Archive for Conifers

DIY Christmas Decor for the Miniature Garden

Miniature Christmas DIY

Cuteness! Tiny homemade details can easily reflect your personal style. You’ll spend just as much time getting these ingredients together than you will doing this tutorial. Make a few at the same time and have fun with them, you’ll get better after the second one you make.

DIY Christmas Decor for the Miniature Garden

Here are a couple of do-it-yourself tutorials for Christmas decorations for your miniature garden. Use the same color scheme as your “full-size” decorations throughout your house and garden, it will just add to the cute factor. Find miniature decorations up in our store, or I’ve mentioned where I’ve found them throughout this blog.

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Here’s yet-another benefit from growing miniature conifers and small-leafed trees and shrubs: you can harvest them for miniature holiday decorations just like you would in “full-size.” Whenever I can, I save my miniature pruning duties for this time of year so I can use them for decorations. “Limbing-up” from the base of a dwarf conifer can shape it to be more tree-like. Prune way-ward branches from the top canopy of the tree to maintain the round-ness or over all shape of the foliage. Pruning also helps to send messages to the wee tree that you want the plant’s efforts and energy to be used elsewhere, like growing a thicker trunk and branches. Got a lot of pruning? Try wiring a miniature garland together.

Shop Two Green ThumbsThe branches we used here were soaked in a solution of glycerin and water to help them last longer. Place 1 part glycerin and 15 parts water in yogurt tub or similar, and make sure the branches are submerged. Leave it in there for at least overnight, 24 hours is better. Glycerin is found in hand lotions, among other uses, and it helps to seal in moisture – which is why we love to soak our naturals in it to help them retain color and supple-ness, at least for a few weeks while we can enjoy them. Otherwise your wee branches would do what they normally do when brought inside a heated house: dry out and go brown within days. Experiment with different ratios for different plants and how long they will stay preserved. Add dye to the glycerin/water solution to change the color of light-colored naturals. Glycerin can be found at any art store or most drug stores. It comes in a small bottle and doesn’t cost much.

Miniature Wreath Tutorial:

Make a REAL miniature wreath for your miniature garden! Here’s how to make one from a spruce branch, and from a Boxleaf Euonymous branch. Any sturdy but bend-able branch with small leaves could work but experiment first if you are creating an important holiday display.

Miniature Christmas DIY

What the wreaths are made of, from top left clockwise: Mugo Pine, Euonymous, Cotoneaster, Dwarf Spruce

DIY Miniature Christmas Decorations

From the top left, clockwise: Cotoneaster, Mugo Pine, Thyme, Dwarf Spruce, Euonymous, Hinoki Cypress (lime green branch under Cotoneaster.) I didn’t mention varieties on purpose, you can use almost any type of small-leafed branch.

Dwarf Spruce Wreath

Miniature Christmas DIY

You’ll need a branch or two, some jewelry wire, needle-nosed pliers and a pair of flat-nosed pliers. Silver wire was used for this tutorial so you can see it, otherwise I would have used dark green wire to blend into the foliage.

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Miniature Christmas DIY

If the branches are too short, wire two of them together to make a longer one.

Miniature Christmas DIY

Loop them around to make a wreath and wire them together. Work gently and do your best to work the wire in between the needles.

Miniature Christmas DIY

It may seem out of balance when you first start, but just go with it for now. Leave the wire ends for now, they will come in handy later.

Miniature Christmas DIY

Add some more wire wraps where its needed to tuck in some of the smaller branches closer to the circle.

DIY miniature christmas decor

Tiny details can be accumulated throughout the year. Miniature tinsel and glittery pompoms can be found at Michael’s Crafts along with the cherry picks. Tiny candy canes can be found at your local miniature store. I trimmed the ends off of a larger velvet bow to make a miniature one. Use tiny leaves and colorful branches for more texture and interest.

Miniature Christmas DIY

The bow is wrapped around with its own wire, the smaller details are hot-glued on. Notice the tiny sprig of hinoki cypress is used to brighten up the berries. BUT the bottom has too many branches and the top – not so much…

 

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Miniature Christmas DIY

Decide on the “right” branch to snip off the bottom. This chosen branch was on the back of the wreath and could be easily cut off to lessen the bulk.

Miniature Christmas DIY

And, with a little bit of hot-glue, we add it to the top to help it balance out a bit.

DIY Miniature Christmas Tutorials

That’s better!

Small Broadleaf Wreath

Broadleaf is a fancy name for a plant that has leaves – as opposed to needles on a pine tree for example. A lot of broadleaf plants are deciduous like Maple, Elm and Oak, but some are evergreen and keep their leaves throughout the seasons – thankfully, they help keep the landscape “green” in the middle of winter. We used an Euonymous branch for this tutorial. Same idea as the spruce wreath above, but with a different twist because of the leaves.

Miniature Christmas DIY

A way-ward branch pruned from a Boxleafed Euonymous from our in-ground miniature garden.

Miniature Christmas DIY

Strip away the leaves inside the natural curve of the branch .

Miniature Christmas DIY

You can pinch off the more tender, top branches as you work along the stem.

