Miniature gardens

Birmingham, AL(Zone 8a)

Hi! I am a new member. I have a large yard but also do containers. I recently got into doing mini-gardens with different themes. Is anyone else doing this? Here is my first one, a Victorian theme. I have also done a cabin in the "mountains." I am working on a Japanese theme and a Mary garden right now.

Thumbnail by delphiniumdiva
Dublin, OH(Zone 5a)


First of all, welcome. And then, wow. I'd never thought of doing something like that. Being a newbie myself, that is not surprising. Good job, delphiniumdivia! Did you build all the structure and fence? Does it take much maintaining? I am thinking lots of trimming to keep the plant proportion to the structure and path.

Cleveland, OH(Zone 5b)

That is REALLY sharp!!! What plant is that in the upper left-hand corner?

Birmingham, AL(Zone 8a)

Thanks for all the kudos! I must say - this was not my idea, I saw it in an old garden magazine at the vet's office! There is also a book out by somebody on miniature gardens - I saw it the other day on Amazon. Maybe I should see what the author says about maintenance. I'm sure I'll be doing a bit of trimming, but I like that kind of thing. Not like I have to get out the hedge shears or anything!

In the upper left is a Japanese Holly, some form of ilex, that I picked up in a gallon pot at Home Depot. I shook off most of the soil from the roots like you would a bonsai, and gave it a trim. I am keeping them all in morning sun, afternoon shade, under the eaves of my house to protect from hard rain.
Here is a pic of my "mountain retreat." About as close as I can get to the mountains without driving 10 hours!


Thumbnail by delphiniumdiva
Birmingham, AL(Zone 8a)

And here's my "Japanese" garden. Still looking for one of those little lanterns to add to it.

Thumbnail by delphiniumdiva
Birmingham, AL(Zone 8a)

Oh, yeah. I forgot - I built the fence out of popsicle sticks. I bought the Victorian gazebo - its really a birdhouse from a craft store. So is the mountain cabin. I made the Japanese arch myself.

Knoxville, TN(Zone 7a)

That is one of the neatest things that I have seen in a long time!

Southwestern, OH(Zone 6b)

Oh how neat!!

Cleveland, OH(Zone 5b)

Those are also way cool!!! I especially like the Mexican Heather.

Coopersburg, PA(Zone 6b)

they are really special! do you have easy instructions for any of us who might like to try? like dimensions, what do you do in the winter? etc? i think i'd like to make a desert-scape or mini rock garden!

Henderson, NV(Zone 8b)

WOW!!!....Very creative and very impressive.

Spokane, WA(Zone 5b)

Liz, those are so CUTE! :)

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

Wow, Liz! That's like taking the miniature dollhouse craft right out into a real garden!

Birmingham, AL(Zone 8a)

Wow - thanks for all the compliments! I am feeling quite puffed up! I find that they are very relaxing and a nice break from "heavy" gardening, which I can't do right now b/c of a pinched nerve. Also, it allows me to have one of each garden style that I like - which is all of them, instead of having to choose just one! Anyway, here are some basic how tos for anyone who wants to do one of these.

The boxes I use are knocked together (by me, with a power drill and a few screws) out of old fence boards, with scraps of 1/4 inch plywood on the bottom. I just make the bottom a bit too small to leave a crack for drainage. I put some screen or mulch on the bottom and then fill with light potting soil. The plants are just small leaved assorted stuff that seems right for the theme. The tiny rocks (they look exactly like marble chips!) are from Michaels Arts and Crafts - they come in different natural colors. Aquarium gravel would prob. work too, but its a bit bigger. I use craft moss to cover the gaps between stuff and cover the soil to keep it from washing away. Oh, and I put lots of sand under anyplace where I'm going to use the tiny rocks to keep them from sinking into the soil. Some of the rocks and things are hot-glued into place, but I need to find a better method b/c the hot glue comes undone in the weather.

The boxes are from 5 to 8 inches deep, and about 18-20 inches square, or rectangular, so there's lots of root room. They are HEAVY! So I put them where I want them to go before I fill them up with stuff! I have one of those cheapo watering systems from Walmart and I've aimed misters so they get lightly watered every morning. I have no idea how long they will last and I'm sure I should be doing more to preserve the wooden parts, but I'm doing this for fun so I don't bother. I do spray the wooden "bits" with several coats of outdoor paint or polyurethane to help, but with our humid summers I sure they will rot in a few years, but by then I'll have made more so I don't worry about it!

