10 Reasons Why the Philadelphia Flower Show is the Best Garden Show in the US

Philadelphia Flower Show, 2018

The Wonder of Garden Shows: the Philadelphia Flower Show.

10 Reasons Why the Philadelphia Flower Show is the Best Garden Show in the U.S.

I just got back from the huge Philadelphia Flower Show last Monday and I’m still reeling about the show. It was awesome. This is my third time going to this show and it truly is the best garden show in the United States hands-down. Here are 10 reasons why.

Philadelphia Flower Show, 2018

I missed getting this volunteer’s name but her hat is divine…

1. It’s All About Volunteers

The Philadelphia Flower Show is hosted by the Philadelphia Horticultural Society and is completely organized and driven by volunteers. The simple fact that it’s built by volunteers takes the pressure off the money and puts the focus back on the plants, education and gardening.

Philadelphia Flower Show, 2018

All protein, no carbs! Lol! This show doesn’t have any filler-booths with food or junky home decor. The booth space is always sold out too.

2. It’s All About the Plants

95% of the show is about gardening, plants and the environment – including the marketplace. You won’t find rows and rows of food vendors hawking their mustard, nor a whole sections of shabby-chic indoor decor just to fill up the booth space.

Philadelphia Flower Show, 2018

Collaborating with other professionals and businesses forces them to come up with more and more creative solutions each year. This show just keeps getting better and better.

3. They Collaborate

As you walk through all the exhibits and competitions you notice that all kinds of schools, universities, garden clubs – and kid’s garden clubs, societies, museums, art galleries, small businesses plus a large number of visual artists and floral designers are involved throughout the show in many different ways. It seems no one is pigeon-holed into only having one way to participate.

The huge garden displays are built by many different companies to create wonderfully creative displays that are dramatic and memorable. There were a number of displays representing different countries as well. How refreshing!

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Philadelphia Flower Show, 2018

One of the many different displays of artwork made from the garden! How awesome is this necklace??

4. They Think Outside the Garden Bed

Among the garden displays are many different categories of garden art made for the garden and from the garden. Sculptures, paintings, abstract arrangements of all shapes and sizes, Ikebana, and jewelry – my favorite – everything is made from nature but it never looks like it!

 

Philadelphia Flower Show, 2018

There is always a strong art-element to this great show. This is just a small part of the 1280 square foot mural that was in the middle of the show.

5. They Love Art

OMG. I can’t say enough about how the PHS and the city of Philadelphia work together to promote the arts. Not only does it make a great flower show, it makes for a great city too. Giant tulips sticking out of buildings and huge bronze sculptures – art is everywhere in Philly!

6. It’s Very Accessible

The Philly Flower Show is held in the Philadelphia Convention Center which is right on top of train station. Easy for everyone.

7. They Give Back

Proceeds from this show drives the Philadelphia Horticultural Society’s “green” projects for around the greater Philadelphia area. A great example is their Tree Tender Program  plants over 2000 trees annually, since 1993.

8. They Keep Growing After the Show

The PHS has a very long reach into garden education and outreach programs that happen throughout city and state for the rest of the year. They have community gardens, parks, public landscapes that involve thousands of city residents “to make the city a more livable, likable and vibrant place to live and work.”

This year the Philly Flower show added a “Water Summit” to their agenda that was open to everyone – and for anyone. They brought in leading environmentalists and industry experts to educate us on real-world solutions to the issues we face in keeping our fresh waters clean and drinkable.

Philadelphia Flower Show, 2018

My Best of Show pick from the Miniature Garden Settings exhibit. The artist is Nancy Grube.

9. They Honor Different Ways to Garden

Within the show itself, the different classes of competitions help to remind us of the many different types of plants and trees that we can grow AND they encourage and inspire us to do so. But, more importantly from my perspective, they include our beloved Miniature Gardening. They have two classes of miniature gardening PLUS the Miniature Setting Exhibit which is one of the best attended exhibits with a constant line up from the time the show opens right to when it closes.

Philadelphia Flower Show, 2018

The PHS honors many types of gardening. This is just a fraction of it – the Wardian case competition.

