Archive for railroad gardening

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!)

http://www.TwoGreenThumbs.com

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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?
  • 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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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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Announcing the NEW Miniature Garden Society, 2.0!

Announcing the NEW Miniature Garden Society, 2.0!

It’s a brand new, totally focused website on everything gardening in miniature with all the bells and whistles!**

If you’ve been following us for awhile, you would have heard about our Miniature Garden Society member’s only website opening up a few months ago. Well, truth be told, it did get lots of kudos, oohs and ahhs, but it couldn’t add any community, forums or post-ability to make it just that more fun. BUT, alas! Have no fear because your miniature gardener is here!

Welcome to the NEW Miniature Garden Society website! It’s all that and more. Now that we have some roots and branches to the site, it’s time to get it really growing. Personally, I can’t wait because it’s a place to share all our ideas and information that didn’t fit into this book – nor did it fit into this book either. Lol!

Yup! Can’t tell you any more – need to get back to the new site! Learn more about it here. 

**May contain fairies. :o)

 

http://www.TwoGreenThumbs.com

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Effortless Growing With Proven Miniature Garden Plants

The mighty Tansu Japanese Cedar - or Cryptomeria japonica 'Tansu' - is a real charmer for the miniature garden. Provide evenly damp soil in a part shade/part sun spot and this little guy will constantly delight. Bronzes in winter. See the new 'Twinkle Toes' variety, now up in the store! The bench is about 1 1/2" tall.

The mighty Tansu Japanese Cedar – or Cryptomeria japonica ‘Tansu’ – is a real charmer for the miniature garden. Shown here, it’s about 18 years old, (they are 3 to 4 years old when we get them.) Provide evenly damp soil in a part shade/part sun spot and this little guy will constantly delight. Bronzes in winter. See below for the new ‘Twinkle Toes’ variety, now up in the store that grows even slower. The bench is about 1 1/2″ tall. That mat of ground cover below the tree is Platt’s Black Brass Buttons.

Effortless Growing With Proven Miniature Garden Plants

It’s time to show off some of the miniature garden trees and shrubs that have been growing in our miniature gardens. We are in Seattle, Zone 7, with very temperate winters with the occasional freezing. We use to have cooler summers, but last summer was the hottest/driest on record with high temperatures that lasted for months. Our miniature garden trees and shrubs came through like champions.

There is still plenty of time to get everything in the ground in your miniature garden before summer. Click into the photos or the links for more information on zones, care and maintenance for any of the plants. From the photo above, see the Tansu here. See the NEW Twinkle Toes here. See the Platt’s Black Brass Buttons here.

Stay tuned for more next week, there were too many miniature plants to include in just one post! Note that most of the plants shown in this blog post are outdoor plants. See our indoor options here.

Plants-Spring-2016 - 2 (2)

Oooh! I love how the camera picked up the rimmed branches of this old Nana Hinoki Cypress! The Hinoki’s are a favorite for the miniature garden, they come in all shapes, sizes and colors and they never disappoint. That is Dwarf Mondo Grass to the left and Miniature London Pride to the right of it beside the stone.

See all the Hinoki Cypress here. See the Dwarf Mondo Grass here and the Miniature London Pride here.

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The Fernspray Gold Hinoki Cypress is one of our faves. It turns greener in the part sun and bright gold in full sun. In winter it turns all sorts of ambers and purple if it’s cold enough. The branches can be trimmed to stay bushy, or let them flay-out to form a canopy. Miniature Daisies are at the base of the trunk.

See the Fernspray Gold Hinoki Cypress here. See the Miniature Daisies here.

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The is what the Fernspray Gold Hinoki looks like when you first get them. They all have a wee trunk underneath, trim away the lower branches to raise the canopy and make it more tree-like.

See the Fernspray Gold Hinoki Cypress here.

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Tiny cones are developing on the ends of an older Fernspray Cypress. These tiny cones may mature into teenie cypress cones (cute alert!) or they may slough off. Either way, it’s fun and interesting to watch these little plants grow up from being little baby plants to “big” trees in the miniature garden.

See the Fernspray Gold Hinoki Cypress here.

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This is an untrimmed Hinoki Cypress that has been left to grow on its own. I’ll go back into it and clean up some of the leggier branches to simplify the silhouette a bit. The tree is about 15 years old, the miniature garden is about 10 years old.

See all the Hinoki Cypress here.

Miniature Plants from Two Green Thumbs.com

Isn’t she lovely? Do you call your trees she or he? Lol! I’m smitten with the color of this new Cryptomeria japonica ‘Twinkle Toes!’ I suspect that it it grows similarly to the Tansu Japanese Cedar, but the flecks of yellow throughout the foliage twinkle in the sun, and it grows even slower, at 1″ to 3″ per year.

