Miniature Gardening 105: Miniature Design: Using Scales

Miniature Garden Accessories
Miniature garden accessories are different from fairy garden accessories in scale, quality and workmanship: It’s the realism that creates the magic – not the fairies.

Welcome back to our Miniature Gardening Beginner Series! Just in case you are just joining us, here are the previous lessons to get you caught up:

 Miniature Gardening 101: The Dirt

Miniature Gardening 102: Indoor vs. Outdoor Plants

Miniature Gardening 103: The Water

Miniature Gardening 104: How to Find the Right Plants

If you are craving the enchantment that only a true garden in miniature can bring, here is “thee” two critical elements that will help to bring your ideas to life. There is nothing magic about it, no tricks, no special secret to this – it’s simply about authenticity and scale. In this lesson, let’s go over scale and how that works.

“Sure you can throw any small plant into a pot, add a toy chair, and call it done. Or, you can spend a little time and create a delightful garden that looks like a slice taken out of your full-sized garden, shrunk to miniature size.”

Gardening in Miniature: Create Your Own Tiny Living World
by Yours Truly, Janit Calvo
We wrote the book on it. Get your autographed copy here.

Let’s start with a summary of scale across the miniature industry:

DOLLHOUSE MINIATURES SCALES

The Dollhouse Miniature industry divides their miniature scales up to manageable sizes that take a little getting used to, but if you stop for a minute to understand math behind it, it becomes much easier to use.

There are three major scales: one-inch, half-inch and quarter-inch scale. (They do have 1/144th scale that is a dollhouse scale for the dollhouse – too fun!) Each scale is half the size of the other, where each unit of scale is equal to one foot in “full-size.” For example, in one-inch scale, 1 inch equals 1 foot.

These are the scales we’ve adapted to the miniature garden hobby and we’ve used it with success over the years for two reasons. One, because we can easily mix and match any “in-scale” dollhouse miniature accessories AND, two, because they already had a wide variety of all kinds of miniature garden accessories. All we had to do is STAY within one of the scales to achieve the realism which brings the enchantment.

Emerald Heights Railroad Garden
The model railroad industry did a fine job messing up all the scales to make a very cute hobby quite complicated, in my opinion. The width of the tracks dictate the scales and there are just too many of them.

MODEL RAILROAD SCALES

The Garden Railroaders use a LOT of different scales. Too many in my opinion. Their scales are based on the width of the railroad tracks which are made by many different manufacturers attempting to dominate the hobby with their line of trains and accessories. They have made a wonderful hobby difficult to get into – not only is there a steep learning curve with the trains and the engineering, you have to be wary of which scale is which.

G-Scale, or 1:22 scale, is the scale used for the garden railroads. G-scale is also closest to the half-inch dollhouse scale so many of the G-Scale accessories can be used in a miniature garden. (The other train scale that interests us, as miniature gardeners, is HO or N Scale. It’s the scale of those tiny terrarium figures and animals.)

In this miniature garden I was demonstrating Plow and Hearth’s fairy garden houses and accessories for the Plow and Hearth blog a few years ago. Check their website for availability here.

FAIRY GARDEN SCALES

The Fairy Garden accessories have been made with little regard to scale, unfortunately. What an opportunity lost in the trend! My only assumption as to WHY there is no scales used in fairy gardening is that it takes effort to make the scales uniform. The easiest way to the bank was to not even bother making anything that matches in scale. Even the sizes within each manufacturer don’t appear to match.

So, my best advice to get some sort of realism into a fairy garden is to pick your fairy, then choose the furniture or house that is the closest in scale to the figure. For example, the measurement of her ankles to the back of her knees will tell you the size of the bench she can “sit” on. The fairy’s overall height will dictate the size of the doors and windows in your fairy houses. (But it might be challenging to find a properly scaled fairy house.) In other words, compare all the accessories and the house to your fairy figures and get as close as you can.

See also: How to Install Fairy Houses for that Lived-in Look

There is nothing like spending time and money on a beautiful garden in miniature only to see a bunch of out-of-scale accessories ruin the magic.

Three Scaled Examples:

To help illustrate the scale, here are two popular items for any type of miniature garden to use as a comparison for your items: doors and benches, shown here in three scales. Measure the inside of the doorframe, or the height of the bench, and use the chart below to figure out the scale of your accessories.

One inch scale miniature garden accessories
One-inch scale / Large Size accessories are the most popular and where you’ll find the most variety. In this scale: 1″ = 1 foot. For any garden less than about 8″ wide, use medium-sized, half-inch accessories.
Dollhouse Miniature
Scales: (written three
Different ways
)
Size of Door,
in Inches:
Height
Of Seat:
1” scale, large size, 1:126” – 7” tall1 ⅜” – 1 ⅝”      
½” scale, medium size, 1:243” – 4” tall⅜” – ⅝”
¼” scale, small size, 1:481 ¼” – 1 ½” tall      ¼” –  ⅜”
Half-inch scale miniature garden accessories
Half-inch scale / Medium Scale miniature garden accessories are perfect for table-top sized gardens, or smaller containers, usually under 8″ in diameter. In this scale: 1/2 inch = 1 foot
Quarter-inch scale miniature garden accessories
Quarter-inch scale / Small-sized miniature garden accessories are really fun but a bit scarce. They are perfect for terrariums and the tiniest of miniature gardens. In this scale: 1/4 inch = 1 foot.

I hope that helps you inject some realism into your fairy gardens – its the attention to scale creates the enchantment. But, that’s only half of it. Stay tuned for the next installment of our Miniature Gardening Beginner Series on Miniature Garden Design: Authenticity.

Check out our online store, Two Green Thumbs Miniature Garden Center and you’ll see our new, handy ‘Shop by Scale’ section to keep it simple for you. Find the Medium Size / Half-Inch Scale here. And find the Large Size / One-Inch Scale section here.

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12 thoughts on “Miniature Gardening 105: Miniature Design: Using Scales

  1. Thank you for this! I will have to keep it for reference. Love the designs too! I agree fairy gardens are everywhere. Great article! ~ Mare

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have to agree that sizing and knowing your size is very important for appearance and realism. I have been a miniaturist and model railroader for 3 decades now. When I’m building I always think of the “little people” that will be inhabiting my layout and so I try to make it as accurate as possible so as to impress them. I guess I still think there are miniature rock bands inside the box on my table, too. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Deb. I’ve been a miniaturist since I was a little girl – over 4 decades! Yikes! I’m the same way: I like to think of the little people inhabiting my worlds, but I prefer to leave the dolls & fairies out of the scene. I feel it leaves more to the imagination and people who view my work can really personalize the experience with their own ideas and characters. – J.

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  3. May I refer my readers to your blog? I’m new to blogging, and I’m creating a post on how to make your own DIY fairy bridge. Your post about scale is spot on! Please let me know. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Sandi! Yes you may. Thank you for asking! Here’s a video on understanding scale too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GaayzINHEI4 🙂

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  4. Everything I am finding is scaling to furnishing. I want to scale my garden to my fairy and I don’t understand how. I have three fairies (gifted) that are 3-1/4″ tall. If using the 1:12 scale the fairy would be 3ft, 3in tall. Okay, I can live with that, but then how big should their houses be? How big should other decorations be?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Sherry, You can stay with the 1:12th scale or make a custom scale for your fairies. The latter would require a custom-build, using the fairy as the main reference for the measurements. Unfortunately these fairy manufacturers didn’t think of scale when they make the stuff – it’s really where the enchantment is. Let me know if this answers your questions. – J.

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