Miniature Christmas DIY

Ready to shape into a circle.

Miniature Christmas DIY

Bend it around carefully. Wire it in place. Work the wire in between the leaves gently to get to the stem. The leaves and stem toward the top of the branch are going to be more tender so don’t force the wire too much or it will cut right through the branch.

Miniature Christmas DIY
Gently pull the wire taunt to hold the branches where you want them.
Miniature Christmas DIY

Twist the wires gently together with your fingers, tighten them gently with flat-nosed pliers. Leave the excess wire in place – don’t cut it off yet.

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Miniature Christmas DIY

Now that you have the wreath shape, edit out the leaves that clash or distort the design.

Miniature Christmas DIY

Use the excess wire from the wrapping to create a loop on the back of the wreath to hang it with. Round-nose pliers work well to make tiny wire loops.

Miniature Christmas DIY

Wrapped with a little tinsel garland, hot-glued the poinsettia flower with more lime-green hinoki leaves to finish it off. Looks like a holiday!

When you are in you miniature garden, harvesting branches for this fun diy, choose a couple of sets of each type of branch that you want to work with; if you totally mess up you have a couple of chances to get it right.

MAKE IT LAST: If you are keeping your miniature wreath indoors for a couple/few weeks throughout the season, make a couple of them to rotate in and out the scene. Because they are living wreaths, they will do better in the cold and damp than inside in the forced, heated air. Make a 2 or 3 or 4 wreaths, treat them like a corsage or boutonniere and keep them in a take-out container in the fridge with a damp paper towel on the bottom of the container. The amount of time they will last will vary, depending upon how long you soaked them in the glycerin/water solution, what kind of branch they are and what conditions they are displayed in.

Quick Miniature Garden Holiday Garden Art

Some things are worth repeating, huh? If you haven’t explored your local fabric store’s selection of seasonal buttons, it’s worth the drive. There are a ton of different ideas out there. Here is a fast and fun way to make decorative garden stakes for your miniature garden.

Miniature Christmas DIY

These were made about eight years ago: buttons hot-glued to plastic lollipop sticks. Some of the glue has yellowed, but you would have to be up-close to see that. Other ornaments needed a bit of highlighting with a touch of gold or silver to refreshen the details.

Miniature Christmas DIY

The reindeer buttons were mounted on the sticks to look like they were galloping. This fun project is one that kids can do too.

Miniature Tree Ornaments

The same buttons can be use for ornaments. Instead of trying to painstakingly wire or loop each and every ornament to tiny branches, use metallic pipe cleaners to make an ornament from any button. Poke the wired-button into the tree’s branches, it’ll stay there if the tree isn’t moved around a lot. If do want to make a decorated tree that will be moved or carried, use strands of garlands and miniature lights and wire the ends of the strings in place. This will save you a lot of fussing around.

Miniature Christmas DIY

You will need: buttons, lollipop sticks, pliers, hot-glue gun and about 5 minutes. The lollipop sticks can be found at Michael’s Crafts.

Miniature Christmas DIY

Clip off button loop with pliers.

Miniature Christmas DIY

Look at the front of the button to see which way you want it mounted on the stick. Squeeze glue in a small line to get maximum surface contact.

Miniature Christmas DIY

Stick the stick the way that you want it stuck. ;o)

Miniature Christmas DIY

If the button pattern is asymmetrical, mount the buttons on the stem in a different rotation so they look different.

Want to add snow? Here’s what we found out about that idea – click here.

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Miniature Christmas DIY

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New, True Miniature Garden Trees are Deliciously Miniature Indeed!

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Wonderful new, true miniature conifers are now in stock at your Miniature Garden Center, TwoGreenThumbs.com. Check out the darling little developing cones on the Hildburghausen Miniature Norway Spruce. I am in love!!

New, True Miniature Garden Trees are the REAL DEAL!

“One for you. One for me. One for you. One for me… ” Lol! Sometimes I wonder why I am in the business of gardening in miniature. I’m like a kid in a candy store but I don’t eat the profits, I plant the profits. Thankfully, I’m running out of room in my in-ground garden to house them – but, wait – the dog can do without a lawn right? ;o)

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And Primo it is! We are loving this new dwarf arborvitae, ‘Primo!’ This is exactly what we look for: a small tree that looks like a “big” tree in miniature!

Check out the wonderful additions to our online miniature garden nursery this season! TRUE miniature and dwarf trees and shrubs! Just in time of the holidays too – you can really surprise any miniature gardener, fairy gardener, railroad gardener, conifer collector, bonsai artist, shohin or mame artist or any plant nut for that matter.

Our miniature trees are of the highest quality in the country, if I must say, and they all are “good in the pot” until next spring as long as you keep them watered – even if is it freezing outside (frozen is much better than freeze-dried, right?) Keep them outside and you’ll keep them happy even if you are not ready to plant them or wrap them up for the gift-giving season.

You know you can plant anything in-ground as long as the soil is not frozen or soaking wet  AND you also know that you can plant a container garden at anytime of year.