See the NEW Twinkle Toes here.

Miniature Plants from Two Green Thumbs.com

The limey-green foliage looks really delicate but it’s a very sturdy tree. The color turns bronze in the winter for more seasonal interest when you need it most.

See the Twinkle Toes Japanese Cedar here.

Like this? Want be the first to know of any new trees, plants and accessories that we find? Join us for your weekly dose of miniature gardening and get your Mini Garden Gazette delivered straight to your inbox! Join us here.

Been there, done that? Want to dig deeper into the hobby with a bunch of like-minded miniature gardeners from all over the world? We’re meeting at the NEW Miniature Garden Society members-only website. Find out more about what we are doing here.

 

http://twogreenthumbs.com/Miniature_Garden_Society.html

 

Miniature Gardening with TwoGreenThumbs.com

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Godzilla [Squirrels] and the Miniature Garden

From the Mini Garden Guru blog

Godzilla and the Miniature Garden

Alright, a squirrel is not miniature Godzilla but they may as well be – they are the perfect-sized monster for our miniature gardens, fairy gardens and railroad gardens.

Squirrels and chipmunks are really Godzillas in miniature.

Squirrels and chipmunks are really Godzilla in miniature.

As you may have noticed in your garden, ’tis the season for chipmunks and squirrels to ramp up their hunting and gathering to a feverish pitch before winter sets in. You would think that in temperate climates, like here in Seattle for example, there wouldn’t be as much of a panic to collect food as we hardly get a a freeze, (and if we do it only lasts a couple of days.) But, alas, there is no reasoning with those big eyes and the fluffy tail  – and off they go digging a huge pit in the middle of the miniature garden. Hey, don’t laugh, it IS a huge pit in miniature! ;o)

So, I asked a bunch of different gardeners on their one cure for the miniature Godzilla: cayenne pepper. Not pepper flakes: the powder. And, you can find it in bulk at your local dollar store. Sprinkle it on the bare soil-spots in your miniature garden, fairy garden, or railroad garden, and the squirrel will move on to easier digs, literally.

Miniature squirrels for the miniature garden add life and action to the scene. Start the story by scattering some scraps around them to make it look like they got into something. Click the picture to see them up in the store.

Miniature squirrels for the miniature garden add life and action to the scene. Start the story by scattering some tiny scraps around them to make it look like they got into something. Click the picture to see them up in the store here and here.

There are other ways of course, get a dog, use natural repellents like garlic sprays or animal urine. (Um, how to you collect that?? UPDATE: Fellow MG, Susan mentioned that its found on Amazon. Ew. Lol!)

There are sound emitters, sprinkler systems and motion detectors that you could spend your money on as well. Or, you could fence in the pots, (ugly to look at,) use plastic forks (ugly again until the plants hide them.) Lastly, you can offer the squirrels something better, like sunflower seeds and refill it twice a day. If your thinking peanuts, remember that peanut shells are poisonous to dogs, and the squirrels plants them EVERYWHERE, so I don’t recommend them.

But, with the cayenne pepper, especially for the miniature garden, you can really be precise as to where you sprinkle it. You can protect any part of the garden that you want to, with special attention to the freshly planted areas where the soil is easy to dig. The dark color of the pepper blends into the soil-color and the treatment won’t take-away from your miniature garden scene.

Like this? Join us for your free Mini Garden Gazette newsletter delivered straight to your inbox on the first Friday of each month – go here to fill out the form on our main website.

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From the Mini Garden Guru blog

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New Miniature Garden Trees are for Bonsai and Railroad Gardening Too

Miniature Garden Trees and Shrubs

White Bud Mugo Pine is a favorite for the miniature garden. This one has been groomed for a bonsai start but we can take advantage of that, and use it as a “big” miniature garden pine tree.

New Miniature Garden Trees for Bonsai and Railroad Gardening Too!

The fall shipment of miniature garden trees arrived this week and, as usual, I was chomping at the bit for the truck to arrive. I think it’s seeing them all at once that does it. The miniature and dwarf conifers come in an astounding number of colors, textures and personalities that is simply inspiring.

If you haven’t considered a conifer or dwarf tree for you miniature or fairy garden, please do. It will change the look of your miniature garden dramatically and make it look like a true garden in miniature. See our full line of miniature garden trees and plants here, there is something for almost every zone too.

New “Pre-Bonsai” Trees

In addition to our favorite miniature garden trees and shrubs we received a bunch of pre-bonsai plants too. While they are groomed to be bonsai’d, we know that we can use them in our miniature gardens as perfect “big” mini trees, trust that growth rate will be stable, and skip all the maintenance that comes with the art of bonsai. You can impress your friends AND your neighbors!

