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Make your own Table Top Mini Gardens

Updated on October 16, 2013

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.

photo copyrighted by author

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.

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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.

photo copyrighted by author

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.

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Meditate on this Zen Design

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

Super Moss 21512 Preserved Sheet Moss, Fresh Green, 8oz (200 cubic inch)
Super Moss 21512 Preserved Sheet Moss, Fresh Green, 8oz (200 cubic inch)

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.

Mini White Wooden Picket Fence for Fairy Mini Garden (2pcs)
Mini White Wooden Picket Fence for Fairy Mini Garden (2pcs)

This tiny fence can really add emphasis to your table top garden.

 

Tiny Gardens make BIG Impression

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Table top mini gardens may be tiny but they make a huge impact.

How huge?

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.

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.

Thanks for taking in the mini gardens - Let me know if you've ever tried one.

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    • justramblin profile image
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      justramblin 3 years ago

      @paulahite: thanks for sharing, Paula

    • paulahite profile image

      Paula Hite 3 years ago from Virginia

      So sweet! I shared it on our G+ page today, come and check it out!

      https://plus.google.com/u/0/b/10593843672309975630...

    • tazzytamar profile image

      Anna 3 years ago from chichester

      These are beautiful and I bet they're lovely and therapeutic to do

    • profile image

      tonyleather 3 years ago

      These are lovely. What a wonderful Idea!

    • trying2Bhealthy profile image

      trying2Bhealthy 4 years ago

      Awesome lens. I am inspired to make my own mini garden.

    • Cynthia Haltom profile image

      Cynthia Haltom 4 years ago from Diamondhead

      Very pretty little gardens, they would look good in my yard.

    • SciTechEditorDave profile image

      David Gardner 4 years ago from San Francisco Bay Area, California

      Working on a pot-garden. No, not *that* kind of garden.... but a garden in a POT. :-) ... We have a tomato plant, a pepper plant, and a cilanto plant in a pot ... it's sort of a "do-it-yourself" SALSA garden in a pot. And yup, I'm going to do a lens on it. :-) But now you've inspired me to add some miniature houses and paths and other things to make it more attractive (in addition to its already functional aspects). Congrats on a Squidoo masterpiece!

    • profile image

      CASHGURU 4 years ago

      Wow great idea ... Very creative... Thumbs up

    • suepogson profile image

      suepogson 4 years ago

      What lovely ideas. Made me smile!

    • accfuller profile image

      accfuller 4 years ago

      These are absolutely adorable! I decorate/landscape my bonsai tree, but will be trying out your ideas. Thank You!!!! I gave you a squid-like and a g+1 ... :)

    • justramblin profile image
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      justramblin 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Robbie, my friend on the other side of the world, it's so nice to have you stop by!

      I appreciate your kind words and your visit. Hello to Bossy and gang

    • sheriangell profile image

      sheriangell 4 years ago

      Thanks for sharing these amazing ideas. I see a tiny Zen garden in my immediate future!

    • profile image

      greytdogz 4 years ago

      Wow! I love this idea. I live full-time in my RV and was trying to think of a way to have an herb garden too. A mini garden will work perfectly. Thank you.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Nice lens. Great ideas and cute!

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 4 years ago from USA

      Gives me some ideas to do around my own little part of the world. Congratulations on making the front page.

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      SteveKaye 4 years ago

      These gardens are absolutely beautiful. Thank you for publishing this lens. It's great!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Lisa, this is a page loaded with awesome ideas. Loved the video about the pothole gardener too. Thanks for sharing it with me. Robbie :)

    • pickyshopper profile image

      pickyshopper 4 years ago

      What a fantastic idea to brighten anyone's and everyone's mood...a little spot of green heaven on-the-fly. Awesome lens. thanks for the great ideas.

    • PiccadillyPunkin profile image

      PiccadillyPunkin 4 years ago

      REALLY cool ideas here...I love these mini gardens!

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      healthfan101 4 years ago

      These are absolutely breath-taking, and such a great idea. Something fun to make for a winter project :) Thank you for introducing the idea!

    • justramblin profile image
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      justramblin 4 years ago

      @Sara Krentz: thanks, Moombeam - what a pretty name.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I don't have the time or really the interest to be a gardener, but I could see myself having a mini garden.

    • justramblin profile image
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      justramblin 4 years ago

      @jc stone: Wow, that's nice of you giving this a pin. Much appreciated.

    • Sara Krentz profile image

      Sara Krentz 4 years ago from USA

      Wonderful idea - these are gorgeous!

    • justramblin profile image
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      justramblin 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Tipi, I hope you'll try one out. thanks for visiting.

    • justramblin profile image
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      justramblin 4 years ago

      @SheilaSchnauzies: Sheila, I hope you'll try one. Come back and tell me if you do!

    • justramblin profile image
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      justramblin 4 years ago

      @PhilVardy: Oh, I hope you'll try one out.