These new trees and shrubs are outdoor plants. Don’t think you can fool Mother Nature by keeping them indoors  – unless you just want to enjoy it as a temporary arrangement, like cut flowers for example. You can find all the growing information and planting zones in each tree listing too.

If you have any questions, or find that something you wanted sold out – because quantities are limited – get in touch with us at info@TwoGreenThumbs.com and we can put your name on the waitlist for the next time the plant(s) become available. (This may not take as long as you think since our grower is now fully on board with the miniature garden idea!)

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The new Jana Dwarf Spruce. All those little ball-shaped buds made me giggle when I this took this photo!

A list of our new and back in stock miniature and dwarf trees this season now up in your Miniature Garden Center Store, TwoGreenThumbs.com: 

Geisha Japanese Holly – Lovely, tiny, rounded leaves.

Hebefolia Miniature Canada Hemlock – Awesome. The smallest Hemlock ever!

Hildburghausen Miniature Norway Spruce – You need to see the tiny cones!

Jana Miniature Norway Spruce – The buds all over it made me giggle. Lol!

Jeddeloh Canada Hemlock – Perfect for the full shade mini garden. 

Just Dandy Hinoki Cypress – Wonderful emerald green colors.

Little Charmer Dwarf Hinoki Cypress – Different colors & textures in one!

Little John Dwarf Hinoki Cypress – Amazing pattern in the swirling branches.

Moonfrost Canada Hemlock – A permanent a favorite for the mini garden.

Primo Dwarf Arborvitae – So looking forward to growing this one!

Shimpaku Chinese Juniper – Perfectly hardy to trim into a any shape.

Sky Pencil Japanese Holly – Evergreen and tall, the perfect anchor tree.

Tom Thumb Cotoneaster – Year-round interest, flowers in the spring.

Valley Cushion Dwarf Mugo Pine – Hardy and loves the full, hot sun.

Wee Willie Dwarf Boxwood – Versatile! Topiary, hedge or a wee tree!

White Bud Mugo Pine – A joy to grow, becomes a terrific “big” tree.

See the photos, close ups and growing information in our New and Back in Stock trees, plants and shrubs for the miniature garden hobby. It’s our specialty!

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The smallest Hemlock that we’ve had in the last 15 years in business. The Hebefolia Canada Hemlock is named after the perennial Hebe plant because if it’s tiny, rounded leaves. “One for me. One for you….” Lol!

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I didn’t see these tiny cones on the Hebefolia Canada Hemlock at first. Check out the tiny stripes on the backside of the leaves too. It’s the little things, isn’t it? :o)

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In Search of The Perfect Miniature Garden Tree

Miniature Gardening with Janit Calvo

I’m always on the look out for fun advertising fodder or puns to use – it’s one of the perks of the job. :o)

In Search of The Perfect Miniature Garden Tree

The store was a bit quiet the other day and Steve was looking for something to do. So, I told him to see what was up in the big world of miniature garden trees, fairy trees, railroad garden trees or bonsai starts by just Googling them to see what comes up. Whoa Nellie! Here’s what we found out.

From the Two Green Thumbs' archives.

Group shot taken in 2009. We still have some of these miniature gardens today that are still in miniature gardens now that I revisit the photo. I can see only one tree (that we don’t carry anymore) that ended up to big for us: the bushy cypress in the orange pot in the middle. I’ll remember the variety name at around 2 am tomorrow morning. Lol!

Miniature Garden Trees – Fairy Approved!

Where did everybody go? Lol! We’ve never shut down for the winter because miniature gardening has always been a season-less hobby for us here in Seattle, but you can do it anywhere. We’ve mentioned before how we can easily keep gardening and because you can plant a container at any time of year. You can plant in-ground anytime the ground is not frozen too. So keep gardening until you can’t, I say!

I so need the garden therapy after a hard week at work and I’m sure you can always use some peace and tranquility too. Checkout the wide variety of hardy trees and shrubs for your miniature garden adventures this season here, where they are sorted by USDA zones. Let us know if you have any questions in the comments below!

Miniature and dwarf trees for railroad gardening

You can see how using high-quality, well-behaved trees is a worthy investment for any railroad gardener. The cone-shaped trees are dwarf spruces. The variegated shrub, bottom-left, I think is a euonymus and I’m pretty sure the blue shrub, bottom-right, is a Blue Star Juniper. That’s Steve in the back.

 

The Miniature Garden Society

 

Railroad Garden Trees

Miniature and dwarf trees for any garden railroad must behave as expected. This may be why most railroad gardeners shy away from the plant-side of the hobby and tend to focus more on layin’ the tracks and runnin’ the trains – at least in my experience they have.

If a tree doesn’t grow in as promised, and grows super-fast without the engineer-gardener expecting it, it can cause a major renovation and upset for the railroad that was built around that now-overgrown tree. The beauty with railroad gardens is the same as miniature gardening, the age of the garden really brings the charm and magic. So to upset a grown-in, planted scene merely two or three years after planting, will bring the age of the scene back to “0.” Fun if you planned for it but if you didn’t, not-so-much!