10. It’s Not About the Money

It’s about community, education, the environment, art and gardening. Sure they need to make money to keep it going, but that’s not the focus – the people are. Yes, there is a marketplace within the show for shopping, but most of the floor is devoted to the exhibits with a few stages for education sprinkled throughout the floor plan.

And, its official, I’m jealous. Lol!

Philadelphia Flower Show, 2018

There were a lot of lovely displays by floral designers too.

 

Philadelphia Flower Show, 2018

The garden displays kept going and going… it’s always lovely and inspiring!

 

Philadelphia Flower Show, 2018

While some of the displays were totally out of the box, other displays could easily be replicated at home. Very inspiring!

 

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The Day the Earth Shook: The Nisqually Earthquake, 20 Years Later

The original Miniature Garden that lasted for 3 years before the container fell apart.

The original Miniature Garden that lasted for 3 years before the container fell apart. The scene is 10 1/2″ wide and was 1/6 scale.

The Day the Earth Shook: the Nisqually Earthquake, 20 Years Later

“You told me to call if I had any earth-shaking news.”

That was what I said to my father after calling him in Toronto to check-in after the Nisqually earthquake here in Seattle in 2001.

Twenty years ago today, I was at Swanson’s Nursery where I was just offered my first legal job in the US. I was thrilled. I was very eager to learn more about the flora of the Pacific Northwest after working for the past year under the table as a gardener, until I was able to get my green card.

After the interview, I went to check out the plants and that’s when the earth shook.

My first thought, “Wow, that’s a big truck driving by!” as I watched a big truck drive by – but the shaking didn’t stop.

Kim (I think her name was Kim, she always had popcorn for lunch) ran out and yelled at us to get away from the greenhouses. I did, not knowing what else to do of course, it was my first earthquake.

And then the shaking stopped. I was officially unnerved and felt that the earth could begin shaking again at any moment. It’s quite disconcerting when the ONLY reference point that we have here on earth, moves.

Two Green Thumbs Miniature Garden Center

Earth-Shaking for Major Industries

But what happened that day was really earth shaking for the garden, miniature, craft and gift industries because Swanson’s Nursery is where I discovered miniature gardening. It was Swanson’s where I found the miniature and dwarf conifers that spring and paired them with ground covers to build my first miniature garden.

It was at Swanson’s that I showed the “Original Miniature Garden” photo (above) to Candy, one of the walking plant encyclopedias that worked there, but she passed it back without thought and said, “That’s nice, Janit,” not even realizing that the scene was in miniature. (One of my ah-ha moments!)

I stayed there for about 3 1/2 years while getting Two Green Thumbs Miniature Garden Center up and running. I saw the seasons change in the perennial department, then I was promoted as assistant manager in the home accessory department until my manager found out how adept I was and got rid of me to protect her job. During these years, I worked weekends at garden markets and touristy craft markets spreading the joy of gardening in miniature. Eventually in 2004 I was able to start selling online and could quit my “day-job.”

As the Internet grew, eventually I did find someone else that was into gardening in miniature in the 1950s, based in the UK, but by that time, my history of miniature gardening was well on its way to being a major trend for the garden, miniature, craft and gift industries. An earth-shaking trend, I might add, as these industries are forever changed. We now have a new way to craft with miniatures and plants that is very personal, accessible to everybody, sustainable and renewable, and very, very creative. Have you planted your miniature garden yet? Won’t you join us?

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A Brand New Miniature Garden Center Store!

It’s a brand new Miniature Garden Center!!

A Brand New Miniature Garden Center Store!

Release the doves! Crack the champagne already! Send up the songs of gratitude! Call the press! GET THE CAKE!!

It’s a brand new Two Green Thumbs Miniature Garden Center Store that is completely up to date and now available on any computer, device or phone nearest you!

And we’re thrilled!

Look forward to us growing and adding to this website as we move forward in spreading the joy and love of gardening in miniature just in time for spring – we’re doing the happy dance!

Don’t just sit there – click into the America’s World’s Favorite Miniature Garden Center, TwoGreenThumbs.com

Beautiful photos are throughout the site. Easy to navigate too. Use the search bar to shop by your planting zone!

