Top Mini Gardening Rookie Mistakes

miniature fairy garden

… And How To Avoid Them

Right Plant – Right Place

This is key.  Remember “Right Plant – Right Place” if nothing else!  Plants are free spirits.  They like different soils and temperatures and varied amounts of light and water.  So first you have to consider where you are going to plant or place your mini garden when choosing your plants.  Then you need to make sure that the plants you choose will play nicely together.  Similar requirements for light and water are essential, especially in a container.

You Can’t Fool Mother Nature

Your local garden center is going to display sweet baby plants and herbs in adorable tiny pots and call them “Fairy Garden Plants.”  You can use them, but keep this in mind:

  • They are usually not true “dwarf” plants and will grow like crazy, taking over your miniature garden.  You can keep them cut back or repot later.
  • Many need full sun.  Watch for this if you are planting an indoor container garden.
  • Slower growing dwarf and true miniature plants work best.

If your garden will be outside, choose dwarf and miniature plants based on the amount of light your garden or porch gets and appropriate for your planting zone.  For indoors, plants that require shade or low light are best.  These are some of my favorites for indoor mini gardens:



The Dirt on Dirt

Dirt is a four-letter word at Just Gardens Supplies.  Dirt is dead.  Organic Potting Soil or Planting Mix is what you want for your Miniature Garden containers.  It has everything your plants need.  When choosing soil, notice that there are different mixes for indoor and outdoor containers.  Many mixes will have a mild, time released fertilizer added so be aware of this. You do not want to over fertilize your plants or encourage rampant growth in your tiny garden.  A moisture retaining polymer may be added as well. This can be beneficial for an outdoor container.

Tips on Watering

  • All. Pots. Need. Drainage.
  • Before you water, check the soil with your finger at least an inch deep.  If it feels wet, wait a day or two.  If it is barely damp, you can water.
  • If you travel often or tend to forget your plants occasionally… consider succulents.

Have No Fear

Plants die sometimes.  They just do.  But it’s no reason to give up on mini gardening, and it’s certainly no reason to be afraid to try!  Get another plant to replace it and try again.  I can’t keep Irish Moss healthy all Summer to save my life.  But I know when I see it for sale this Spring I’ll get some more and give it my best.  I just love it!

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Adapted from an article by Janit Calvo, best-selling author of Gardening in Miniature:  Create Your Own Tiny Living World.

Enchantment… In Proportion


Photo Credit:  Liz Ballard

Once Upon a Time…

There is a drive about a quarter-mile long from the highway to my house.  One section is beautifully tree-lined and runs along our creek.  Squirrels scamper across the road, rabbits peek out of the grass with noses wiggling and birds flit from tree to tree. It’s as picturesque as it sounds.  On a good day, you’ll see deer, too.

This happened just last week.  It was sunny and spring-like and three pretty does stood in the tall grass by the creek.  Perfection!  These are the moments that confirm my secret suspicion that I really am a Disney Princess and my life is a Fairy Tale (cue the song and dance).

I suppose this mindset explains my love of all things magical and sparkly and small… including fairies and mini gardens.  And bunnies.  And baby ducks.  And Yorkies.  Yes, my Yorkie sparkles.

Miniature is Relative

My list above includes several small adorable things.  But that doesn’t mean they go together (fairies tease Yorkies incessantly).  In miniature gardening, scale, or the relationship in size of all the plants and accessories, is your most important consideration.

You may be a free spirit that says, “I don’t want to “design” my mini garden, that takes all the fun out of it!”  But you still have to pay attention to scale, or it just won’t look right.

Here are a couple of examples of scale mis-match:


Isn’t she lovely? But she’s not getting in the door of that adorable little fairy house!


This is the tiniest galvanized pail I found, but it is still too big for the little garden shed.

This is Not a BIG Deal

Get it?  I know.  It was funnier at 4:00 in the morning.

Scale is easy.  Miniature garden accessories come in all sizes.  Use larger ones in big pots and outside gardens, and use tiny ones in teacup gardens and terrariums.  Just make sure they go together.