All our true miniature and dwarf trees and shrubs are of the highest quality in the country, are very well-behaved and do as the tag says in shape, growth rate and care. Our trees are always well-packed by (quite possibly) the best packer in the country (Steve, for real,) and they are sent the fastest way to avoid any stress, by USPS Priority Mail. We have plants for all sizes of miniature gardens.

Bonsai starts or pre-bonsai, this is the popular Elf Dwarf Spruce.

Elf Dwarf Spruce or Picea glauca ‘Elf.’ This tree is about 8 to 10 years old. Transplanted in 2012 from a 4″ pot.

 

Bonsai Starts

In our research, we have found a great many trees that we carry in our online store are used for bonsai as well. I’ve always bragged about how our trees naturally grow-in to look like a bonsai in a couple/few year’s time and while it feels like cheating, we’re just letting nature take its course. It appears as bonsai starts go, ours are pretty inexpensive if you have some time to grow them in for awhile.

Plant your Two Green Thumbs’ tree in a pot at least 8″ deep and let the baby tree grow a thicker trunk and wider branches for a couple/few years. Then bonsai the roots to fit them into the bonsai tray – you’ll be glad you did because you’ll be that much further ahead in the growth of the tree. If you bonsai a young tree right away, it will take much longer for the trunk to develop and the branches to reach out and thicken.

Don’t want to wait? Check out our one-gallon pre-bonsai trees up in the plant section of our Etsy store here. We do get smaller “pre-bonsai” tress in from time to time too, if you would like to join our email list to get first dibs. (Average cost is $20 or less!)

Happy Miniature Gardening!

 

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How to Save Time and Money on Your Miniature Gardening

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Layer it. The Jacqueline Hillier Dwarf Elm is a great anchor tree for the miniature garden bed – you can easily plant under it as it gets older. That is a miniature Blue Planet Spruce in the back, left side. Sedum Angelina to the right and miniature daisies on the right. The pond is handmade – the best kind!

How to Save Time and Money on Your Miniature Gardening

Do you want to save some time and money? 

Do you want to have a successful miniature garden next summer too?

Did you know you can have BOTH?

  • Fact: Fall is the best time to plant your garden bed.
  • Fact: You can save time and money next summer by planting your garden right now.
  • Fact: The success rate for getting trees established in the garden bed is far greater in the autumn months than any other time of year.

(Images are from our Instagram feed. Follow the leader for more fun in the miniature garden, I’m under @theminigardener!)

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This miniature garden was sold around 2003 and lives on the Oregon coast. The couple who sought us out and bought it for their sister in law still keeps in touch with us. Apparently it is still alive and thriving. A testament to our true miniature garden trees, plants and shrubs!

Fall Planting Perks

Many people think spring is the best time to plant an in-ground miniature garden, but fall actually has many definite advantages. Fall planting is perfectly positioned in between the hot summer months and the cold winter season so any plant planted right now, will use this time to an advantage to get established in your garden bed. You can plant in-ground as long as the ground is not frozen.

You see, the plant’s roots still grow in temperatures 40° or above so, even though the temperatures might feel cool to you, the plant does not mind at all. During this time the root systems have a chance to develop and become established before winter. If you’re in a place where it doesn’t freeze, the roots will actually keep growing and establishing themselves to get ready for next spring.

When spring comes back, the new root system can fully support and take advantage of the flush of new growth. When the leaves start to bud and grow, the stronger roots are now able to tap in the reservoir of water on their own. You’ll save time because there is less maintenance to do, you’ll save money by lowering your water bill AND you will lose less plants to the whim of nature because they are already well-on-their way to becoming established. You can spend more time on creating and crafting the details of your miniature garden instead.

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Blue-colored shadows underneath the Golden Sprite Hinoki Cypress that’s about 9″ tall now. Our true miniature and dwarf trees and shrubs grow up to look like a majestic tree – in miniature! Why do you think we keep using them in our gardens? Because they can stay in the small scale for years and years…

Tips for your fall planting:

  1. Always invest in the best plant material as possible. High-quality trees and shrubs come with a well-developed root system that is ready to grow. Don’t get fooled by bargain plant sales – many of those plants have been fertilized consistently over the last few months and will crash when you plant them in your yard because you have no idea on the level of feeding they are use too. Do you always wonder why you easily loose plants from plant sales ALL the time? This is it. Word.

For example, Steve and I invested in a couple of cherry trees a few years back. We got them on sale – and it was the end of the sale – so we compromised and chose the best two out of four on the lot. We brought them home and planted them in our new garden about five years ago.  Well, this winter I’m definitely pulling both of them. They didn’t branch out as I expected. They did not produce any cherries – oh wait, I think I got one (1) cherry last year. This year, no cherries at all – none, nada, zilch, zippo. I even tried to prune them each year to attempt the shape them and increase the cherry production with disastrous results. After five years of trying to compromise with these bargain-sale trees, we ended up with a big huge waste of time and money. Had we stepped up and invested in decent high-quality trees to begin with, I would have cherry jam on my pantry shelf, and I would be looking forward to another cherry blossom show next spring.