Here are just a few differences that keep us apart from “the rest:”

1. We wrote the books on it: Gardening in Miniature: Create Your Own Tiny Living World and Gardening in Miniature Prop Shop: Handmade Accessories for Your Tiny Living World.

ICYMI – These little bars are the new menu on a lot of new websites these days. Click the little bars to see more!

2. We keep our focus on realistic miniature gardening because that’s were the magic and enchantment really happen.

 

3. We have the only full-time blog on the hobby (you’re reading it now.)

4. We have the Mini Garden Gazette that we send out to thousands of Fellow Miniature Gardeners each week for FREE. Join us here – just scroll down a bit!

5. We specialize in the miniature and dwarf trees and plants that work. Our plants don’t outgrow your miniature garden in one season, they are easy to take care of and won’t die if you turn your back. Search by your planting zone!

6. We have a brand new website that is easy to navigate! :o)

7. I’m prolly missing something. Lol! Here’s the link to the store while I think of it: TwoGreenThumbs.com

 

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Two Green Thumbs Miniature Garden Center is online ONLY.

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Miniature Gardening at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show

Yep! This is it. Lol! It’s was the only miniature garden that I found at the “second largest” garden show in the country. It’s a cake. Where did everyone go?

Miniature Gardening at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show

Yeah, I would rather be miniature gardening too. Lol!

Well, the big Northwest Flower & Garden Show was held here in Seattle last week. As usual, I scoured the show for evidence of our wonderful new hobby and found – — wait for it — a cake. I couldn’t even eat it either.

And, that’s it.

The Swanson’s Nursery booth had some fairy garden tchotchkes, and Robert from Pacific Northwest Bonsai was there with his bonsai and accessories, and there were a few mini garden plants found in with the full-sized plants, but nothing for the miniature garden hobby. It seems that everyone has made their money and moved on which really means, they were only into it for the money, honey.

We did get a nice spot on the bookshelf in the show. :o)

Well, have no fear, we are here! And, we love gardening and miniatures  – and, okay, who doesn’t love money? – but we’re not a trend-chaser and never have been.

Won’t you join us? Here are a few ways to do it:

1. The world’s only Miniature Garden Center solely dedicated to the miniature garden hobby. We didn’t go the way of the fairies when it was trending because the gift and garden industries were pushing it so hard. (A note to the powers that be: there will be fairy gardeners still fairy gardening after the trend wanes!) TwoGreenThumbs.com

2. This blog. It’s the only  blog solely dedicated to the art and craft of gardening in miniature. Congratulations for standing apart from the crowd with us!

3. Our Mini Garden Gazette is the only newsletter solely dedicated to… you know where this is going, right? Sign up through our headquarters at MiniatureGarden.com

4. The Miniature Garden Society. We’re not exactly keeping the dance alive at the MGS, we’re still creating the music and the choreography! This hobby is DEEP and very creative and we’ve only just begun even though the Society is 3 years old now. Learn more about us here.

We did have a blast meeting everyone who came for my demo! Thankfully my out-of-the-box ideas were well received and I did get a chance to make ’em laugh. Thank you to all who joined us!

Why doesn’t Two Green Thumbs Miniature Gardens vend at this show anymore? It was toooooo stressful for just two people to do and hold-down an online store too. We don’t have a garden center full of employees that need something to do during the winter. We would then go into our busiest-season completely burnt-out. We tried it for three years, three different ways and it just wasn’t fun.

The Northwest Flower and Garden Show is a difficult show for any vendor but with the show using more than half the space that used to be the plant market for food and thrift-store booths now, it’s simply not an interesting show for the experienced gardener any more. The show promoters also added a conference for “industry professionals” which takes away from the vendors who spent all that time, money and energy setting up for the show. I think they need to decide on whether is a country-fair show for people hawking their wares, or a conference for industry professionals or a garden show for gardeners. IMHO.

Two Green Thumbs Miniature Garden Center

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Miniature Garden Plants: Miniature Settings Exhibits Vs. Real Miniature Gardening

Miniature Gardening at the Philadelphia Flower Show

Miniature Garden Displays: Miniature Settings Exhibit Vs. Real Miniature Gardening

NOTE: The photos in this blog are from the 2014 show. The Miniature Settings Exhibit has since changed hands, and the quality of the exhibits is apparently very different from what you’ll see here.