    • justramblin profile image
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      justramblin 4 years ago

      @jc stone: I love bonsai trees, too. They are the ultimate mini garden plant.

    • justramblin profile image
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      justramblin 4 years ago

      @Cari Kay 11: Yes, the video is really neat. I'd like try to dress up pot holes in my neighborhood.

    • justramblin profile image
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      justramblin 4 years ago

      @nicenet: These really don't take up much space. One of mine is only 5 x 4 inches. Thanks for visiting.

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      These are enchanting mini gardens. You have given me some fun ideas for gardening.

      Thank you! :)

    • SheilaSchnauzies profile image

      Sheila 4 years ago from Omaha, NE

      Yes I have, but never on this scale! You have my brain going crazy with ideas! Congrats on your front page honor, blessed!

    • PhilVardy profile image

      PhilVardy 4 years ago

      First time I've ever heard of these! Cool!

    • jc stone profile image

      Jordan 4 years ago

      Squid like and pin!

    • jc stone profile image

      Jordan 4 years ago

      I love mini gardens and the saying. I also really like bonsai trees. Great lens with great photos.

    • Cari Kay 11 profile image

      Kay 4 years ago

      I'm so glad you shared that video. I am enjoying watching it. I think this idea is terrific.

    • nicenet profile image

      nicey 4 years ago

      I do not have a space for a mini - garden. I appreciate your write up and idea.Thanks.

    • EmmaBrown1 profile image

      EmmaBrown1 4 years ago

      These mini gardens are absolutely adorable :) Great lens!

    • profile image

      Bartukas 4 years ago

      Nice mini gardens and such a wonderful idea!

    • profile image

      acreativethinker 4 years ago

      Hi justramblin

      This is a great lens and a fantastic idea for gardeners with small spaces and anyone else. Thanks for sharing. Take care. :)

    • katiecolette profile image

      katiecolette 4 years ago

      Mini gardens - what a fun idea. Love the video you shared.

    • danniblaze profile image

      danniblaze 4 years ago

      great lens I really want to make one now. I have just recently bought two mini cacti so this is a good idea

    • justramblin profile image
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      justramblin 4 years ago

      @JULpiala: Great. come back and let me know if you do!

    • justramblin profile image
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      justramblin 4 years ago

      @hubleigh: Barbie needs a garden, you know. I bet the girls would enjoy creating them, especially a fairy garden

    • justramblin profile image
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      justramblin 4 years ago

      @amandascloset0: If you do make one, come back and let me know how it goes, ok? thanks for visiting Amanda

    • justramblin profile image
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      justramblin 4 years ago

      @CuteKawaiiShop: thanks. Let me know if you try one for yourself.

    • justramblin profile image
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      justramblin 4 years ago

      @anitabreeze: Oh, too bad about the injury, Anita. Hope you get better soon. These little container gardens are a great way to enjoy gardening without the bending.

    • justramblin profile image
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      justramblin 4 years ago

      @Reebie43: Thanks, Reebie. Hope you'll try one out.

    • justramblin profile image
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      justramblin 4 years ago

      @Judith Nazarewicz: Oh it's nice to see you! I think a mini garden would be great for you on your brand new deck overlooking the lake. Hope you're doing well.

    • profile image

      JULpiala 4 years ago

      i wanna try this soon.

    • hubleigh profile image

      hubleigh 4 years ago

      Wow! These are awesome. All of my four girls would love to have one of these each. They'd probably be barbie sized creations.

    • amandascloset0 profile image

      amandascloset0 4 years ago

      I absolutely love this! Wonderful ideas, I'll be doing one of these in the very near future. Thanks so much for sharing. I think these would make great gifts also.

    • profile image

      CuteKawaiiShop 4 years ago

      That looks so heavely

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      anitabreeze 4 years ago

      Yes, I have been making a few of my own! I have a knee injury and cannot kneel down to work on my garden very much, so creating mini gardens has become a bit of an outlet for me!

    • profile image

      Reebie43 4 years ago

      This is such a wonderful idea! I love it :)

      Thank you

    • Judith Nazarewicz profile image

      Judith Nazarewicz 4 years ago from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

      Love the lens! I was just thinking about doing some sort of mini garden for my deck and came across your lens! What great ideas! My imagination is running wild now! :-) I can't wait to start!

    • justramblin profile image
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      justramblin 4 years ago

      @Gypzeerose: Oh you are so right! And lots less weeding, too!

    • justramblin profile image
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      justramblin 4 years ago

      @ThisisMissyMiss: Oh good, hope you do try it. Let me know how it turns out.

    • RitaAnne profile image

      RitaAnne 4 years ago

      Nice mini gardens... Definitely need one on my table :)

    • profile image

      AlleyCatLane 4 years ago

      I love these! So neat!

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 4 years ago

      I just had to come back and investigate this plants some more, lovely gardening lens. If you start with a mini-garden you will not hurt your back like in regular gardening.

