Gardening In Las Cruces | Outdoor Things To Do |

In midwinter while I was perusing garden books, I discovered Fairy Gardening: Creating Your Own Magical Miniature Garden by Julie Bawden-Davis and Beverly Turner. Years ago, I had experimented with fairy gardens and even created a fairy garden board on Pinterest. My results were cute but lacked impact. Bawden-Davis and Turner provided expert advice, so I decided to try again.

I decided to make miniature gardens as gifts for my favorite travel companions. They are beach aficionados, so naturally a miniature beach scene was appropriate. Choosing a theme is one of the first steps in the process of creating a fairy garden.

I quickly determined that larger miniature garden containers were easier to design than smaller ones, and allow the creator to be adventurous, such as using a wagon or crate as a garden container. It’s best to have your idea and pieces together ahead of time to make sure the container will be spacious enough. Most of all, consider the size of the plants in relation to the design. Finding very small plants is challenging, but many succulents are excellent for size and interest.

When creating a miniature garden, experts advise that the gardener must keep in mind scale, theme, focal point, and story. From the book I learned that attention to scale for garden plants and accessories makes a great deal of difference in achieving a successful project. The traditional suggestion for scale is usually 1 inch to 12 inches (1:12). I found you do not need be exact in adhering to this formula, but choosing items close in scale does matter.
For me, the easiest step was choosing a theme. I had far more ideas for themes than time or containers to execute them!

Most garden designs feature a focal point, and a miniature garden is no different. Too many pieces randomly stuck in a pot will look cluttered. A miniature garden captures the viewer by telling a story. Tell your story through action or the suggestion of impending action. For example, leave a garden gate ajar; tip the bicycle on the ground, leave a tool near a worksite. Create the illusion that someone or something enjoys the garden.

Choose the theme and story before choosing accessories, which can be divided into two categories: softscape and hardscape. Softscape includes miniature plants for the garden, which you can find in garden centers or at a florist shop. Good plant selections include elfin, woolly, and pink thyme, lavender, rosemary, baby’s tears, needlepoint ivy, Irish and Scotch moss, Corsican mint, Santa Barbara daisy, dwarf cypress, and dwarf juniper. Also, consider adding natural raw ingredients, such as small pinecones, twigs, acorns, seashells, driftwood, and flat-sided stones.

Hardscape includes fencing, pergolas, gazebos, ponds, and patios. Sand and small gravel are useful for creating beach or desert scenes. Gravel, glass beads, or crushed glass can add color and sparkle to represent water, trails, and pathways. Examples of hardscape include a pathway winding through an arbor to a bench; a patio or pool; a bridge over a creek; or a tiny wheelbarrow filled with tools.

Finding accessories was my most difficult task, as we have few local options to purchase items to fit our chosen theme, and we’ve all had the experience of ordering something online that doesn’t appear as depicted. I’m all thumbs at crafts, but for those who enjoy crafting, you can find many ideas and directions online for creating miniature accessories.

When selecting accessories, choose items in a similar color range. Also, select items with a variety of textures and contrast. If you want to make miniature gardens regularly, you may make it a habit to pick up miniatures when you see them. Miniature garden accessories, miniature creatures, and plants can be found in many places, such as hobby stores, garden centers, dollhouse suppliers, model railroad stores, toy sections and toy stores, floral sections, baking displays, and holiday ornament and décor suppliers.

Search the junk drawer and toy chest for magnets and other odds and ends that can be repurposed. Hit the garage for leftovers from projects, such as tiles, flagstones, and other bits.

Attach accessories with glue to golf tees, nails, or screws, then insert in the soil.
Before planting the miniature garden, consider the usual guidelines for planting any container: light, water, fertilizer, and maintenance. Be careful not to over-plant, as your accessories may disappear under them. Especially with flowering plants, placing the miniature garden outdoors is usually more successful. However, with careful selection of houseplants and some good light, a fairy garden could succeed indoors.

Despite the challenges of learning to work in miniature, I had fun making the gardens, and I hope you have fun creating miniature gardens, too. The beach garden was a whimsical surprise to my friends. And, of course, I couldn’t resist making some for myself. I was especially pleased with my “desert garden,” which should thrive for years. While it’s too hot to work in your garden, you may find creating a miniature garden in the shade to be a creative pleasure.


Written by Jackye Meinecke

Originally published in Neighbors magazine

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