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5 Ways to Start Your Own Miniature Garden

How to Start a Miniature Garden

There are many reasons to grow your own world – they are fun to give and fun to get! This scene is approximately 10 inches wide.

5 Ways to Start Your Own Miniature Garden

I’ve made well over 1,300 miniature gardens since I started this business in 2001, [Update to 2015: we are over 3,000 gardens, in-ground and in containers.] and I have found that there are a number of ways to begin the journey of creating your own wee world.

Miniature Gardening with Janit Calvo

Here are some ideas to get you started:

1. Choose your site for your mini garden

Right plant, right place applies in miniature as well. Where is your miniature garden going to live: In ground or in a container? Indoor or out? Then figure out what kind of light does that spot have: Full shade? Morning sun? Then choose the plants that will do well in that environment. (Note that indoor plants are tropical plants that like to stay 60 degrees or above all year ‘round. No, you can’t grow an outdoor plant indoors.)

See our miniature garden plants sorted by zone here.

2. Choose your favorite tree

If you have the luxury of planting anywhere, checkout the miniature and dwarf trees and shrubs that are ideal for miniature gardening, and pick a tree that sings to you or tweaks your interest. Some trees can be “limbed-up” to show some more trunk so it looks more like a tree than an shrub. Choose your “mini bedding plants” (a.k.a. ground covers) by matching the same light and water requirements as the tree. If you haven’t been bitten by the miniature conifer bug yet, be warned: they are both numerous, gosh-darn cute and easy to grow.

See our miniature plants sorted by light here.

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3. Choose your favorite theme

Forest? Backyard? Formal? Rustic? Re-creating your grandmother’s life-sized garden in miniature? While there may not be an exact miniature version of the full-size tree, you can more-than-likely find a similar, slow-growing, small foliaged tree that is similar in growth shape. Use images of life-sized gardens to help kick-start your brainstorming session and Google it. Look for iconic items that will weather well, classic a rose arbor or grandma’s favorite garden chair, to add to your miniature garden rather than clutter the small scene with tiny details that will get lost in the living miniature garden.

See our Theme Department here.

4. Choose a container

Sometimes the container just beckons to have a wee world in it. Let the colors and the personality of the pot help or dictate the mini garden theme. An unglazed, terra cotta pot would be the perfect pot for a rustic backyard garden-theme. A big, black, glazed, ceramic pot would look smashing with a formal-style miniature garden planted with a Blue Pygmy Juniper, Hens & Chicks and Wooley Thyme for the understory that all enjoy the full sun and tolerate the odd dry soil.

See all our miniature garden trees and plants for miniature gardening here.

 

Your Miniature Garden Center

5. Try a complete kit.

I have a variety of Miniature Garden Kits in my online store, to suit a number of different environments. They come complete with full color instructions that guide you through the simple steps to create a mini garden in a container, and it can be applied to an in-ground garden too.

The kits come with a mini or dwarf tree, matching bedding plants (ground covers), my own Mini Patio Mix Kit, rocks or brick sheets for easy install, and miniature garden accessories to finish off your wee landscape. Once you do this kit, you’ll know how to do it again and again.

Miniature gardens make great gifts for that hard-to-shop for person in your life, hostess gifts, centerpieces for family gatherings or weddings. They do very well at charity auctions and raffles too.

There are just as many reasons to grow your own world, as there are reasons to live in this one. Enjoy your mini garden journey and adhere to the most important, number one rule of gardening in miniature: Have fun and grow your own world.

Need more?

Visit the source of the miniature garden hobby here.
Visit America’s Favorite Miniature Garden Center’s here.

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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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Miniature & Fairy Gardeners: Enjoy A Cyber Monday Sale All Week Long!

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Miniature & Fairy Gardeners:
Enjoy A Cyber Monday Sale All Week Long
From Your Miniature Garden Center Store:
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True miniature plants and trees, realistic and durable mini accessories, kits of all shapes and sizes and much, much more. Only from TwoGreenThumbs.com, your favorite miniature garden center!

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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.

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In the Miniature Garden With Mom: Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy Mother's Day from TwoGreenThumbs.com

Happy Mother’s Day from Two Green Thumbs Miniature Garden Center!

Happy Mother’s Day!

Hope you are making miniature gardens for Mother’s Day. She will love the garden. Then she will love you more for doing that for her, way more than any of your brothers and sisters. Then you’ll be her favorite child. Then it’s all good.

Have fun,
Janit & Steve.

PS – See America’s Favorite Miniature Garden Center Store here and see our main website here.

 

Our doghter, Kitty, helps with the Mother's Day photo shoot. :o)

Kitty helps with the Mom’s Day photo shoot. It look like she can smell that miniature dog. Lol!

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Miniature Gardening for the Fairies with Plow & Hearth

Fairy Gardening with Janit Calvo

Check out the lighted lamp post – cuteness! It was a fun project to build for the Plow & Hearth, North Wales store in PA. Variegated boxwood on the right, that lime-green tree that is in front or the house is a wee Wilma Cypress, or Lemon Cypress. That ivy in the front isn’t really in scale with the rest of the garden, but made a nice accent to trail down the front of the planter so it wouldn’t look so stark.

Miniature Gardening for the Fairies with Plow & Hearth

While in Philadelphia last week, I just had to give our friends from Plow & Hearth a call to see what is new and fresh this season for their miniature fairy gardening. I got more than I bargained for – I was asked to create another fairy garden for their North Wales store. So, not only did I have the chance to get up close and personal with the new items, I stayed and played for awhile and met a few fellow miniature gardeners too! Here is what happened.

Fairy Gardening with Janit Calvo

The raised planter was really fun to work with. There was enough room for two different vignettes. I designed it by placing the houses in first, then figured out where to put the trees and plants.