The Philadelphia Flower Show is home to the only major Miniature Garden Settings exhibit in the world – and it happens to be one of the most well attended exhibits at the show too. I’m on my way there in March where I will be speaking at the Gardener’s Studio stage on Saturday, March 10th at 2pm, the second Saturday of the show to promote my second book, Gardening in Miniature Prop Shop: Handmade Accessories for Your Tiny Living World.

When I finally saw the gorgeous miniature displays in person last year, I realized it was completely different than the type of miniature gardening that I have taught for well over a decade. I knew it was different, but it wasn’t until I received this email last August that I realized other people didn’t know the difference – even some of the people who are participating in the exhibit.

“Dear Janit,
I have been invited to show in the miniature class in the next Philadelphia Flower show and not too long ago ordered several plants from you. Unfortunately a few of the plants were way too big in scale to be used, one died and another is on its way out. It seemed like a great deal of money and I was sorry I spent it for so little return. I, therefore, will not be ordering from you again and could not, in good conscience, recommend you to anyone else.   [Name and location removed]”

Whoa. It’s like I took her $75 and hightailed it to Mexico. Lol! Yea, our type of miniature gardening is well, gardening!

Right plant, right place works for miniature gardens – and all types of gardens, wherever you are and whoever you are. Plants are the great leveler of society, they only care if they did not receive the right growing conditions, and not money, nor fame, nor status – nor any nasty email – can change that.

This poor woman spent almost $75 on a Slowmound Mugo Pine, Dwarf Hens and Chicks, Mini Sweet Flag, Gemstone Hinoki Cypress and Piccolo Balsam Fir that included the Tansu Cryptomeria and Jersey Jewel Japanese Holly. Had she asked if any of these plants were ideal for her project, I would have cautioned her about how to use them – and the fact that they are outdoor plants would be first on my list.

Philadelphia Flower Show Miniature Garden Settings

Philadelphia Flower Show Miniature Garden Settings – The Birds by Louise Krasniewicz. Click to enlarge the photo and you will see a blend of young plants, plant starts, indoor and outdoor plants. This method of growing and combining plants works wonderful for the settings exhibit, but would not be expected to last if it was planted as a miniature garden.

And what she didn’t notice is that all the pot sizes are mentioned in the text and shown in the photo with my hand as a reference to the size of the plants.

I hope she didn’t plant these all together because would be a disaster: The mugo pine and hens and chicks are outdoor plants, love full sun and drier, well-draining soil. The Mini Sweet Flag prefers wet soil, shade and can be grown indoors and the rest are outdoor plants, prefer evenly damp soil and part sun/shade.

All these differences and growing details are always mentioned in each listing underneath the multiple photos of each plant in our online store.

Thankfully, I’m from “the east coast” and knew that it was just a misunderstanding, albeit an irritating one. I wrote her back explaining the difference, included some references and wished her luck in the exhibit.

But despite my compassion for teaching and sharing the joy of gardening in miniature for almost two decades, I’m human and the email did ruffle my feathers a bit. I haven’t stayed in business for over 18 years by supplying the nation with miniature plants that don’t work. I didn’t fill the bestselling book on the hobby, Gardening in Miniature: Create Your Own Tiny Living World, with false pretenses and nor did the world’s top horticultural publisher, Timber Press, print a book filled with wrong information. Why did she jump to such radical conclusions? Because people hate being wrong.

Philadelphia Flower Show Miniature Garden Settings

A close-up of Louise’s garden beds – they were impeccable. She plays with rooting cuttings and uses them while they are young. Begonias and succulents are her favorite. That burgundy colored plant is a very young coleus. The wee garden bed looks perfect! (Click to enlarge.)

So, Janit, What is the Diff?

Dr. K of the Miniature Garden Settings exhibit blog has put together a database of the plants used in the exhibit. It’s a work in progress and she has about 300 plants listed so far. I’ve scanned through the list and yes, there are plants that we use that can last for years in our miniature gardens but majority of the plants aren’t for our type of gardening in miniature.

