By Susan Albert
If you have only a small amount of gardening space or if you want to add a bit of whimsy to your home or landscape consider a miniature garden.
Sometimes called fairy gardens, miniature gardens may incorporate small scenes, with props such as bridges, ponds, fences, cottages, pathways, toadstools, fairies, gnomes, frogs, and rocks. Depending on the size of the container, plants can range from gallon-size to small succulents and ground covers. Be sure the mature height of plants is compatible with a miniature garden.
Containers are limited only by your imagination. Many people use broken clay pots, birdbaths, goldfish bowls, old wagons—anything that can hold soil. You can add drainage holes or, in the case of glass bowls, water the garden sparingly.
An old tabletop fountain base served as the container for the mermaid garden shown here. I collected some small no-longer-used artifacts from around the house such as aquarium decorations and seashells. I purchased cactus potting mix, decorative sand, and succulent plants from Lowe’s.
Cactus potting mix filled the container, planted around the edges with succulents. To add height, I borrowed fronds from a plant I already had.
The sand added soil cover and enhanced the ocean scene.
Then I carefully poured in aquarium gravel to look like water, and finished with the decorations. Very easy!
These plants are not winter-hardy in USDA Zone 6, so my mermaid garden has to stay indoors near bright light during the off-season. Protect colorful moon cactus or grafted cactus from frost. Water only when soil is dry.
Plants for small themed gardens can include moss, ground covers, succulents, bonsai, even slow-growing dwarf evergreens. You can move them out when they outgrow the container.
This outdoor fairy garden, pictured at Tulsa’s Cooperative Extension Center, includes wire vine, a true dwarf mugo pine, and ‘Gold Cane’ juniper.
To give a “hillside” look to a mini garden, like this one entered in a local county fair, repurpose a broken container. A variety of succulents, ground covers, and houseplants were used in the design, which included rocks and a homemade shelter.
When the gardening bug hits before the weather warms up, a fairy garden can be an ideal indoor project.