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That’s a mugo pine on the left and a hemlock tree in the center. In the background on the right, is a wall of Monteray Cypress (a.k.a. Wilma, Goldcrest or Lemon Cypress, Cupressus macrocarpa ‘Wilma Goldcrest’)

 

2. High-quality trees and plants will reward you year after year by a behaving as they should. Take the time to find the best trees for your miniature gardening. Here are the questions that you need answers to in order to find the best plant for your gardens (- oh, and yes, we  answer them right in each listing in our online store!)

  • How do they grow: what shape they will grow up to be?
  • How much will they grow per year?
  • What do they need to stay happy and healthy in your miniature garden?
  • What are the water needs?
  • Do you know how to tell when to water so you don’t overwater or underwater??
  • Can it even grow in your area?

If you’re buying plants without answering these questions, you’re not taking advantage of our experience and expertise at our Miniature Garden Center, TwoGreenThumbs.com. All of our customers can get hands-on advice specific to your planting needs – just for being our customer! 

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From our Instagram feed. The miniature garden bed, full of texture and color, looks like a full-sized garden bed. How fun is that? The green lobe-shaped leaves are miniature daisies, about 1/2″ long. 

Miniature Garden Plants is Our Specialty!

 

3. Buy from a nursery that has fresh plant stock each season.  Many of the copy-cat online nurseries that attempt to specialize in true miniature and dwarf trees get their plant stock once a year: IN THE SPRING. That’s why you will see plants on sale right now, because they are leftovers. You may be getting a great bargain – but it’s not – that plant has been sitting on their store shelf for the last six months, in the hot weather, getting completely stressed out and is definitely root bound by now. Our trees and shrubs, and because we ONLY focus on miniature gardening, are FRESH each and every season. We are able to order in small batches from our high-quality grower to keep our inventory at the highest quality for YOU, our Fellow Miniature Gardener.

A wee bud on a dwarf fir is getting ready to burst. If you only plant in the spring, you'll miss the show that these plants put on!

A wee bud on a dwarf fir is getting ready to burst. If you only plant in the spring, you’ll miss the show and have to wait for another full year before they do it again!

On top of saving time and money by planting this fall, here are more great reasons:

  •  You don’t have to wait a year for results, enjoy the spring flush IN the season! If you plant your miniature garden now, you can enjoy the spring flush of growth at its prime. The lime-green buds that emerge from the tips of the miniature spruces, hemlocks and firs are so soft and bright, you’ll giggle with delight. The buds (called candles) of the wee mugo pines magically flush out in tiny, softer growth, you’ll wonder how they do that.
  • You can witness the spring with the deciduous trees too, (deciduous = lose their leaves in the fall) as the little baby leaves quietly unfurl on the small branches. The spring flush of growth is often so magical, you can see the leaves growing. So if you wait and plant it in the spring, you’ll miss it – have you will to wait a full year before experiencing the awesomeness of spring in your miniature garden.
  • You can appreciate the winter’s blush for months. Many of the conifer’s foliage change color in the colder temperatures and will give you a colorful show to enjoy in the winter months when you need it most. The miniature and dwarf hinoki cypress change to a wide variety of colors, plum, amber, purple and orange. The cryptomerias blush purple as do the junipers. The arborvitae turn a wonderful, solid amber color that looks great in the gray of winter. If you plant now you can appreciate this colorful wonder of nature for the winter THIS year. 
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Showtime! More winter bonuses by planting in the fall months: you get to see the entire cycle right now – no waiting another year to find out what you’ve missed! Above, the Pusch Dwarf Norway Spruce has cones from last year mixed with the new growth and emerging cones for a fantastic delightful experience.

So you don’t have to shut-down your miniature gardening just because winter is coming. You still have plenty of time to get your miniature garden or fairy garden ideas planted in the ground before it freezes.

See our plants by zone here.
See our plants by light here.

Remember that miniature gardening is, indeed, a season-less hobby because you can always, always, always plant a container garden at anytime of year.

More useful blogs:

Winterizing Your Miniature or Fairy Gardens
About getting your in-ground gardens ready for the winter.

Keep Gardening This Winter with Indoor Miniature Gardens
Includes dish gardening and terrarium information.

For the Love of Conifers: The Winter’s Blush
Dwarf and mini conifers change with the seasons too.

Winterizing Your Miniature Garden And Containers
A few tips on winterizing your containers from central Ontario – the land of icy tundra!

Like this? Well then join thousands of other like-minded miniature gardeners and sign up for the world’s ONLY regular miniature garden newsletter, The Mini Garden Gazette. It’s FREE and delivered straight to your inbox each Friday. Sign up here.

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How to Be a Better Gardener

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I found this photo from a 2009 blog post. This garden is about 2 or 3 years old here. See the same garden below, how it looks today. Click in to see what Hinoki Cypress are available now.

How to Be a Better Gardener

Every so often, when I jump on my high horse about NOT using fortified soil for miniature gardening, I feel like I am shouting in a vacuum. I mean, what’s a miniature gardener sitting at her desk in Seattle to do when we come up against a behemoth like Scott’s Miracle Gro’s and their crummy Potting Soil that kills our miniature garden plants and discourages people from gardening? They have to know that new gardeners will blame themselves for killing plants and may not try to grow anything ever again. It’s shameful.

