I finished a few handmade miniature gardens over the last few days. I thought it might be useful for people just starting to explore the world of minaiture rock and fairy gardens to see what specific steps I took to arrive at the finished products.Containers:
For most of these gardens, I used as my ‘canvas’ various pots (very amateurish, but still fun to make and - endlessly! - polish and grind) I made from concrete or more lightweight hypertufa. Here’s one here:
I used dwarf evergreens, succulents (sempervivium and sedum) and herbs (rosemary and tarragon). The possibilities are endless and limited only by (well, these ARE limitations, it’s NOT that wide-open, but you still have plenty of options). Things to keep in mind:
- your climate zone
- the amount of sun your plants will be getting and
- your personal preferences for color, plant type and size of the plants
I’ll go over details of all this in later posts.
I’m fascinated by geology: boulders, rocks and stones (and pebbles and even sand and dust!) of all sorts. All these easily found items provide a very simple way to add interesting landscaping details.
By using rocks from a particular region and varying their height, you can make a much more interesting and realistic-looking miniature rock or fairy garden scene. Coral and aquarium stones and colored sand - rinse them to get rid of debris that could harm your plants - they’re fun and can make a dramatic visual statement.
In some of these projects, to give an architectural anchor, I placed miniature cottages (aka “fairy houses” or “fairy woodland cottages”) or small glazed ceramic castles or crazy, crooked houses made by a very talented artist friend of mine, Claudia McGill.
Right above’s a miniature garden with some of Claudia’s things in it, inspired by the theory of evolution (it’s a real thing you know - evolution, I mean).
WHAT TO DO - FIRST STEPSFirst: Securing drainage holes to prevent soil erosion
Make sure there even IS a drainage hole - and cover it
To keep soil in and around the roots, before I do anything, I always start off by covering the drainage hole (make sure there IS a drainage hole - if not drill one - PRONTO!) with a piece of hardware cloth and keep a minimum 1/2-inch margin around the whole shebang. Let me save you a lot of trouble: hardware cloth is cheap and dependably sturdy. But, more importantly, here’s a tip you could spend hours puzzling over: the higher the gauge, the more flexible it is. Try to get gauge 20 or 22 or 24. Oh, and btw, please wear gloves when handling or cutting this stuff - it has sharp edges and can cut your hands. (Don’t say I never warned you!)
In case these details don’t interest you, here’s a photo:
Ok….with hardware cloth or chicken wire in place over the drainage hole(s), get some window screening (nylon screening is best because it won’t rust). This you can buy by the roll or in pieces at any local or big-box hardware store.Next: Adding the soil
After covering the drainage holes with a sturdy cover of hardware cloth and nylon screen, I add the soil. (I use my own blend of potting soil, sand, gravel and turkey grit - and sometimes some other add-ins, depending on the plants I’m using).
For a miniature garden with succulents and / or dwarf conifers, you can get away with using potting soil (70 - 80%), maybe mixed with and pea gravel for the remaining 20-30% (by weight).. But if at all possible, DO use the sand or gravel. It will promote drainage and your plants will be much healthier than if you simply use basic garden-store potting mixes.Why add anything at all to basic potting or cactus / succulent soil?
I’ll tell you! The most important thing with succulent and miniature conifer container gardens is to make the plants have drainage so the roots don’t become waterlogged. The roots need to be able to breathe. If there’s no drainage, either because of no drainage holes or because you used a too-thick soil mix, YOUR PLANTS WILL DROWN and quickly die.
If you don’t want to go to the trouble of finding turkey grit or tufa (the two best additives for miniature or rock garden soils, but not always easy to find), do yourself a favor and add some gravel or sand or both. And keep the organic material content down, too. To much dead decomposing bark will soak up water that’ll stay there and soak your roots until, again, they’re gasping for air.
Here are two more of my little experimental project gardens, just for fun:
More instructions, focusing on:
- Choosing a container (guess I should have mentioned that earlier, but…doesn’t matter - you can use practically ANYTHING!)
- Using structures or little houses (and how to find them)
- Choosing and placing rocks and stones for height and depth contrast, and
- Planting your outdoor living miniature garden plants.
In the meantime, have a great spring day! Or if you are in the Southern Hemisphere, keep warm - or dry!