Here is a pic of my current project - a Mary garden. I want to add a fence all the way around and an archway. The bricks and the raised bed are made of terra cotta colored Amaco brand Mexican pottery clay - great stuff, you can roll it, cut it, etc and it even comes in different colors, like "marble" and "granite". Air dries too! Michaels carries that too.

The two little "shrubs" in front are thyme. The "tree" behind Mary is a tea tree - some variety of serrisa. The flowering shrubs are heather - it looks amazingly like tiny azaleas. The "urns" are wooden pieces painted to look like old bronze or copper. I glue skewers to the bottom to make them stay in place. Same with the statue of Mary which is actually spray painted plastic. The pathway came from Home Depot in a ready made strip. I thinks its meant for ceramic tile borders.

Sorry about this prodigious long post, but I am all enthused about my "babies" right now!

Thumbnail by delphiniumdiva
Richmond, VA(Zone 7a)

These are absolutely beautiful!!!! You need to get into a garden show and sell them. WONDERFUL!!!

Coopersburg, PA(Zone 6b)

thank you so much for the making/planting info! i'll start saving those 40% off coupons and scrap wood! yeah!!!!

Kingston, OK(Zone 7a)

You should try Hypertufa containers. A lady gave a class on it at county fair grounds. She is doing the same as you are. The containers will grow moss. You already have the Art part. Nice work

Spokane Valley, WA(Zone 5b)

Delph-Diva, you have every right to feel 'puffed up'! And Darius wrote exactly what I was thinking when I viewed the first ones... talk about combining hobbies! Your creations are so charming and so artistic. Thank for sharing them along with so many of the details. :)

Birmingham, AL(Zone 8a)

Thanks again all. TA - I've seen people make hypertufa on TV but doesn't it take a long time to cure? Also, I can't grow alpines unfortunately b/c of the incredible humidity down here. Can hypertufa be used for plants that aren't acid lovers? I would like to try a few small ones at some point, but right now its so humid I don't think they'd ever dry!

Handhelpers - scrap wood is my secret obsession. I have raided garbage piles, dumpsters, etc. Even my kids yell "Hey look there's some trash!" when we pass a promising pile.

Kingston, OK(Zone 7a)

Concrete will dry in water so the humidy will actualy be good for them. Rinse them out with white vinegar after they cure. If you want I will send you a e-mail with two page instructions. Or post is anyone is interested.

Coshocton, OH(Zone 6a)

TARogers5, i would be interested. could you email me the instructions. belinda

Birmingham, AL(Zone 8a)

Me too. Thanks!

Kingston, OK(Zone 7a)

Hypertufa is a mixture of cement, peat moss, and sand designed to imitate volcanic stone which was used in England as watering troughs for livestock. The troughs were later used as planters by English gardeners, but eventually the supply ran out.

Hypertufa was revented as a substitute material for planters and can be shaped in almost any way. It has the apparence of stone, but is also lightweight enough to be moved mound the patio. Once cured, Itís freeze and thaw-proof so it can be left outside year-round.

With Hypertufa, you can build pots, benches, birdbaths, stepping stones, troughs, planters, fountains, fake rocks, garden sculptures and even (if you dont trust the aesthetic judgment of your Loved ones) your own tombstone monument.

You can either work free-hand (for sculptures or faux rocks) or work with a mold that is similar to the shape and size of the pot you want to make. The hypertufa material can be packed onto the inside or the outside of a mold Packing it on the outside of the mold gives you a more rustic, natural stone look, while packing on the inside of a mold will give you a smooth outer surface.

Materials Tools

∑Peat moss Mold to shape pot over
∑Sand Hoe or square shovel to mix the ingredients
∑Portland Cement Wheelbarrow or mixing tray
∑Water Trowel
Knife, scissors or hatchet to Áen the bags
Container to measure the parts in

Where to get supplies

If you canít find them at your local home centerís tile or concrete department, sand, cement, acrylic cement admixture, grout pigment or cement dyes can be found at a masonry or tile supply merchant
Earth pigments are found in an art shop.
Fiber mesh or fiberglass mesh is found in a building supply house, home centre, plastics supply merchant or where boat repair materials arshad. Your local concrete supplyer will have it in small bags. Enough to treat one cubic yard.
Poultry netting (chicken wire) is found in building supply house or home centre.
Peat moss and iron fertilizer (Ircuite) can be found at or ordered from a nursery.