So, I do what I normally do, I asked the Internet. Of course, I found out I wasn’t alone:

Consumer affairs gives Scott’s Miracle Gro Potting Soil 1 1/4 stars (out of 5) with 141 complaints to date.

Consumer reviews on Amazon.com for Miracle Grow Moisture Control Potting Mix, 87% of the reviews gives it one star out of five, probably because they can’t give it zero stars.

Good things come in small packages.The forums are full of way more complaints than not. Heartbreaking stories include using Miracle Gro Potting Soil to repot grandma’s 35-year-old plants and killing them within a couple of days. Other tragic tales include the new bags being filled with gnats and infesting homes and gardens. Scotts used to be a brand name that we can trust and it’s interesting to notice the more popular they get, the more complaints they get. And yet, they are advertising more, they are in more stores than ever AND they are in the back pockets of industry professionals, sponsoring them so they’ll be quiet, I bet.

It truly is the number one killer of our miniature garden trees and plants. I constantly get emails about dead or dying plants only to find out that they used Miracle Gro Potting Soil. It’s maddening to be able to offer the best quality plant material, only to have the customer use the wrong soil and kill them within days.

Did you know that fresh organic soil contains enough nutrients to sustain a miniature garden for at least 3 years? No need to fertilize so spend your money on a better-quality soil instead.

Now, if you do hear of any good reviews, it’s probably because it has been used for heavy-feeders, like annuals and vegetables. You will also noticed that the “good” reviews are only on the big-box-store websites, interestingly enough, like Walmart, Ace Hardware and Home Depot. Funny, huh?

But I would be very wary of using any chemicals on my veggies. And no, Miracle Gro Potting Soil is not organic. Here’s a page from the website listing the ingredients that go into “the perfect mix.” Once you click in, hit Command F to search the page for the keyword “organic.” You’ll find two at the bottom of the page directing you to their “organic and natural potting mix,” under the brand name Nature’s Care. (Ironically, I first read the website name as NatureScare.com.) BUT this soil STILL has the water-retaining polymers so how can it be completely organic and natural? Hmmm?

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The same Hinoki in the same pot, 7 years later. While some conifer lovers would think this appealing, for us miniature gardeners, it’s a great tree for a tire swing, birdhouse or treehouse. The patio is from a stone sheet and our Mini Patio Mix Kit – both are available in our online store. Click the pic to get visit!

We are being duped by their advertising and marketing claiming all these benefits. The professional Garden Writers Association has always been sponsored by Scotts (which is owned by Monsanto, btw) – which is why you won’t hear many other garden writers writing about this. My publisher strongly advised that I join this group, but I just couldn’t because it goes against my principles and I’ve since taken the hit professionally too. I’m still baffled by this lack of activism within the garden world. Heck, Hollywood celebrities are not afraid to stand up for what they believe in for our planet.

Miniature Gardening with Janit Calvo

So please ignore the huge Scotts promotions this season in the big-box-stores despite the rock-bottom prices. Walk past the pallets of Miracle Gro Potting Soil and look for an established organic alternative like Cedar Grove’s line of soils, for example

urlHere is a link to the USDA’s organic integrity database if you want to do any research for yourself.  There’s a search bar under the word operation that you can use to make it fast and easy.  Also look for the USDA organic status symbol on any packaging. Now there is a concern about anything being completely 100% organic, but at least this is a step in the right direction.

As with anything these days the more stuff it has in it, the more chemicals it’s “fortified” with, is not better.  Simplicity is better and organic is more in-tune with our beings and our souls, not to mention our health and the health of the planet – now isn’t that worth a couple of extra dollars?

If you don’t stand for something you’ll fall for everything.

I’ll get off my soapbox now, thank you for reading.

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MORE Effortless Growing With Proven Miniature Garden Plants

MORE Effortless Growing With Proven Miniature Garden Plants Miniature Plants from Two Green Thumbs.com

An old Tompa Dwarf Norway Spruce that is now about 16 years old is STILL 10″ tall. The cone shape resembles an Alberta Spruce – but in miniature. I cleared away the bottom branches to make the shrub into a tree. Hardy to zone 3 (-40F), it’s tough and holds up well around kids and dogs, loves full sun and grows very slowly. For in ground or containers.

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This is a continuation of an earlier post, on miniature plants for miniature gardening, fairy gardening and/or railroad gardening. When I first started the search for plants that will work well in the miniature garden 16 years ago, I found a number of miniature and dwarf conifers that were perfect to use and sold as “railroad garden plants.” Since then, the gardening in miniature niche has grown slowly into a international pastime and the growers have responded to the demand – thankfully. But, the question remains, how do they age in a miniature garden? What do they look like after a few years? Here are more examples of how our favorite miniature and dwarf plants can grow into perfect majestic trees in miniature.

If you have been following us for a while you will recognize the Tompa Dwarf Spruce shown in the photograph above, as it looks today. It was planted around 2004, here it is in 20072010, 2011, 2014. (The garden is 12 years old, with one unnecessary repot, the tree is about 3 or 4 years old when we get them from the grower.) The flowers at the base are Ajuga reptens ‘Chocolate Chip’ or Chocolate Chip Bugleweed – that’s been in the pot with the Tompa for years, I just trim back the runners each spring.

