By Nicole Forbes
As the days grow shorter, colder, and wetter a sensible gardener turns to indoor projects to keep the dirt under one’s fingernails. One of my favorite indoor planting projects is making miniature fairy gardens and mini-scapes. For my creations I use a combination of store bought, scavenged or found, and re-purposed items. Tiny scenes are created in a container using slow-growing and/or miniature plants, moss, stones and doll-house sized garden furniture such as gates, wheelbarrows, arbors and bistro sets.
Gardens can be designed around a theme like a formal English garden, a whimsical cottage, a Zen/meditation garden, a woodsy retreat or the landscape of your dreams; your imagination is the only limit. Size, scale and perspective are as important as they are in regular landscaping to achieve the look and feel you desire. Plant selection is also key to the success of the garden in respect to the amount of light it will receive, how much water it will get, and whether it will be kept indoors or out. Dennis’ Seven Dees garden centers usually have a nice selection of all types of suitable plants and knowledgeable staff on hand to help you pick them out.
Recently I made a centerpiece garden on a silver tea tray for our Thanksgiving table. Because my container was too shallow to plant in I harvested fresh green moss from my driveway to use as the base of the landscape and accented it with tiny starts from a succulent called Jovibarba (a miniature type of hens & chicks). I stuck them into the clumps of moss using small pieces of wire. The main feature was a small metal house (sold with Dennis’ Seven Dees fairy gardening supplies) that has space inside to insert a set of battery operated lights so the house glows from the inside out, through the windows. I finished it off with a stone path to the door and added a few mini garden gnomes from my box of treasures. It was a delight for guests of all ages and looked wonderful on the buffet table.
Fairy gardens & mini-scapes are fun to make, relatively easy to maintain, and instill imagination and creativity. They also make great gifts for friends or family members that enjoy plants or gardening (or tiny things). I imagine an indoor kitchen fairy garden with a rosemary tree, maybe some chives or cilantro and Corsican mint for a ground cover. I would include a bench or bistro set to pretend I’m sitting on with my book and a cup of tea sitting just off the pathway, not far from an arbor with a small vine growing on it. I might bend back a measuring spoon to look like a bird bath and see what else I can find. The garden could be planted in an old enamel kitchen strainer or some other re-used kitchen item.
Another garden that would be fun to create is a spooky scene or a “scary” garden made by filling a shallow saucer (no drain holes) with carnivorous/bug-eating plants and other bog-lovers. Add a bench on a path with a spooky lantern or candelabra, and some stringy Spanish moss. Or how about a desert scene; they are easy to create and maintain. Many small cacti and succulents are available and tend to be slow-growing and low-maintenance. Aloe, echeveria, small barrel cactus, pencil cactus and even the succulent houseplant known as string-of-pearls could be used as a cool groundcover. Add a few interesting rocks, a path of crushed pumice and a stone bench (maybe even a plastic dinosaur, rubber snake or a toy dragon to complete the scene).
As you can see I have enough ideas and projects in mind to keep me busy gardening indoors through these next few months albeit on a very small scale. If you would like to make a mini garden with me be sure to sign up for one of our upcoming classes on fairy gardens and mini-scapes 2013. Check our website for details & class schedules. If you can’t wait, come in sooner and get started with the help of one of our friendly garden center helpers.