- Arts and Design
Make your own Table Top Mini Gardens
Small Scale Landscaping is a Big Deal
Have you ever fantasized about turning your back yard into a tidy, manicured English garden?
Perhaps you've had the yen to transform your space into a quiet, contemplative Zen garden?
It's fun to imagine how creative we can be with our landscape, but often budgets, time constraints, and lack of appropriate yard space eclipse our garden fantasies.
Next time you crave a garden makeover, start small. I mean really small. How about tiny? You'll find a mini table top garden can be just as rewarding as its full-sized relative.
So What's a Mini Table Top Garden?
Miniature gardens are tiny worlds. Mini gardens use plants with tiny foliage, low creeping plants along with small-scale garden hardscapes and fairy-sized accessories to create a tiny version of everyday life.
Herbs and small scale succulents work well for the diminutive plantings. Often a plant, such as rosemary or miniature conifers can be trimmed in a fashion similar to bonsai to create knotted, old trees in dwarf size. (A list of my favorite go-to mini plants is at the bottom of this page.)
Pint-sized garden accessories can be purchased online and at garden centers, but I prefer to make my own out of scupley clay. You can also create garden accessories from items around your home. Look for old jewelry, doll house or train set accouterments, sea shells, acorns; they make excellent mini garden accents.
Hardscape materials such as borders, stepping stones, pathway materials, and water features can be easy to find:sand,aquarium gravel,pebbles,wooden twigs, mirrors can be used.
The beauty of the mini garden is that you can easily create your very own fantasy environment, only on a smaller scale.
I've been a garden lover for a very long time and also love to create garden art. I've found that these tiny table top gardens are a wonderful way to meld my two passions.
Small-scale landscapes are a fun way to bring creativity to gardening and to try something you may not be able to on a larger scale.
Why a Mini Table Top Garden?
Many would love to have gardens but just don't have the appropriate yard space.
Mini gardens don't require much space at all, just a table top. You can place a mini garden on a corner of your balcony, in a sunny spot in your den, or even on the edge of your desk at work.
Many would love to have a garden, but just don't have the time to keep one up.
Miniature gardens need minimal care, and very little of your time.
Many would love to have gardens, but just can't afford to spend the money on such things.
The beauty of a mini garden is that everything is small-scale, even the price tag. No need to purchase a container for your miniature garden - repurposed items work well for this project.
Mini gardens can be as just as satisfying and rewarding as their normal-sized relatives but require much less from you.
Meditate on this Zen Design
Planning a miniature Japanese garden is simple, just keep in mind the design principles of life-sized Japanese gardens.
The garden I made above has a dry river bed made from decorative sand. The river bed and walkway are both curved (Japanese gardens seldom incorporate straight lines since most edges in nature are curved and flowing)
Sempervivum (also called Hens and Chicks) lining the walkway resemble the manicured shrubbery found in a Zen garden. The bushy plant in the corner is Irish Moss.
No Japanese garden is complete without a bit of moss. I used moss from my own garden, but you can purchase sheet moss if you don't have moss at hand.
For my bonsai, I chose a Rosemary plant with a sturdy central branch. The smaller branches were trimmed off to make the bushy plant more tree-like.
A bonsai figurine was placed at the end of the pathway to tie the garden together.
Mini Zen - Another Look
Here's a side view of the Rosemary bonsai. You can see how the lower branches were cut to give the herb more of a tree look.
English Country Garden
This is a cheery garden and so very easy to make. The bench, stepping stones, gazing ball stand, birdhouse and terracotta pot were all made from Sculpey clay. (This was my first attempt and I've since been able to improve my terracotta pots immensely.)
A marble works well as a gazing ball. The trellis is made from black jewelry wire.
A Peak at the Great Wall
Scaling the Great Wall of China is on the top of my list of things to do! In the meantime, I've created my own little version to enjoy.
Don't Neglect the Understory
Do you have a gardenia, hibiscus or other large tree-like shrub planted in a nondescript planter? If it's just stuck in a bed of potting soil, you're missing out on a chance to create a magical landscape.
A lush "lawn" of sheet moss not only brightens up the planter, it also helps retain moisture and inhibits weed growth. Sheet moss also keeps the planter from getting mud splatters from heavy rains or a heavy hand with the watering can.
As you can see, under the canopy of my gardenia I have a happy family residing in the fairy condos I've made. You can see a most fitting picnic was interrupted when I began to take photos of this garden.
More info on building this fairy home is just a click away. See the link on the far right side of this page.
Table Top Mini Garden Containers
What style of garden would you like to try? Japanese Zen, Country French or English Knot? Perhaps you'd like to create an environment such as a woodland knoll, sandy beach, rocky gorge or sunny desert? I love to create events, such as picnics, birthday parties or lazy days fishing.
Now that you've decided the garden style or scene you'd like to convey, you can select the appropriate container.
