Doing Things Differently Part 3: How We Miniaturize

Welcome back to our continuing series on how we do things differently with the gardening in miniature hobby. (See Part 1: How We Garden here & Part 2: How We Use Plants here.) Today we are talking about how miniature gardeners use mini accessories differently than most other miniature-based hobbies.

While railroad gardening has a strong interest in accessorizing, the bonsai hobby’s use of any miniature accessories is few and far between. With miniature gardening, we need to pick and choose what miniatures to use because there are very few, so far, that are made specifically for us – although we are building our selected inventory slowly over at Two Green Thumbs Miniature Garden Center.

But the railroad gardeners have a certain look to their buildings and accessories that pigeon-hole them into their niche. Any bonsai accessory seems to be only Asian in theme. Would it be cultural appropriation if we made a bonsai into an American scene? Would anyone be offended?

Now, I know what you are thinking. “But Janit, there are all kinds of garden miniatures for the garden out there in the big box stores!”

Okay, lets first eliminate all the fairy garden accessories and all their fantasy designs that are not realistic. THEN we eliminate anything that is not a legitimate scale – because without scale nothing would coordinate, right?

But it’s not only the realism and the proper scale, it’s how the accessories weather outside in the living miniature garden. Now take away every accessory that will melt in the rain, fade quickly in the sun, get lost in the soil because it’s way too tiny, or break as soon as squirrel knocks it over.

I wonder what kinds of accessories would be left for us to choose from in a big box store?

You see the only accessories that warrant a place in our miniature gardens are sturdy realistic miniatures – the miniatures that are a true replica of the full-sized version whether that be a birdbath, bench or water can.

We’re picky that way because we are different – like you.

This is an excerpt from our latest bestselling book, Gardening in Miniature Prop Shop: Handmade Projects for Your Tiny Living World on how we make and use miniatures – differently:

Instead of spending hours indoors renovating a dollhouse, we take our miniatures outside and put them in the soil. We can complete the garden from start to finish in a couple of hours; that’s a feat seldom heard of in the dollhouse world. We don’t just craft anything and everything either; our projects have to rev up our imaginations, fill our hearts, fit into our tiny gardens, and be special enough to warrant giving up such valuable real estate.

We are versatile crafters as long as it has something to do with the miniature garden. We dabble and masonry, mosaics, woodworking, painting, and all kinds of applied arts. We love to use our hands and mind to build and make rather than just buy an idea to plunk down in a pot of soil. We relish the realistic details, knowing that that is where the magic and enchantment is made.

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 it’s our passion too.

Find out more about the Miniature Garden Society here.

Continue to Part 4 here.

6 thoughts on “Doing Things Differently Part 3: How We Miniaturize

  1. I love this part of the blog, How We Miniaturize. You are so right about the ready made accessories available out there at craft stores and big box stores. So many are the wrong scale, gaudy or so cheaply made the wouldn’t last even one season. I do buy a few, but they are usually the kind of props I have to remember to bring inside if rain is in the forecast.
    I really enjoy making the majority of my own props. Wood is durable if you add a good topcoat, my favorite one is a spray spar urethane. Copper and brass do not rust so I try to use that as well. It’s a challenge I love. My goal this year is to start sharing how I make my own props in the miniature garden society that I have just joined. Thanks Janit!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am a garden railroader (the reason I look at this for ideas) and I do not see any sense in the statement that our buildings “pigeon-hole” them into a niche. Perhaps shows your ignorance on garden railroading. There are a variety of factory buildings that vary a great deal as well as kits. Then there is all the custom made items, some purchased from people who make them for profit and some that people make for themselves. Garden railroading varies from serious attempts to model reality to total folly.

    Regarding the “cultural appropriation” thing on bonsai, that is just stupid liberal nonsense. In so many cases, so called “cultural appropriation” is actually honoring what a culture has done or is doing, It is not an insult. The liberal nut cases that are always looking to make special groups look like victims came up with this junk so they can champion their causes and therefore get their support. Reminds me of the saying that copying someone is the highest form of flattery. The only Japanese people that would be insulted by someone using things from bonsai would be those brainwashed by the liberal cult.


    1. Ignorant and stupid? Wow, thanks for reading Doug!

      I’ve been studying garden railroading for as long as I’ve been developing the miniature garden hobby. Is not the main theme of garden railroading – the railroad and trains? Everything the hobby does is centered around housing and running the trains, is it not? Sorry to pigeon-hole you into one theme there, Doug.

      And also let me know if you have seen any museum quality bonsai displayed with any other themed accessories other than Asian?

      The definition of cultural appropriation from Wikipedia: “Cultural appropriation is the adoption of elements of a minority culture by members of the dominant culture. It is distinguished from an equal cultural exchange due to an imbalance of power, often as a byproduct of colonialism and oppression.”

      Thanks for your feedback, Doug.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I often get on railroad gardening sites for ideas in my own planning of miniature gardens. I have seen some really cool examples. I especially like the tree selections I have admired in very realistic miniature train garden scenes. Yes, imitation is the purest form of flattery. It’s nice that we can get ideas from each other. I believe politics is best left out of something like our hobbies. I always have to remind myself that there is probably a 50% chance that I will disagree with someone’s political beliefs so I do not bring it up unless it’s with people I know that support the same side I do. Please continue to follow us miniature gardeners and we can learn from each other! Thanks

      Liked by 1 person

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