Basic Mixtures

The Classic 1 part portland cement 1 part sand 2 parts peat moss.
The Smoothie 1 part portland cement 1.5 parts sand 1.5 parts peat moss
The Lightweight 1 part portland cement 1 part peat moss 1 part perlite and one part fibermash.
The Sparkly 1 part portland cement 1 part peat moss 1 part Vermiculite

Optional Additives

Acrylic fortifying admixture (used to strengthen and add flexibility to concrete products) Concrete or grout dyes and pigments to add color
Earth pigments
Iron fertilizer (makes the hypertufa go a rust color).

Use a container to measure the ingredients into the wheelbarrow. Or for small pots a plastic dishpan will work. Put the cement in the bottom (to control dust) and the other ingredients over it Add water and mix with a hoe or shovel or spatula. Continue adding water until the mixture is a good mud pie consistency. It should stick together with out b being so gooey as to slump or so dry as to crack.

It is easy to add too much water too fast Mix the water in thoroughly and let it sit for ten minutes and mix again The peat moss tends to absorb more water overtime and if it is a hot day the mixture will dry out. It is easer to add water to a dry mixture than adding more dry ingredients to an overly wet mixture.

Cover the mold youíve chosen with thin plastic. The mixture wonít adhere to the plastic so it will release easily from the mold. Tuck in the folds of the plastic sheeting so that it doesnít get embedded in the hypertufa

Start patting the hypertufa mixture onto the bottom and work up. The thickness depends on the size and style of the pot you intend to make. It should be at least 3/4í thick for a very small pot and roughly 2Ē thick for a large pot. Make a solid bond where the sides of the pot join the bottom. And donít skimp on thickness. Pack the material well in this area so that the pot doesnít crack along the edge.

After 24 hours, carefully pull the pot away than the mold. The pot will still be vary fragile became it takes about 20-40 days for the cement to cure completely. At this point the materiel is still soft enough to shape the bottom of the pot and make it more stable if necessary. Use a trowel to scrape off some of the hypertufa until the pot is stable while sitting. Wire brushing the surface (especially where the hypertufa was pressed against the plastic sheeting) will give your piece a roughened weathered look.

Let the pot cure for a further four to six weeks.

Once itís fully cured, rinse the pot with lots of white vinegar to remove the alkalinity thus preventing injury to tender plant roots.

Fun finishing touches:
Paint the finished pot with beer to encourage lichen and mold to grow, adding surface texture and apparent age.

Plant moss in any cracks and crevices on the outside of the pot, its roots will take bold in the peat. Put moss together with yogurt (or buttermilk) in a blender and while it around. Paint the resulting mixture on the outside of the pot to start moss growing all over it.

This message was edited May 30, 2004 1:56 PM

Coopersburg, PA(Zone 6b)

thank you for the recipe! i imagine it's still pretty heavy and can't easily be moved once you've planted it? i made a mini-rock garden yesterday! will post a pic when i take one! this is gonna be so much fun!

Crossville, TN(Zone 7a)

Thats beautiful!!! WOWZERS! Welcome to DG!!! *Steals your idea*, hehe.

Crossville, TN(Zone 7a)

How about a mini waterfall/lake and mountains??? OMG I am so gonna do this! LOL!!! Thanks! Ohh and a grotto too!!!

Birmingham, AL(Zone 8a)

Already thought about the waterfall Crimsontsavo! You know, they sell these little pumps for those "desk fountains" that started cropping up a couple of years ago. They are really tiny AND submersible. Time for a Michael's coupon I'm thinking! My Jap garden has a pond, and I thought about having the tiny bamboo spigot actually run! Still may do it. By the way, I used a plastic cake dome from Sam's for the pond - its about 6-7 inches deep by 10 across - plenty big enough to hold a few small goldfish. That's what I love about doing these - everything is so CHEAP! No $100 pond liners!

