By Jodi Torpey
I love the Southwest and have dreamed of planting a desert landscape. But I’ve learned the hard way that dogs and cacti don’t mix. Fortunately, I can still have all the spiny plants I want in a miniature garden. For this project I provided the inspiration, and Lowe’s provided the plants and materials.
To get started on my miniature desert garden, I opted for a square tabletop container to fit the space under a light-filled window. Almost any container, from baskets to clay pots, can hold a miniature garden, as long as it has holes for drainage and a way to catch excess water.
Fairy gardens may be the trendy approach to miniature gardens these days, but I think succulents and pint-size cactus plants make for more-texture-rich plantings.
One of the keys to planting a miniature garden is make sure each plant is sized in proportion to the container and the other plants.
In addition to size, the plants must have similar water and light requirements. It was fun to mix and match Southwestern-style plants, looking for those with similar forms but different textures. The spiky variegated leaves of Cryptanthus ‘Pink Star’ complement the shrubby succulent stems of Pachyveria ‘Blue Pearl’ and Sedum adolphii ‘Golden’. Echeveria ‘Perle von Nurnberg’ adds a silvery accent.
I also fell for the small Sago palm simply for its “plants of steel” label. This Cycas revoluta is a durable, low-maintenance plant that fits perfectly with the three miniature cacti: Chamaelobivia ‘Rose Quartz’, Notocactus leninghausii ‘Golden Ball’, and Mammillaria elongata ‘Copper King’.
Another consideration for a miniature garden is to use good-quality potting mix—not garden soil—to fill the container within an inch of the top. I used a special potting mix meant for cacti and palm plants because of its quick-draining qualities.
Before planting I took time to try different plant arrangements. While experimenting with placement, I walked around the container to make sure it looked good from every angle. But no matter how I moved the plants around, the taller palm always preferred the back corner.
Once the plants were firmly in place, I added embellishments such as miniature urns along with small polished stones for a path. A layer of finishing sand made for the final decorative touch.
This summer I plan to move my miniature garden outside so I can enjoy my little desert landscape while sitting on the patio. What kind of landscape would you like to re-create in your miniature garden?