Keep them in shape by removing any new growth along the trunk and prune away any wayward top branches.

Click the photos to see more pictures and the growing details up in the store.

Shimpaku Chinese Juniper

Miniature Garden Trees and Shrubs

The Shimpaku Juniper before grooming and growing for a couple of years.

Pre-bonsai trees for miniature gardening

This Shimpaku Juniper after grooming and growing-in for 3 or 4 years. You can see why it’s prized by bonsai artists and desired by railroad gardeners. The peeling bark on the trunk adds wonderful detailing, they are hardy and drought tolerant too.

Valley Cushion Mugo Pine

Miniature and Dwarf Trees and Shrubs for the Miniature Gardeni

The Valley Cushion Mugo Pine is available as a cute little shrub too.

Miniature and Dwarf Trees and Shrubs for the Miniature Gardeni

A bigger Valley Cushion Mugo Pine groomed and grown in for about 3 or 4 years. It’s just too sweet to watch the wee trunk gradually lift the canopy off the ground.

Seiju Dwarf Lacebark Elm

Miniature Garden Trees and Shrubs

Before growing and grooming. You can see how delicate the trunk looks. If you start with young trees, you can have the pleasure of watching them grow up.

Miniature Garden Trees and Shrubs

The Seiju Lacebark Elm groomed for a few years by the grower. Maintain this look by pruning away any new growth along the trunk, and cut any wayward, top branches. In late winter, shear the canopy into shape by looking at the tree as a whole, instead of the individual branches.

See all the new trees and plants that arrived up in the store here. We’ve sorted them for you by zone here.

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Miniature Gardening with Janit Calvo

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Miniature Gardening vs. Railroad Gardening: Mentoring the Teacher

Emerald Heights RR

The Emerald Heights Retirement Community’s garden railroad is a tribute to the history of Redmond. The Begonias in the foreground were “tiny” when they were first planted. That’s a Boxwood tree on the left.

Miniature Gardening: Mentoring the Teacher

Yesterday we had the pleasure of visiting a railroad garden layout at Emerald Height Retirement Community. The layout was created 10 years ago from the founder of the Puget Sound Garden Railway Society who is still in the group today, and maintains the railroad part of the garden.  It has gone through several garden groups throughout the years and has evolved into a tribute to the city of Redmond, where the community resides. They spent about $10,000 installing the courtyard garden at the direction of Jim (I forgot to get permission to publish his full name!) and the garden is visible on all sides from inside the building as well. Quite the feat. Quite the layout!

We were invited to give them some recommendations for the miniature garden. This was an honor considering I used to look at to their hobby for inspiration and always called garden railroading the grandfather of miniature gardening. Here are some photos of the layout and I’ve included some of the ideas that I shared with them and some ideas that come later, when writing this post.

Emerald Heights Railroad Garden

A lot of the buildings in the layout were made by hand and are models of historical buildings in Redmond. A ton of thought and work has been done over the years.

The main thing that stood out was the lack of trees, shrubs and “garden beds.” Thankfully, I brought a few of our own plants to help illustrate how nicely our beloved dwarf and miniature conifers can be very low maintenance, while still appearing like a “full-sized” garden tree in miniature. I loved the “big” clumps of ferns in the back right that looked like Pampas Grass, but there needed to be some garden design to help situate the buildings and make them look like they belong there. A tree on the back corner of the church, a small driveway (or parking lot?) and a path going to the stairs would help create the permanence and age for the church.

Emerald Heights Railroad Garden

The layout was huge and had several different landscaped areas. Here is the ol’ town of Redmond. The flagstone acts as a road and a place for the gardeners to walk.

The main challenge for any of us is getting into the miniature garden to do the maintenance: trimming, weeding, thinning and grooming of the plants and trees. Using the rectangular pavers as the road gives you a spot to place a garden kneeler – or to sit on the kneeler – comfortably while puttering and weeding.

Emerald Heights Railroad Garden

Very fun details emerge after the garden has been growing for several years. Different bricks and pavers are used for road, sidewalk and parking lot. The Lamium behind the gas station and fire station, (the striped leaf with purple flower) can be very invasive if not kept in check. I would get rid of this plant right away and choose a more “well-behaved” perennial, like Dwarf Mondo Grass, Sea Thrift or Miniature Daisies.

See how the ground cover looks natural coming out of the crevices of the “sidewalk.” It will happen naturally with time, but you can speed up the process by tucking small rooted plants into the cracks in the fall, and let them establish over the winter. If done in spring, the small plant-start is not going to be established enough to tolerate the hot, summer sun because the roots haven’t grown into the new soil underneath the pavers. Different plants to use for this idea are Corsican Mint, Elfin Thyme and Baby Tears (Baby Tears can be invasive in some areas.) Mist daily if the weather is dry to help them along.