The exhibit is only supposed to last for about two weeks and sometimes the plants have to be switched out either due to being too stressed out because they are growing in abnormal conditions, or they are growing too fast.

Here are some observations on their techniques and examples of plants that won’t work for a long-lasting miniature garden. I imagine the artists have many more and I look forward to learning more from them.

Philadelphia Flower Show Miniature Garden Settings

This is the Mythical Hanging Gardens of Babylon by Pamela Goldman. Young date palms are combined with air plants, Sedums, young begonias and small-leafed perennial starts. The effect is superb but the combination is not expected to last long.

 

Miniature Settings Exhibit Techniques

– Over-planted: Almost all the displays are deliberately over-planted to look lush and full.

– Temporary: It is not planted as a garden that is meant to stay together for years like we do. It’s only meant to last the for the show.

– Mixing Plants: The artists plant indoor with outdoor plants, light loving with shade loving because, again, the display does not have to last long.

– Fast Growing: Ground covers and rockery plants are a favorite because they can be grown quickly and the young plants add color and texture to the miniature setting-scene. Examples: Lamium, Veronica Speedwell, Candy Tuft, Pileas – all plants that I would NOT recommend for the real miniature garden because they are too fast growing.

– Young starts: A number of the plants are really young babies that we’re grown for this purpose only. Plants are swapped out during the show if they get too big. The artists have more plants growing behind that wall for this very reason. Here’s more…

Miniature Garden Center

Miniature Garden Settings Plant List from Dr. K.

This is Dr. K’s long plant list from her Birds display from last year’s show. You can see the wide variety of plants used in just one setting. The task of creating the display and planting the tiny gardens is an art unto itself and I don’t think it could not be done any other way.

Miniature Settings Exhibit Plants Explained

– Seedlings, Starts and Young Plants: The exhibitors cultivate plant starts, or use very young plants that mimic full-sized garden plants. The leaves and stem are usually the perfect size and the variety of textures look fantastic in the wee garden beds – but it’s not going to last. Examples: Polka Dot plant, Kalanchoe, Creeping Jenny, Catnip, Lavender, Rosemary, Sorrel and even culinary Thyme is suggested as a miniature plant. All these plants will grow up within one growing season and will not stay miniature.

– Unusual Plants: Depending upon the topic of the scene, some of the plants listing in the database are plants that have surreal look, instead of being an ideal plant for a miniature garden, regular-sized Aloe and the Living Stones (Lithops) for example. Bog-loving plants, like the Bog Rosemary are listed – I would not grow a miniature garden in a bog. And fragile plants or plants that are fussy to grow are not on my list of favorites either simply because life is too short to fuss, examples are the Maidenhair Fern and the Mimosa.

I hope I have cleared up some misconceptions about the different kinds of miniature garden plants used in this fabulous display at the Philly Show – and I hope the display is still fabulous under this new management. It is much different than real miniature gardening if you take the time to notice, unlike our friend who wrote the nasty email to me.

If you have any further questions or comments, please leave them below. I would be glad to know what I have missed.

Come and see my talk and demo at the show! I’m on at 2pm, Saturday, March 10th, 2018, at the Gardeners Studio Stage. Here’s the PHS website for the show, I’m not sure when they’ll have the event calendar done.

Join us – but only if you want to know more about “real” miniature gardening! Sign up for our Mini Garden Gazette newsletter to get in on the fun here.

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Fairy or Angel? Here’s a Quick Way to Tell the Difference.

Angels and Fairies, what is the difference?

A stroll through Molbak’s fairy garden department during Christmas time gave me more than a few examples of the difference between fairies and angels.

Fairy or Angel? Here’s a Quick Way to Tell the Difference.

I was working on a miniature garden for the Miniature Garden Society‘s outreach program and a fellow miniature gardener brought out an angel statue to see if it would fit into our plan. I said, “What a pretty angel.” and she quickly said, “I thought you didn’t like fairies** in your gardens?”

Shortly thereafter, a fellow MG commented on a photo of a miniature praying angel statue on my Two Green Thumbs Miniature Garden Facebook page, photo is shown to the right. She said, “Oh, what a cute fairy!” That made me realize the difference between fairies and angels aren’t that obvious to some folks – yet.