  • Compare furniture with houses, fences, gazebos and other structures
  • Fairies, animals and accessories such as wheelbarrows and birdbaths should match furniture and structures
  • Accessories like garden tools and foods shouldn’t be too big for the benches and tables they sit on
  • You have a lot more flexibility in plant size

Happy Endings

That’s really all there is to managing scale in your miniature garden.  You’ve got this, my friends.  The world of fairies and mini garden goodies is your wonderland.  Have fun!

BTW, I’m still waiting for a Fairy Godmother.  The above mentioned wildlife does NOT clean my house.


A Deeper Perspective

“When what is, isn’t … and vice versa.”

Have you ever been pulled into a photo of the layers of mountains (like in the Smokies) that takes you miles beyond the foreground? Yet, the image is on a thin piece of photo paper, canvas or even the display of a cell phone?


The typical camera captures images similar to the way our eyes take in a view. So, when we later view the image, the scene can make us feel as though we are where the camera was at the time. At least visually.

The “Perspective Elements” garnered from the image of the Smokies can be applied to an MG. So what are these “Perspective Elements” (PEs)?

If you examine the above image, you will notice the geometry of the mountains is different between the near mountains and the far mountains. The mountains appear smaller, are closer together and begin to lose detail the farther away they are. By using this observation when planning an MG you can create an MG with a “Deeper Perspective.”

Now, don’t start thinking you will need to locate mathematically accurate representations of all objects of a scene. Not only would this likely change one’s character to lemming-like and guide you involuntarily over a cliff, it is just not necessary. Do not completely remove the fun factor of MG creation by trying to do the near impossible. Are you familiar with the saying, “We have been doing so much for so long with so little that we can now do anything with nothing in no time”? Well, let’s not practice that here. Here we are going to rely on the mind of the viewer to fill in all the blanks. Let us remember that even Picasso became famous for his creations!

So, here are some of the PEs that I feel are good to be aware of and that may be applied to MGs to gain a “Deeper Perspective.” It is important to note that what we are trying to achieve is the creation of depth that defies the size of the container used (…what is, isn’t…).

Change in Scale

Placing smaller scaled items in the back of your scene. Normally we try hard to match the scale of objects throughout an MG. If you are trying to achieve more depth, then you can use out-of-scale objects to your advantage. Smaller scaled objects will go in the back of your scene and larger scaled objects will be placed in the foreground. Now, this does not mean we throw out the rule of matching scale between objects. The rule of scale is applied differently. One should strive to match the scale of objects placed near each other. These items will be in the same or similar position relative to the foreground and background of your scene so their scales needs to match. Now, it can be challenging to find an object you desire in all the different scales you may want. Don’t fret. Finding objects that vary in height or width alone can work.

Change in Texture

This PE can be challenging to apply in practicality. Plant material and crafted items offer the most opportunities here. Coarser textures in the foreground and finer textures in the background.

Change in Width of Linear or Curvilinear Features

A pathway, stream or strip of “turf” that becomes narrower as it makes its way to the back of the scene is a powerful method to creating depth. This not only applies to linear paths, but to meandering (curvilinear) ones as well.

Change in Object Spacing

Similar and repetitive objects can be spaced closer together as their positions approach the back of the scene. Placement of objects such as fence posts, stepping stones and hedging plants can take advantage of this PE. This is also a strong method of creating depth.

When most or all of these PEs are combined the effect can be quite impressive. Trying to apply all of these PEs to each element can be very challenging. The more of them you are able to apply, the more convincing your scene will be. But remember, the idea is to have fun. Finding you at the bottom of a cliff is not the goal.

MGs rely heavily on the imagination of the creator and the viewers. This holds true with the attempt of creating depth. Here are some tips that will help you get deeper (was too good to resist) into leveraging PEs in your creations.

A Single Point Perspective

A grasp of this concept is helpful when you are planning your MG scene with depth. Especially when laying out your linear or curvilinear elements. Here is a visual example of a single point perspective. Notice how the foreground items that carry through to the background all merge at a single point on the distant horizon.


Use Two or More Similar Focal Objects of Different Scales

If you have similar objects such as: vehicles, structures, animals, hand tools, etc. of different and appropriate scales you can use them to your advantage. Placing the smaller items behind or “beyond” the larger version of the object will create depth.