Fairy Gardening with Janit Calvo

The smaller houses now have smaller furniture to match. The teapot and cups are glued onto the table so you don’t have to fuss with them – or lose them. Dwarf Mondo Grass is on the left, Baby Tears to the right of it.

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Fairy Gardening with Janit Calvo

I used our Mini Patio Mix Kit for the foundation for the house – and it was big enough for a front porch area too. Place the furniture as you would in you full-sized world and don’t block the door – the fairies won’t be able to go in and out. ;o)

Fairy Gardening with Janit Calvo

Plow & Hearth have pretty new sets for the spring. The whole line is interchangeable and everything seems to match with any house or furniture set.

Fairy Gardening with Janit Calvo

That red tree is a Coprosma ‘Pina Colada.’ It’s placed in a cache-pot that I buried right into the soil to make it look like it’s a big planter for the middle of the plaza. The tree may complain about being indoors eventually, but since its in the cache-pot, I can be replaced very easily. (Some spend $10 for a bouquet of flowers that last a week, why not spend the same on a temporary plant that can last for a couple of weeks or months?)

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Fairy Gardening with Janit Calvo

Fairy crossing! The new fairy furniture sets are very sweet .

Fairy Gardening with Janit Calvo

Placed in a brightly lit spot, this garden should happily grow and weave together.

Find the planter here on Plow & Hearth’s online store.

Find their fairy garden houses and furniture here.

Find the plants that I used here.

Find more realistic accessories for miniature gardening here.

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Janit Calvo's Fairy Garden built for Plow & Hearth

 

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The Evolution of the Miniature Garden

Miniature Gardening with Janit Calvo

The new, tiny trees and shrubs add another layer of realism to the miniature garden. In this miniature broken pot garden, the Gemstone Hinoki helps anchor the height of the Sky Pencil Ilex and balance it with the cascading garden.

The Evolution of the Miniature Garden

Hey! Pssst! Wanna buy a forest?

We are enjoying the new miniature garden plant sizes now that we have the major nurseries across America growing smaller, to meet the needs of mini and fairy gardeners across the nation – and the world for that matter. A recent garden center trade magazine cited a new trend in smaller plants coming from Europe. Huh? What? It is SO already here, Buddy! Perhaps our gardens were too small for him to see – but wait – now the plants are getting even smaller. Lol!

If you loved our mini and dwarf conifers for your miniature or fairy gardens, you’ll love the new sizes of tree that are now in stock. Tiny trees and shrubs in 2 ¼” pots are quite possibly, the cutest plants on the planet. Here are a few of them that we’ve been working with over the last year – and yes, I will get back to that forest for sale.

Miniature Gardening with Janit Calvo

A tiny Jersey Jewel Japanese Holly is “tots adorbs” as the kids say these days, meaning totally adorable that is. (The shortened version must save some time? ;o) It is paired with Elfin Thyme. The pot is about 5″ wide.

Your Miniature Garden CenterIf you haven’t tried our miniature garden plants in your miniature, or fairy gardens yet, how about it? We have been growing with the same trees since we started professionally miniature gardening 15 years ago. We still amazed at how they maintain their small size but develop a majestic look in miniature. They truly are a delight to grow. Here are some previous posts where you can find more photos of our plants and trees after a couple/few years of growing:

Why Conifers Make Great Miniature Garden Trees

And one more here on the Tansu Japanese Cedar.

Here is one of our online miniature garden galleries on Flickr. After you scroll through and look at all the gardens, start over again and look at plants in the gardens right here.

I know, I’m from Seattle. What about different climates? Here is some information on miniature plants for Texas and Florida.

Miniature Gardening with Janit Calvo

This diminutive Nana Lutea Hinoki Cypress with the golden foliage picks up the tiny flower color of the budding Golden Divine Barberry. This pot is about 6″ wide.

And here is your forest! We have two different sets of six tiny trees that could easily be grown together to create a miniature magical forest. Oh my, I think I just inspired myself – I need to go make one now, that sounds like too much fun. Lol!

Miniature Gardening with Janit Calvo

From lower left, clockwise: White Pygmy Sawara Cypress, Jean’s Dilly Dwarf Spruce, Miniature Juniper, Nana Lutea Hinoki Cypress, Valley Cushion Mugo Pine, Top Point White Cedar. As a group they are hardy to -10F, full sun, well-draining soil. Click the picture to see all the details.

Miniature Gardening with Janit Calvo

Clockwise from lower left corner: Jersey Jewel Japanese Holly, Tansu Japanese Cedar, Chirimen Hinoki Cypress, Thoweil Hinoki Cypress, Dwarf Princess Elm, Tsukumo Sawara Cypress. The different textures of the conifers combined with the deciduous Princess Elm and the Jersey Jewel Holly has a ton of seasonal interest all year long. As a group, hardy to -10F, full sun. Click the picture to see all the details.

Miniature Gardening with Janit Calvo

Aren’t they just the best? From left: a tiny Jean’s Dilly Dwarf Spruce, Fernspray Gold Hinoki Cypress, and Valley Cushion Mugo Pine that is so cute you will want to take it with you wherever you go. Lol! Click the picture to see all the details.

Geez, I’m like a kid in a candy store with these little guys! See all the sets and combinations here in our New and Back in Stock Department. Just a note that the 2 1/4″ conifers are just babies, and need protection from any extremes until they grow up a bit.

Like this? Then you’ll love our Mini Garden Gazette Newsletter! Join us here.

In Seattle? Come and see me at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show on Wednesday, February 11th at 5pm at the DIY Stage! Admission is only $10 after 3pm and you are sure to find parking that day at that hour too. More info here.

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