A fascinating form of indooris to construct and cultivate tiny, complete gardens. They can be made in almost any container—a vegetable dish, a bowl, an old-fashioned meat dish of the kind to be picked up at a street-market stall, or even a baking tin. Miniature gardens give particular pleasure in winter and early spring, when flowers are scarce and more time is spent indoors.
If the chosen container hasholes, so much the better. But they are not essential. Indeed, they pose the problem of protecting the polished furniture on which the miniature garden is to stand; a tray has to be put beneath it.
Whether or not the container has drainage holes, cover its base with a 1-in. layer of crocks, small stones or pebbles; they drain moisture from the soil above and keep plant roots from standing in water. Next spread a thin layer of leaves or pieces of coarseto prevent the finer soil from sifting through.
Then add the soil—either John Innes potting compost (without) or equal parts of coarse sand, peat and , with a little crushed charcoal and brick rubble.
The miniature garden can be designed in as many different ways as an ordinary full-scale garden. If it is to be a miniature, pile the soil unevenly to give an informal effect, and introduce small pieces of natural stone here and there. If it is to be a formal garden, little and sunken beds are constructed round small lawns. Thin pieces of stone or slate are used for walls and pathways, and the lawns are sown with grass seed and kept trim with nail scissors. Some of the loveliest miniature gardens are made in Japanese style with small , temples and similar ornaments, and sunken pools made from meat-paste jars.
Whichever style is chosen, the aim is to keep trees, plants and stones all in proportion.
Dwarfpiceas form the trees that are to give height to . A tiny conifer of the cypress family, Chamaecyparis obtusa ericoides, makes a dome-shaped tree a few inches high and wide. Dwarf oak and beech seedlings can be planted in the miniature garden and will last for a few years before they grow too big. Another suitable tree for the miniature garden is a dwarf juniper, Juniperus communis compressa.
Most smalllook well in miniature gardens. Try particularly asturiensis (syn. N. minimus), , dwarf cyclamen and . A small bulb that produces red flowers throughout most of the summer is Rhodohypoxis baurii, which grows only 4 in. high.
Miniature roses can also be included. The dwarf Rosa roulettii (syn. R, chinensis minima) forms are only a few inches tall, with red, pink, white or yellow flowers.
Other plants for the miniature garden are sedums, sempervivums, the muscoides, and kabschia groups of saxifrages, the dwarf,cristata, and Tolmiea menziesii which has rough leaves. Mentha requienii, with a minty smell and blue flowers, is one of the smallest of flowering plants.
The small thrift, Armeria caespitosa, is charming, and there are two delicate varieties of blue-eye grass, Sisyrinchium bermudiana and S. californicum, with small rush-like leaves, the first with blue and the other with yellow flowers.
Once the miniature garden is planted, never let it dry out. It needs daily attention. Occasionally, during a warm shower, stand it outside for rain to wash the foliage. On the other hand, never let it become waterlogged. Miniature gardens in large dishes are probably too unwieldy to drain except through drainage holes, but gardens in smaller bowls can be turned gently on to their sides to let the surplus moisture drain out.
Miniature gardens can be anything from a small replica of an outdoor garden to a little group of dwarf plants in a dish. Virtually any kind of dish or tray will make a satisfactory container as long as it is deep enough to hold a shallow layer ofmaterial topped with a slightly deeper layer of potting mixture.
A miniaturecan form a charming centrepiece for a table. Built around stones carefully chosen to re-present rocks and outcrops, such a garden can include small specimens of plain and variegated ivies, Ficuspumila, Tolmiea menziesii, etc. More elaborate and more colourful is a flower garden where imagination and patience can create a satisfying result.
Some of the most suitable plants for miniature gardens are cacti and other succulents, all of which have shallow root systems. Many of these plants will stay tiny and thrive for years in containers made to represent their natural. In building this type of desert garden, try to choose plants that show the variety of shapes and textures.