Happy Gardening! DD

Coshocton, OH(Zone 6a)

hi delp-diva. i have several miniature gardens. a greenhouse in my area has been selling them. they have metal fences, arches, birdhouses, bee hives, furniture, and alots of other things for them. they range in price from $2 to $11 an item. they use herbs, sedums, and steppable plants in them. i made my own. i like using steppables and sedums in my mine. i am going to use idea of using a cake dome for a pond, if that's okay. belinda

Birmingham, AL(Zone 8a)

Hi marlatt8, I found some unfinished wooden accessories at an online place - but mostly I have to build my own stuff: fences out of popsicle sticks, wire, etc. The finished stuff they sell for dollhouses is terribly expensive! I am trying to find more sedums too - not many available here! Have you any pics of your gardens? As for the pond - I'm charging $100 for a one-time license. :) hehe

Coopersburg, PA(Zone 6b)

here's the mini rock garden i put together last saturday - nothing fancy this time around. i do have 4 types of sedum [3 are in the bottom corner] if you're interested! i found that concrete form - used a self watering hanging basket - and will somehow figure out how to cover the spaces. on to more scavenging!

Thumbnail by handhelpers
Coshocton, OH(Zone 6a)

delp-diva, the license fee is little rich for my blood. i got metal furniture from the amish flea market in berlin, ohio for 99 cents a piece. i am not computer smart, have to wait until huby comes home to help me. he will tell you that i only know to shop online. belinda

This message was edited Jun 3, 2004 9:21 PM

Coshocton, OH(Zone 6a)

handhelpers, great garden!!!!!!! my plants go over the edge in no time. you could also use spanish moss to tuck around the rim. belinda

Birmingham, AL(Zone 8a)

handhelpers, that looks great! Wish I could think of something for your edges, but I don't know how moss would look with the desert theme. I just got a big, well, we would call it a "gumbo pot" down here, out of someone's trash! Have to think of a good theme for that. Or I may just use it for a tomato plant or something. I am trying to start some tiny cutting from my few sedums so maybe we could do a trade at some point.

Rethymno, Crete, Greece(Zone 10b)

Liz, so beautiful landscapes coming out of rejectable material, require a story being unfolded in them . I bet you are a good story teller, at least your mountain retreat is so live that it nearly speaks to me - this is its value.

Go on, charm us all - all this can't be just a few bits thrown together, you have too much talent here - I would love to hear the story - unfold your self...


Birmingham, AL(Zone 8a)

Dimitri that was beautiful! (swoons):) I am simply a gardener who also happens to be an artist, and who is stuck, as all of us down here in New Orleans are stuck because the food is so good and our stomachs won't let us leave, in a hot, sticky, icky, zone 9, air-so-thick-you-can-cut-it-with-a-knife climate. I made the mountain retreat as our yearly tidal wave of humidity was coming on and all I could think of was how nice it would be to move north for a while! Or maybe I could move to Greece - send me some pics so at least I can go there in miniature!

Rethymno, Crete, Greece(Zone 10b)

of course "it also happens you are an artist.." No modelist would throw the miniature pots around - they would put them nice and tidy - now tell me please some more about your art.

(in the meantime, I will look for some interesting pic from Crete to post it here)


Mount Hermon, LA(Zone 8b)

These are amazing works of art! Nice job delphiniumdiva! Did you get my e-mail? (you sent two different email addresses).


Rethymno, Crete, Greece(Zone 10b)

here, the kitchen veranda during a hot afternoon - no miniature...

I am sure you can put some animal sculptures in your mini gardens ??? they would add a lot of movement.


Thumbnail by dpmichael
Birmingham, AL(Zone 8a)

I haven't used any animals yet but I do have some tiny birds and a frog waiting in the wings. My 7 year old put a flying saucer in his, and "aliens" (army men painted yellow). We are all just basically reverting to childhood with this...wait, does that imply I ever grew up...?

Thumbnail by delphiniumdiva
Birmingham, AL(Zone 8a)

By the way SweetPea your website is hilarious! Isn't our climate a killer? Hope my baby gardens make it through August without baking. I have a watering system on a timer - cheap kind from Walmart. Couldn't do without it. I've situated the minis so they get misted everday. Course, that prob. means all the wooden pieces will rot in a jiffy. But what can ya' do?!

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