Emerald Height Railroad Garden

Quirky fun with a handmade miniature clothesline in the backyard. The fence separates the yard from the “back-forty.” Use florist wire to help stake the fence to stay upright – loop one end onto the wire in between the pickets to hold it down, perpendicular to the ground.

The big patch of ground cover Stonecrop Sedum (Sedum spurium) in the foreground may look a bit more realistic if there were more “boulders” or rocks, some fallen logs and /or tree stumps to help remind viewers of the scale and make it look like a “back-forty” acre of land. Capture the scene with an old rusted, broken-down tractor nestled beside one of the boulders.

Emerald Heights Railroad Garden

The end of the line. Railroad gardeners use ballast gravel, or coarse crushed rock, to keep the railroad tracks level.

Above, that tightly pruned plant on the hill behind the station is Fairy Vine (Mulenbeckia complexa.) The gardeners prune it tightly and keep it in check because it can easily invade and spread. If they pruned it back even further to expose the rocks, and placed some smaller matching rocks placed at the bottom of the hill, it would help bring the scale down to match the building and make the transition between hill and building more realistic.

Emerald Heights Railroad Garden

The replicated signs along the miniature bike path read: “Rock Island Line, Is a Mighty Good Road. Emerald Heights Line, Carries the Load. Burma Shave.”

The city of Redmond is known for its bicyclists (it’s where Microsoft lives) so they put in a bike trail along one side of the layout. I’m not coming up with a better way to keep the tiny bikes standing, but placing the bricks on the side would make a tighter trail about 3″ wide. This, however, would require digging up the existing trail, trenching it evenly (the ballast gravel in the trench may help level them,) and reburying them. A task that would take elbow grease and patience but, theoretically, it would only need to be done once.

Emerald Heights Railroad Garden

The apple orchard is made from Streib’s Findling Cotoneasters. The berries look like tiny apples and that will last through the winter.

During the conversation, Jim and I discussed the number of miniature garden plant options that has multiplied since he started the garden 10 years ago. The Streib’s Findling Cotoneaster was “the” stand-in for apple trees and orchards but the training it requires to trim it into a tree shape can get a bit meticulous, or better left for a bonsai artist. The Thyme-Leaf Cotoneaster, has since replaced the Streib’s Findling now that it can be found, and it has a better branching habit that looks more like a tree. The leaves are tinier too, flowers in the spring turn into berries in the summer that last through the winter.

Emerald Heights Railroad Garden

A fun miniature vineyard made from miniature ivy. Washington is known for it’s wine country.

Several vignettes throughout the railroad garden has its own set of challenges. This miniature vineyard requires pruning to keep the vines growing the right way. The choice of vine is a good one, the miniature version of the Hedera helix ivy is tough and can handle the judicious pruning. (Also called Ducksfoot Ivy because of the leaf shape.) However, this scene gets a bit cluttered with the coarse bark mulch. Perhaps replacing the bark mulch with mushroom compost, or another type of fine mulch, would help define the rows of vines and let the workers and vines stand out.

Emerald Heights Railroad Garden

The bottom-most part of the railroad garden is the sewer grate that is incorporated into the dry riverbed, a nice workaround.

Emerald Heights Railroad Garden

Mountains meet the town of Issaquah, Redmond’s neighbor to the south.

You can begin to appreciate all the work that has gone into this layout over the years. At times it must be fairly daunting not to mention never-ending. It is understandable how the details that we bring to regularly to miniature gardening can easily be ignored with such a big miniature scene. Something as simple as adding a road to this miniature town of Issaquah can be a complicated installation, navigating the train tracks, climbing up and down multiple times to build it into the scene.

Emerald Heights Railroad Garden

The railroad garden is in a courtyard and can be viewed from the inside of the building. You can see the row of windows along the back of the photo.

Emerald Heights Railroad Garden

I waited for Steve to appear on the backside of the garden to show how big it really is – and this wasn’t at its longest point!

This is why I call railroad gardening the grandfather of miniature gardening. As miniature gardeners, we seldom think about the bigger landscape that surrounds the garden. Railroad gardeners need to create the mountains, hills, bridges and tunnels that the trains run through. It is often referred to as a rich-man’s hobby because of the time, space and money it takes to create a working railroad garden.

So, as miniature gardeners, we’ll take the garden, leave the trains at the station, focus on the plants and create smaller, manageable mini gardens to our heart’s content quickly, easily and for a fraction of the cost.

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