Miniature Gardening with Janit Calvo

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I think this photo was taken around 2010, just after we moved into our house. That is the same Ajuga planted at the base of the Tompa. And this was before I limbed-up the bottom branches to “show some leg.” :o)

Find It:
Tompa Dwarf Spruce
Bugleweed (Ajuga)
Cedar Trellis (made in the USA)
Park Bench
Terra Cotta Brick Sheets

 

MORE Effortless Growing With Proven Miniature Garden Plants & TwoGreenThumbs.com.

A 6 or 7 year old Mugo pine stands about 5″ tall in our larger miniature garden. The Mugos are tough too. They hold up well around dogs and kids. Hardy to Zone 2 or -50F (burrrr!)  Drought tolerant when established in the garden bed and they are perfect for containers. Mugo pines can handle that hot afternoon sun but if it’s in a pot, don’t let the soil completely dry out.

 

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The Valley Cushion Mugo Pine has a spreading habit so the tree will stay very compact, low and flat, wider than tall. As the trunk lifts the canopy up off the ground, place smaller scaled miniature underneath it to make the Mugo appear huge. Click the photo to see more photos and care information.

Our Trees and Bonsai

Some of our trees come “pre-bonsai” and are grown specifically for that purpose, but they are PERFECT for our miniature gardening, especially in-ground where you need bigger trees for a more of a presence. Some use our regular (meaning, not “pre-bonsai”) trees and shrubs as bonsai starts too – but if you grow it in a miniature garden for a couple few years before “bonsai-ing it” (technical term ;o) you’ll have a much thicker trunk and branching system to start with.

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.MORE Effortless Growing With Proven Miniature Garden Plants & TwoGreenThumbs.com

The growers are growing smaller. A response to the miniature garden and fairy garden trend. Use a few of the 2″ potted trees in the same miniature garden to create more of a presence. Planting the young trees together, (not touching though, let the air circulate in between them) when they are so young will help them through the extremes – they are still babies, after all. Okay, all together now, “Awwwwww…” Click the photo to see more.

 

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A young Thoweil Hinoki Cypress growing happily in the corner of our miniature in-ground garden. It’s in dappled shade, that is Baby Tears at the base of the tree. When the top foliage flushes out a little bit more, I’ll trim up the leaves at the bottom of the trunk and it will instantly look like a tree.

See other Hinoki trees in miniature here.

Find It:
Thoweil Hinoki Cypress
Baby Tears
Birdbath
Bench

MORE Effortless Growing With Proven Miniature Garden Plants & TwoGreenThumbs.com

I’m a bit biased, however, I love all the miniature and dwarf hinoki cypress, but I’m looking forward to watching this Thoweil grow up. It grows into a narrow, upright shape that will make a perfect anchor tree for the garden. Hinokis are hardy to zone 5 or -20F. This is the Thoweil Hinoki Cypress in a 4″ pot. The tree is 4 to 5″ tall here.

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MORE Effortless Growing With Proven Miniature Garden Plants & TwoGreenThumbs.com.

The tiny Thoweil is also available in a 2″ pot. Clean out any dead foliage from inside the tree when you see it. It is how the tree exfoliates and it needs your help to get rid of the dead stuff when the tree is young. Older Hinokis and conifers can get rid of this dieback naturally.

 

MORE Effortless Growing With Proven Miniature Garden Plants & TwoGreenThumbs.com

Another fun surprise as a great miniature garden tree. The Humpty Dumpty Dwarf Alberta Spruce is the real deal: a miniature version of the majestic Alberta Spruces in our forests all over the US and Canada. This one has been “limbed-up” to make it look more like a tree. The tree is almost 10″ tall here and is about 12 years old, I suspect. We’ve had it in this container for at least 8 years and when we get them from the grower they are about 4 years old. Click the pic to see more.

 

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It’s charming in the 4″ pot. Hardy to zone 2 or -40F, sturdy and durable. Spruces are drought tolerant when established in the garden bed. Remember that plants are about 15 degrees LESS hardy when planted in pots.

Find It:
Humpty Dumpty Dwarf Alberta Spruce
Tricolor Sedum
Dog
Doghouse (comes with the food dish & rawhide ;o)
Bench
Basket

See more on miniature garden design and combining plants with texture and color too.

Want to dive deeper into this wonderfully creative hobby? Join us at the new Miniature Garden Society, a private members-only website that is full of everything miniature garden with a lot more to come! Learn if it is good fit for you here.

Join our email list here for a weekly dose of miniature garden with our Mini Garden Gazette delivered to your inbox at the end of each week!

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Troubleshooting Miniature Plants in the Miniature Garden

Ladybug in the Mini Garden

Jump on these “Kodak Moments” in the miniature garden. When you come across a photo opportunity, drop everything and get the camera. You’ll pat yourself on the back for it later.

Trying Something New in the Miniature Garden

“My plant is turning brown and getting leggy, it was fine before
I got hold of it, what am I doing wrong?”