Using Similar Objects With Different Textures

Some of the objects that come to mind are loose materials. Like small stones for pathways and “creek-beds.” The stones may be sorted by relative size and the larger ones used in the foreground and the smaller in the background. This applies to stepping stones as well. Since there are lots of different textured green plants (real and faux plants), there are opportunities to use plants with coarse texture in the foreground and finer texture in the background. Small stones used as “boulders” are available in a nearly endless selection, using larger and coarser textures in the foreground and finer textures and smaller sizes in the background.

When What is, Isn’t …

Here are two simple layouts for a basic MG that demonstrates the impact of applying some of these PEs.

No intentional use of PEs

Straight pathway, similar size sprigs used throughout, all focal objects of similar scale.


The same container with PEs applied … “it is the same container, isn’t it?”

Tapered pathway, progressively smaller and finer textured sprigs, progressively smaller scale for focal objects.


Well, we  have progressed all the way to the end of this article on using perspective techniques in an MG. If you have learned one thing I hope it is this: stay away from the edge of the cliff.



A magical quality in the creation of a miniature garden lies in the ability to create a physical destination, a cerebral destination or both.

What the John Henry is he talking about???



Ok, a little more information so that my thoughts may make sense to other human beings.

When creating a physical destination within an MG (my lazy way to say “Mini Garden”), one would create an actual path, trail or flow (like a dry river bed, stepping stones or such) that leads one’s eyes to a focal point (more on focal point in a future post).

When creating a cerebral destination within a MG, one focuses on creating a theme (see Kathy’s inspiring prior post on themes) that pulls the viewer mentally into the garden. Through the eyes the viewer can “walk” around the scene and examine the elements. The viewer is mentally drawn into the scene.

An MG that has an interesting, physical path AND strong theme can do both at once. The mind becomes filled and occupied with the theme of the MG but the “eye” is drawn along the path to the focal point. In a well composed MG that is purposely created to draw attention to the focal point, it is hard to resist taking that virtual “walk” down the path or “float” up the dry stream bed.


Here is an example:



The cabin, dwarf spruce and stone work create a woodland theme that pulls the mind in. The stone steps going up the wall and the stepping stones lead one’s eyes straight to the front door.



Theme Is Everything, Darling


When we first brought Miniature Garden supplies into the shop, our intent was to carry only Smoky Mountain themed products.  Because we live in the Smokies, and because that’s what vacationing fairies expect… cabins, log furniture, black bears and so on.

Well, we learned quickly that the world of fairies and miniature gardens is vast and breathtaking.  In no way could we limit ourselves to one theme.

Sometimes the hardest part of creating a miniature garden is getting started.  Once you choose a theme, the rest is a piece of cake.  You can’t stop yourself.  I know.  Here are a few theme ideas to get you thinking.

Garden – Probably the easiest and least expensive theme.  Choose small plants that resemble trees, shrubs and grass. Then add as little or as much as you like.  Furniture, walkways, fences, an arbor or birdhouse… there’s no wrong answer here.  If you’re crafty, you can make everything yourself with stones, twigs, acorns, string, wire and other things you have at home.

Smokies – We love our Smoky Mountains, and we’ve got you covered.  Because bears.  And Bambi.  And baby raccoons and foxes.  I can’t even.  Log furniture is right at home in a miniature garden, along with stone walls, streams and bridges.fullsizeoutput_1c00

Picnic – Set up lawn chairs and a fire pit or throw a checkered blanket on the grass. Put a picnic basket and lemonade on a nearby tree stump. Just don’t forget the cookies… fairies love cookies.

Camping – The most popular little garden at the shop is our camper. A tent works just as well, though. Add a campfire and tiny camping gear. After this photo was taken, I found a little pink flamingo for their yard!jgs-0034

Beach – Brightly colored adirondack chairs, umbrellas, white sand, tiny flip-flops, blue gravel or glass for water… the possibilities are endless. This one is fun.

Farm – So many cute chicken coops, bunny hutches, lambs, ducks and baby pigs. Plant rows of tiny vegetables or add a mini vintage pickup truck. fullsizeoutput_270fVictorian – Create a garden with formal benches, statuary or fountains.

Sports – East Tennessee fairies love to tailgate, and we all know their favorite team.

We hope these ideas get your creativity flowing.  Jump on in.  Miniature gardens are all about cuteness and whatever makes you smile.  And we’re always here to help.  Have fun!