You don't have to spend much on the container for your garden, as a matter of fact, you don't have to spend a penny. Just look for a great container in your home. How about an old drawer, basket or wooden wine box? If you use a container that will not safely hold the soil, such as a wicker basket, just conceal a clay container inside the basket.
Diminutive Plants for Table Top Gardens
Once you know the size of your planter and the style of your garden, you can select the plants.
It's a good idea to look for tiny foliage. A good place to start is in the herb section of your local nursery.Thyme, savory, oregano, rosemary and sage make excellent mini garden plants.
Another area to find diminutive plants is in the ground cover area. Plants used for edging around stepping stones usually are perfect sizes for your miniature garden.
Any moss will be an excellent addition to your garden as well.
Here are my favorite Go-To Diminutive Plants:
- Wire Vine Muehlenbeckia axillaris This is the longest tiny-leafed vine-like plant I could find. It is a good one to wind around trellises and arbors.
- Hens and Chicks Sempervivum This one is easily my favorite because it's so versatile. It comes in many sizes and can be used in groupings as small hedges to line pathways, or singularly as a large shrub. It's also great for impersonating cabbage or a topiary.
- Brass Buttons Cotula Coronopifolia A perfect mini fern! (Similar versions can be found, there's even a mini Brass Buttons).
- Creeping Thyme or Elfin Thyme Thymus Serphyllum Makes lush ground cover and bushes. Has white, pink or purple blossoms. I think the name suits it quite well.
- Dwarf Mondo Grass Ophiopogon japonicus Looks just like a miniature version of tall grasses.
- Irish Moss Sagina subulata This plant has a nice lacy look. It makes great hedges and ground cover. Has teeny white flowers when it blooms, which is an added bonus.
- Stonecrop Sedum album Very nice texture and tiny white blossoms.
Want to add an inviting green lawn? Try this sheet moss.
I highly recommend this sheet moss. Spritz it with a bottle of water and the stiff moss freshens up and springs back to life. It's great to use as fill-in cover. I use it in most of my mini gardens.
Table Top Mini Garden Accessories
Now you can begin to get creative!
Once you've decided on a garden theme or special environment you want to create, and the shape and size of your container, selecting garden accents is easy! Check around your home for items that would suit your garden. Jewelry, tiny accessories from dollhouses, pine cones, acorns, shells, beads and marbles all can be re purposed for garden accessories. Sculpey clay can be used to make any object you wish.
You can also look in the dollhouse or model train sections of craft stores. There is no limit to what you can find to dress up your mini world.
Here are just a few ideas:
Hardscapes for your Table Top Mini Garden
Finding materials for hardscapes is easy. I love the look of aquarium gravel for a stone path, bright white craft sand for my Zen dry riverbed and flat floral marbles for water features or stepping stones. You can make borders, pathways, patios and stepping stones with Sculpey clay. If you prefer not to make them yourself, you can always find fencing, stone borders, pathways and more online.
This tiny fence can really add emphasis to your table top garden.
Tiny Gardens make BIG Impression
Table top mini gardens may be tiny but they make a huge impact.
Did you know that just looking at nature can not only improve your mood, but also give your creativity a boost?
In a study by Roger Ulrich, Ph.D from Texas U&M it was found that plants in the workplace did increase creativity, problem solving, and idea generation!*
Not everyone can have a huge windowed office, potted plants, or fresh cut flowers on the desk, but you'll always be able to make space for a mini garden! And now you have even more reason to do so.
I have this 7 inch zen garden on my desk. Each day its calming presence admonishes me: 'slow down, breathe' and 'enjoy the day'. (Sometimes it says 'hey, get back to work!')
I hope you'll try one of these. Create your own tiny world and enjoy!
Pothole Gardener - My Inspiration
I became captivated by tiny gardens thanks to avid bike rider, Steve Wheen. Steve loved riding his bike through the streets of London, his home, but became increasingly tired of colliding with potholes. As a way to warn fellow bikers of the bike-swallowing menaces, he began to decorate the potholes. Just how did he decorate? He created tiny garden landscapes and scenes in and around the potholes.
Here's a video of his beautiful work. It will really give you a smile and, perhaps, it will inspire you to make your own mini gardens.
Here are some links you may like to try.
- Texas A & M Workplace Productivitiy Study
Dr Robert Ulrich of Texas A&M conducted an 8 month study on creativity and the workplace. He concluded that adding flowers and plants to the office environment did improve many aspects of productivity.
- How to make a miniature garden
Here's one of my blog posts from my website that explains how I make a mini garden.
- How to make a rosemary bonsai
Here's another blog post from my site.
- The Pothole Gardener
Steve Wheen's guerrilla gardening blog. Just gorgeous photos of teeny tiny gardens.
Tiny gardens can say a lot;
Tranquil scenes grown in a pot.
They'll boost your mood, give you cheer,
And make you smile throughout the year.