    • ThisisMissyMiss profile image

      Mommy 4 years ago from The Fabulous Midwest

      This is one of the coolest ideas I've ever seen. I'm totally doing this.

    • justramblin profile image
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      justramblin 4 years ago

      @kimbesa2: Tiny gardens are great for any tiny spot. Hope you'll try one. thanks for visiting

    • justramblin profile image
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      justramblin 4 years ago

      @jlshernandez: hope you'll try one. They're so easy.

    • justramblin profile image
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      justramblin 4 years ago

      @fiercerulingdiva: thanks for coming by.

    • justramblin profile image
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      justramblin 4 years ago

      @LauraHofman: Of course a FlowerChick would love a mini garden. Thanks for your visit.

    • justramblin profile image
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      justramblin 4 years ago

      @savateuse: I hope you will.

    • justramblin profile image
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      justramblin 4 years ago

      @mcspocky lm: Thanks. You should try one.

    • justramblin profile image
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      justramblin 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Oh that sounds perfect for a mini garden. Let me know how it goes.

    • justramblin profile image
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      justramblin 4 years ago

      @roseambrose: I think the fairies are perfect for these. Glad you like them

    • justramblin profile image
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      justramblin 4 years ago

      @neosurk: thanks!

    • kimbesa2 profile image

      kimbesa 4 years ago from USA

      Thanks so much! I need some plants in my room, and you've provided a lot of inspiration for some awesome dish gardens!

    • jlshernandez profile image

      jlshernandez 4 years ago

      I saw a miniature garden in a plant nursery and was blown away by it. It was more of a tabletop miniature garden so it was a bit bigger than the ones you made. Now I know what to do on a quiet weekend. Thanks to your wonderful ideas.

    • fiercerulingdiva profile image

      fiercerulingdiva 4 years ago

      Great lens. I live in the city so this is a great idea...thanks !

    • LauraHofman profile image

      Laura Hofman 4 years ago from Naperville, IL

      What a wonderful idea! I definitely would like to try my hand at this. Think I'll start with an English Country Garden. Thanks for all the creative suggestions and photos!

    • savateuse profile image

      savateuse 4 years ago

      These look fun and satisfying, I'm tempted to try!

    • mcspocky lm profile image

      mcspocky lm 4 years ago

      Those mini gardens are awesome!

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      I have this really ugly sparse succulent someone gave me that I can't throw out. You gave me some great ideas to make it something magical! Great lens.

    • roseambrose profile image

      roseambrose 4 years ago

      Lovely lens. I can't wait to try out one these ideas. I love the little fairy model accessories!

    • neosurk profile image

      Roberto Eldrum 4 years ago

      Inspiring lens, :) A great idea, thanks!

    • Carpenter76 profile image

      Carpenter76 4 years ago

      What a "great" idea :D

    • fifta profile image

      fifta 4 years ago

      This is a perfect garden for those who live in apartment. We don't have huge landscape to create a garden, but it's absolutely possible to create a mini garden. What a brilliant idea!

    • justramblin profile image
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      justramblin 4 years ago

      @maryseena: Hi Seenamary, thanks for your visit!

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      justramblin 4 years ago

      @graphite75: Glad you like them. Try one.

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      justramblin 4 years ago

      @ettorecolella: thanks

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      justramblin 4 years ago

      @Jadelynx-HP: Great. I hope you will. Thanks for your visit.

    • justramblin profile image
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      justramblin 4 years ago

      @jura: They are easy. You should try one.

    • justramblin profile image
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      justramblin 4 years ago

      @centralplexus: That's great. If you do make one, come back and let me know.

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      centralplexus 4 years ago

      I'm impressed! Excellent lens and now I know what I'm gonna try this weekend! Thanks for sharing!

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      jura 4 years ago

      This is amazing how easly table top dream garden can be created it take timew to build one but they look great.

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      Tracey Boyer 4 years ago from Michigan

      These are fabulous.....I can hardly wait to try one!!! Thanks for sharing

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      ettorecolella 4 years ago

      beautiful!

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      Tom 4 years ago

      What a really cool idea, I love it!

    • justramblin profile image
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      justramblin 4 years ago

      @moonlitta: Hi Moonlitta. Glad you liked it. and thanks for the compliment

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      justramblin 4 years ago

      @takkhisa: Hi Takkhis. Maybe you'll try one. Let me know how it turns out if you do.

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      Takkhis 4 years ago

      Great idea, i am amazed to see this! We have some great Bonsai tress at home and i wish to have like this in the future :)

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      miaponzo 4 years ago

      Wow!!!! I think that these little gardens are absolutely amazing!!!! Wow! I will try this hopefully :)

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      maryseena 4 years ago

      Beautiful lens on beautiful little gardens!

    • justramblin profile image
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      justramblin 4 years ago

      @bluelily lm: Hi, and thanks for stopping by. You should try one.

    • justramblin profile image
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      justramblin 4 years ago

      @HealthfulMD: Yes, It's perfect for kids. So easy too. I like it for birthday party activities.