, uncut root-ball and all, into our miniature gardens as delicious anchor trees and hang tiny swings or birdhouses from them.


This little miniature spruce was initially damaged in a wind storm but we’ve since found the perfect spot for it in the corner of our Desert Island garden. We do things differently in this hobby!


Now, are YOU ready for something completely different?

Check out the Miniature Garden Society where we are building, growing, sharing and connecting with other like-minded miniature gardeners from all over the world. We’re the same people that wrote the Gardening in Miniature books on the hobby. We’re the same people that have been in the trenches, nurturing the hobby throughout the last 20 years without any sponsors or anyone telling us what to do. We are independent. We have the insight, information and inspiration that you will ONLY find at

Because we are different, just like you. Find out more about the Miniature Garden Society here.

Continue to Part 3 here.

You can still appreciate the understory of our Desert Island miniature garden from the Prop Shop book – and it’s still intact after two years. This is a testament to how we build miniature gardens that can last simply because we think, do, plant and build gardens differently than any other style of gardening.


5 thoughts on “Doing Things Differently Part 2: How We Use Plants

  1. Hi Janit, I remember first seeing you and getting the Mini Garden Gazette. You were passionate and involved. And now that you mention it, most sites aren’t all that garden oriented but more commercial. I was a little taken aback by this article at first. We were always expected to not complain about others while they scooped up the kudos. But I’m glad you did. Sparked my attention, that’s for sure. I do some miniature gardening … love setting them up. But I do have a few tucked into the garden that have grown and spread but are covered up. These are little gardens I did a couple of years ago. I’ll send you a picture when I reclaim it. I understand you wanting to take it back and grow it and create. It’s your main hobby.
    Anyway, just wanted you to know that I’ve noticed what you do and now know more about how you are.
    Terese Davis, CA


    1. Thanks Terese – For a lot of us, it’s OUR main hobby. I thought about the how aggressive this post is, (and this series,) but then I thought about how aggressive the garden industry has been in monetizing the hobby with their paid spokespeople sending the wrong messages, poorly made tchotchkes and the copy-cat books that were written overnight just to capitalize on the trend. There’s no one else speaking up about all the misinformation out there just as there is not one other garden professional that’s taking the hobby seriously. It’s still all about the money, for most people and, in doing so, the hobby could easily be swept into the compost bin if we don’t take a stand, name it and claim it. -J.


Thoughts and Opinions:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close