Miniature Landscaping: Ideas for Container Gardens

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A miniature garden can be a focal point for any landscape, no matter how large or small. If your yard is large, a miniature garden can serve as a garden-within-a-garden. Alternatively, if your yard is small or even nonexistent, a miniature garden offers the opportunity to build your own landscape. Small gardens can be designed around a single container, or several containers can create the framework for a garden design. If you have a small patio, a balcony or nothing more than a window box, you can still turn your limited space into a magical landscape by reducing it to fit your space.

Start by choosing the best container to fit the space you have. For indoor cultivation an enclosure like a terrarium is easiest for controlling the whole environment — particularly small tropical plants that prefer higher humidity than is normally found inside your house. Low open crates, trays or pans are ideal for laying out miniature scenes. Place an additional tray under any garden that can potentially harm or stain the surface below. When creating a miniature outdoor garden you can use anything from tubs to lined wooden boxes to ceramic pots to recycled sinks. Use your imagination and plant a container that complements the look and theme of your little garden.

Make sure there are drainage holes in the bottom of whatever receptacle you use to let water pass through the soil and out of the container. A bottom layer of drainage material like gravel, broken pot shards or even plastic packing peanuts will help keep water from building up around the roots — wet soil rots plants.

Once your space is set up, design your mini-landscape as if it were full-size. Sketching it on paper is helpful. Just like you should do with a full yard plan, start with the big items — structures, walls, paths, fences, and then figure out where larger and smaller plants go.

There are companies offering tiny versions of just about anything you could want, from action figures and fairies to animals and outdoor furniture. Look for bird houses to dress up as homes, stones for boulders, build fences and archways with sticks and even add a tiny pond.

Choose the right plants for the conditions where they will be growing. Look for growth forms that mimic full-scale plants. There are miniature shrubs that look like full-grown trees, mosses that look like lawns and tiny blooms that can echo larger flowers. Some small-growing plants you can use are baby tears (Soleirolia soleirolii), fairy puff Sawara Cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera), pixie dust dwarf Alberta spruce (Picea glauca), dwarf sea thrift (Armeria maritima), heron’s bill (Erodium), Princess vine (Cissus sicyoides), moneywort (Lysimachia nummularia), Irish moss (Chondrus crispus) or Scotch moss (Sagina subulata), or one of the many miniature sedums.

Once you have your container, materials and sketch ready the real fun begins. Put all the pieces together and create your ideal, economy sized landscape!

Photo credits: Jane Gates

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