So, how do you tell? Let me bring to light the differences and similarities between fairies and angels that may help you distinguish between the two. And no, you won’t find this kind of reporting anywhere else. Lol!

Angels and Fairies, what is the difference?

Angels and Fairies, what is the difference?

This fairy wears wings like a butterfly. The wings are one of the main characteristic that defines the two.

How Fairies and Angels are the Same:

– Every culture has some type of fairy.

– Every religion has some type of angel, aka spiritual being, deva, or cherub, generally speaking.

– Fairies are sometimes regarded as spiritual beings too.

– Fairies and angels can be guardians or guides

– They both have wings.

Angels and Fairies, what is the difference?

Moth wings? Fairies will have wings that look like insect wings. Dragonfly wings are especially popular with the fairy designers too.

Angels and Fairies, what is the difference?

Bird-like wings have a certain majesty to them that suits angels better than insect wings, don’t you think?

How Fairies and Angels are Different

– Fairies seem more ethereal than angels. (Ethereal means extremely delicate and light.) Fairies are small and angels are usually our size. Cherubs are usually shown as human babies or young children.

– Fairies are of the earth and angels are from the heavens.

– Angels are religious and fairies, not so much, although some do regard them as spiritual beings. (It’s optional for druids, apparently.)

– Fairy wings look like insect wings, similar to dragonfly or butterfly wings. Angel wings are bird’s wings and feathered. They tend to be bigger and more dramatic than a fairy’s utilitarian insect wings.

– Fairies are usually clothed in bright colored naturals: flower petals, leaves or some sort of plant. Angels are usually shown in soft, pastel-colored cloth robes or gowns.

Angels and Fairies, what is the difference?

Sometimes the wings are mounted separately but most times they seem to be joined in the back. Either way, angel’s wings

Whether you believe in angels or fairies, you are right.

When I envision angels flying, I can see their powerful feathered wings swooping, soaring and gliding. When I picture fairies flying, they are buzzing and darting around like a hummingbird. Disney captures this feeling with how they make Tinkerbell flit around so fast that she becomes a blur.

So, there you have it – that, and about $4 will get you a cup of regular coffee just about anywhere. Lol! Leave any comments, compliment, complaints or concerns below.

Hey, I do take a break from the realistic miniature garden to enjoy some fantasy fairy gardening from time to time. Here are just a couple blogs about fairy gardening from this blog:

Decorating Your Fairy Houses

Fairy Garden Moss: What They Won’t Tell You But I Will

Fairy Gardens Vs. Miniature Gardens ~ What’s the Difference?

Faith, Hope and Pixie Dust

How to Get the Garden into Your Fairy Garden

VIDEO – Design Ideas for Your Fairy Garden

Like this? Then you will love our Mini Garden Gazette newsletter delivered to your inbox every Friday afternoon. Join us here.

(** I don’t do any figures of any kind in my miniature gardens because then it becomes the fairy’s garden – of the figure’s garden. It’s no longer my own little world if there is “someone else” in the scene. I’m a bit selfish that way. Lol! Note that this is a constant debate in the dollhouse miniature world and in the model railroad world too.)

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How to Swim in Soil

An in-ground miniature garden just needs a mulch of compost each spring to keep the soil nutrient-rich. Save your fertilizers for your annuals and vegetables. The bee house is about 1 inch tall.

How to Swim in Soil

I’m a self-taught gardener. I don’t like unnecessarily complicated things. When any topic gets too scientific or complex, my eyes glaze over and I start to think about lunch. With our already hectic lives, some think we must know about the microcosms and ratios in our potting soil or garden soil in order to be a gardener, but – don’t tell anyone – I don’t. I haven’t. Because I don’t need to.

Now keep in mind, I’m a gardener. I’m not a grower. I don’t have a greenhouse. I don’t have any sort of grow-your-own set-up here at my backyard nursery. I have tried it but growing my own stock but it just isn’t where my passion is. I do grow my own veggies and annuals from seed for my full-sized gardening adventures, but that’s where it stops. However, if you are getting into growing seriously, you will want to focus on the content of your soil.

