Debbie Clark is a certified Advanced Master Gardener, freelance garden writer and a member of the Garden Writers Association. Visit her blog at

This article applies to:



Teeny Tiny: Creating a Garden in Miniature
by Debbie Clark    

Flagstones can instantly create patios, raised beds become hillsides, and flat river pebbles stand in for stepping stones.

Miniature gardens can be fairy gardens, gnome or elf gardens, railroad gardens or simply miniature tableaus. Space isn’t a limitation – but you might need to expand your imagination.     

Have you ever wanted a beautiful garden with arbors, water features, furniture and unusual plants? Maybe that garden you dreamed of is not in your budget or you just don’t have the space or time. Why not make that dream come true in a miniature garden? A miniature garden can be planted in a container or in a garden bed. If you are planting in a container, you will need soil and an unusual container for your garden. For both container gardens and in-ground gardens, you will need small-leaved plants, rocks, miniature garden accessories and lots of imagination. Creating a miniature garden in a container can take less than an hour to create. Larger in-ground gardens can take a bit longer, or be an ongoing project, depending on the size. Here is how to create a miniature garden in three easy steps.  

Step 1: Design Your Garden 
Decide if your garden will be in sun, part shade or shade. Light conditions will determine what plants you can select and grow. If you are planting a garden directly in the ground, select your site and take the time to draw up a design. Since this garden will be bigger and in a permanent location, drawing your garden design on paper will make it easier to see the garden as a finished product. Use your imagination in designing. After you have selected a location and created your design, you can now prepare your bed for planting. If you are planting directly into the ground, amend the soil if needed before planting.  

This beautiful miniature garden was constructed in a container. It is complete with a house, plantings and garden tools. This would be a fun project to do with children that would introduce them to gardening.

If you are planting this mini garden in a container, look for a container that is interesting and has good drainage. Containers could be old drawers, wood boxes, bowls, baskets or other items that can hold soil. Fill your container with a good commercial potting soil. 

Step 2: Plant Your Garden 
Many local nurseries and websites carry small plants for miniature gardens. They can be a little pricey to purchase, but you can find some interesting plants with great color, form and texture. You can also use small boxwood shrubs as trees. They can be pruned and shaped to show off their limbs and bark like a real full-size tree. Plants like miniature hostas, sedums, Irish moss (Sagina subulata), wooly thyme (Thymus pseudolanuginosus), baby tears (Soleirolia soleirolii), creeping golden Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’) and small-leaved ground cover plants can all be used in miniature gardening. Plant your garden in a pleasing design like you would a full-size garden using plants in different sizes, shape, colors and textures. Moss can be added to the garden as a ground cover to age the garden and to cover exposed soil. 

Step 3: Add Your Garden Accessories
Most large nursery stores carry miniature furniture, fences, houses, garden tools, arbors, birdhouses and other items or you can buy them online. Look around your house for items that can be repurposed for your miniature garden. When selecting accessories, be creative and always remember to work in scale to all the other elements of the garden. Arrange your garden accessories like rocks, fences, fountains, chairs, animals and fairies to form a pleasing and interesting space in your miniature garden. 

The store-bought walls, castle and fountain create the hardscapes in this vignette, and dwarf plants stand in as shrubs and trees in a backdrop of pea gravel.

When the end of the growing season comes, remove all of your decorative accessories for winter storage. If you planted a container, move your container to a protected area for the winter.  

Growing a miniature garden can be a fun way to garden, and the easy way to have that garden of your dreams.

This miniature railroad garden is located at the Taltree Arboretum and Gardens located in Valparaiso, Indiana.

Thyme, creeping Jenny, sedum, a bonsai tree and other small-leaved plants give the red chairs and wheelbarrow the proper scale.


A version of this article appeared in a Mar/Apr 2015 print edition of State-by-State Gardening.
Photography courtesy of Debbie Clark.



Posted: 04/06/16   RSS | Print


Share this story on:
Facebook       Twitter            

Other People Are Reading