It doesn’t matter if you are just starting out learning to garden, or if you’ve been gardening for twenty years, some plants can be tricky to learn how to grow. In our Miniature Garden Center, we normally test each plant for resilience, which is why you won’t see much changes in our core inventory of true miniature trees, shrubs and bedding plants.

We have a customer that buys 5 or 6 of each plant, knowing that she will lose a couple of them while learning what the plant Miniature Gardening with TwoGreenThumbs.comneeds. “One will die right away because I’ll try to grow it in the wrong place… “ She was quite funny and surprisingly quite serious. This is indeed extreme. The garden maxim, “Right plant, right place” helps tremendously!

But sometimes I adapt her point of view when I’m shopping for new plants I’ve never grown before. I’ll pick up at least three of the same plants – or I try to if my budget allows, and I do make sure I put the “right plant in the right place” and not force any plant to my bidding.

In other words, don’t get discouraged if you kill a plant. They don’t grow on trees – a good lot of them are trees! There are multitudes of microclimates throughout any region so you may have to try a couple of different situations to find out what the plant needs. And yes, it may discouraging but, out of your learning curve, you create opportunities!

I’ve written about how plants tell you when they are unhappy, so here’s a quick recap on some of the signs you’ll see from the plant and what the issues could be. Keep in mind these are sweeping generalities because we are not talking of the individual plant, just the issues.

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Light Issues

Snail in the miniature garden

A visitor in the miniature garden. He didn’t stay long, there wasn’t anything in this miniature garden that suited his tastes.

Leggy branches – The plant wants more light. Move closer to the light source or out in the sun more. Wait to see new growth at the crown of the plant (the base) before shearing back the leggy branches and then the plant should flush in nicely.

Dried tops of leaves – Too much light at once. The light has scorched the leaves of the plant. Move it away from the light or give it more shade. Wait for new growth before clipping off damaged leaves. Note that if you cut all the damaged leaves off without waiting for the plant to show you it is recovering by putting out new growth, you are cutting off its food source.

Water Issues

Soggy soil, black soil or soil is growing mold or moss – you are either watering too much or the pot doesn’t have a drainage hole. Back off the watering, let the soil dry out to barely damp, churn up top surface of the soil. Unless you’ve chosen water/moisture-loving plants, make sure the pot has a drainage hole.

Soil is crusty, peeling away from the side of the container – Not enough water. When soil dries out completely, the water rolls right off of it. Prevent this by churning up the top layer of the soil, place the pot in a bucket or similar container, water it thoroughly, letting the water drain out of the drainage hole.

Conifer Dieback in an Hinoki Cypress

Preventative Care: Check your miniature and dwarf conifers for “Conifer Dieback.” It’s how the little plants exfoliate. Stop and clean it out whenever you see it so the plant can breathe. If you put it off for another day, you will forget about it and it will be too late. (Speaking from experience!)

Keepin' it real in the miniature garden with TwoGreenThumbs.com

Soil Issues

Soil for Containers – Use potting soil only. Yes, I know your garden bed is full of soil but that’s different. Potting soil has certain things in the mix that are ideal for a contained environment. Garden soil will turn to mud in a pot. Stay away from Miracle-Gro soil or soil with fertilizers in them. They are supposedly best for vegetables or seasonal container – although I have’t heard many good things about that kind of soil, regardless what plants are used.

Soil for the garden beds – There are many different types of soil in the gardens across the world. Consult with a knowledgeable gardener or visit your local independent garden center in your area. Bring a sample with you for them to see. They will know exactly what you need – or don’t need.

White stuff on top of the soil or on the side of the pot – It’s a big word for the small stuff: efflorescence. It’s normally a build up of salts and other mild chemicals accumulated from the watering. It may be an issue for more sensitive plants but generally it’s harmless. You can scoop it up and throw it out or churn it back into the soil. If it appears on the sides for the pot or on the miniature patio, wipe it away as you see it because it will harden over time.

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All Issues

Miniature Garden Vignette

When the groundcovers start to invade your patio, clip the individual branches back, (as opposed to shearing them all at once,) to make it look more natural.

The internet has become a great resource for gardeners. You can literally type what you see in the search bar and you’ll find it quickly using the image search. I found a huge bug in the backyard last week, it was huge, (okay, it was huge by my wimpy standards) striped and, well, huge! So I typed, “big striped bug” in the search bar and there he was! A Lined June Beetle! Who woulda thought? Be sure to look at a couple of different “answers” or authority sites to verify the information is correct.

Another fantastic resource is your independent garden center. There is usually at least one walking plant encyclopedia working there – you know those brainiac people that know every plant, how it grows, what it needs and the history behind it? THOSE people are fantastic resources that can help and there’s a good bet they know exactly what you are talking about. Bring a photo with you or snip a sample branch or leaf off and seal it in a plastic bag to show them. Gardeners love to show off their plant knowledge so ask away!

So, the moral of this long blog post is that if you have a plant that is not working for your situation and your not able to adjust to save it within a reasonable time – do not fret! Every plant that you lose opens the door to trying another plant and, chances are it will be a better fit for you anyway!

 

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