There’s an old saying that if you have $1 to spend on your garden, spend 90 cents on soil, and 10 cents on plants.

And I’ve written about soil before, it’s the first chapter in our popular Miniature Gardening 101 Series: The Dirt on the Soil. And, I talk about it in here, How to Plant a Miniature Garden in a Big Pot.

But what about all the different kinds of potting soil out there? What’s the diff? What do we use for miniature gardening? What will work best? Oh, and how much? Grab a cuppa, and let’s get down to the roots of the situation, shall we?

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“If you are making mistakes it means you are out there doing something.”

For Pots and Containers

For all containers, use organic potting soil. Note that a lot of companies have hooked their wagons to the “organic” trend and, well, soil IS already organic, so isn’t that redundant? Not in this day and age, unfortunately. By organic, I mean without any added fertilizers or water-retaining polymers.

A great example is Miracle-Gro soil. It’s everywhere now and everyone sells it only because they have the money for marketing it. (It’s made by Scott’s. Monsanto owns Scott’s. Icky.) You’ll find somewhere on that bag of soil it will say ‘organic.’ But those added fertilizers and water-retaining polymers is the WORST soil you can use for your miniature garden or fairy garden simply because of the extra “stuff” in the soil. The extra fertilizers burn the roots of our plants and trees and those polymers don’t let the soil dry out often enough, then the roots can’t breathe – with that lovely combo, our plants that we recommend for the miniature gardening die.

What I love to see on the potting soil bag is that it’s from a local company. If the garden center that you frequent are worth their salt, they’ll have a variety of soil products from companies in your area or thereabouts. If you don’t see it on the store shelf, ask for it. The request will get back to the manager/buyer and they’ll know customers are looking for a local choice.

Soil for miniature gardening or fairy gardening

How Much Soil Do I Need for My Miniature Garden Container?

Because some of our plants are really tiny, it is miniature gardening after all; you might be tempted to put the tiny plants in a big pot to let them grow in. This is called “swimming in soil” and the reason this will not work is that the water will not stay around the root ball where it is needed because there is too much soil in the pot. The water wicks to the bottom of the container, away from the plant’s roots and all is futile. A basic rule of thumb is any new plants need to transplant in pots that are 2” to 5” bigger or wider. If you’re planting a group of plants, take the total of all the pots combined.

This chart was taken from my Gardening in Miniature book that has all the garden basics you need to get started in the miniature garden hobby.

Soil chart for container gardening

From the bestselling Gardening in Miniature book.

Note that 1 cubic foot bag of soil or compost is about the size of regular pillow. There are about 25 quarts in 1 cubic foot. So, using the chart above, a pot that is 8 to 11 inches wide, will take almost half a bag, or half a cubic foot, to fill it up. Note that the depth of the container isn’t accounted for in this chart but, it should say “width and depth” of pot. But here’s an awesome soil calculator for you to bookmark here.

In-ground miniature gardening

Instead of removing the grass, we planted on top of it mainly because we found clay in all our garden beds. But I always found that by the time I cleared the patch of lawn, I didn’t have the energy to do any gardening so I was all for this easy way to prep a garden bed!

For In-ground Miniature Gardens

Use compost. That’s it. Soil is compost but will have many more nutrients in it than bagged topsoil. Just spread the compost on top of your soil each spring, and you are done!

If you are just starting an in-ground garden bed of any type, try our type of lasagna gardening. Lasagna gardening is really ‘composting in place’ but that means that you have to pay attention to the ratios, layers, timing and materials… (Oh gee, what’s for lunch?? :o)

BUT what Steve and I did with our new garden beds when we moved to our house in 2010 was incredibly easy and worked like a charm. We laid a long piece of rope down to outline the edges of the new garden bed. We covered the grass with heavy cardboard, piled as much compost on top as we could on top, cut in the edge of the garden bed and installed the border. Then planted the garden in the compost. Done.

We top it up each spring as much as we can. Now the garden bed has settled down to ground level but it works better for the miniature garden scene than a mound – the paths and patios stay level and the watering doesn’t mess everything up.

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