Plants to use in mini-gardens & full-scale gardens, too

Corsican mint at Mischler's Florist and Greenhouses
The lawn in this mini-garden consists of Corsican mint, which you can see on either side of the chair. Photo courtesy Mischler’s Florist and Greenhouses

by Connie Oswald Stofko

You have probably seen mini-gardens on garden walks. There are vast fairy gardens and fairy gardens tucked under a tree and gardens in a tray There are yards with garden railways. And there are mini-gardens that have nothing to do with fairies or trains.

Whatever direction you take, you’ll need small plants that give you the appropriate scale.

Today we’ll talk about plants you can use in your mini-garden to mimic trees, lawns and flowering shrubs. Plus, we’ll talk about how these same plants can be used in larger gardens and in other ways, too.

Learn more at the Mini-garden Festival to be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, June 22 and 23, at Mischler’s Florist and Greenhouses, 118 South Forest Rd., Williamsville.

Mischler’s creative staff will present a free demonstration of how to design and build a miniature garden at 10:30 & 11:30 a.m. and 1:30, 2:30 and 3:30 p.m. on both days. Following the demonstration, you can buy a container, plants and accessories and build your very own dish garden at Mischler’s. You will get a 10 percent discount on all garden shop purchases on those two days.

Get kids interested in gardening with miniature gardens. They look like big, adult gardens, but can be done on a small scale that appeals to children. Adding ornaments is fun, too.

Free activities for kids include storytime at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 2 p.m. or 3 p.m.; free refreshments, and meeting Jewels the fairy.

Trees for mini-gardens

Cryptomeria japonica 'Yokohama'
Cryptomeria japonica ‘Yokohama’ or Yokohama Japanese cedar will get only two feet tall in 10 years, according to the American Conifer Society. Photo courtesy Mischler’s Florist and Greenhouses

You may be surprised to know that the tiny plants that you can use as trees and shrubs in your mini-garden are actually trees. They are the same genus and species as full-scale trees, but the variety is even smaller than a dwarf variety, explained Mark Yadon, vice president at Mischler’s Florist and Greenhouses.

They’re extremely slow growing and might take 10 years to get one foot high. They lend themselves well to miniature gardens because they won’t overgrow and get too big for your garden.

In your mini-garden, use them the way you would use arborvitae or taxus in your yard.

Some plants that you can use as trees in your mini-garden are:

  • Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Nana contorta ‘ cypress
  • Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘White Pygmy’ cypress
  • Cryptomeria japonica ‘Yokohama’ cedar

Alternative use: Plant it as a stand-alone plant in a pot and nurture it as a bonsai-type plant. It will be easier to maintain than a traditional bonsai.

With traditional bonsai, you start with a small specimen of the full-scale variety of the tree rather than a dwarf or tiny variety. You then painstakingly snip and bend the plant over years to keep it small while making it look like a full-grown tree.

Lawn for mini-gardens

Corsican mint has very small leaves and grows tight to the ground, making it look like a lawn in a miniature garden.

Other plants that mimic lawn are woolly thyme and elfin thyme.

Alternative use: Use these plants in your landscape as a ground cover. They’re great for planting in between flagstone and pavers. They can take some foot traffic, and when you step on the mint, it smells great, Yadon said.

Ice plant Jewel of the Desert
This ice plant is ‘Jewel of the Desert Amethyst’. Use it as a flowering shrub in your mini-garden. Photo courtesy Mischler’s Florist and Greenhouses

Flowering shrubs for mini-gardens

In addition to trees and lawn, people want flowers in their mini-gardens. A good choice is ice plant ‘Jewel of the Desert’, he said.

The flowers come in several different colors, and the varieties are designated with names of gems, such as ‘Garnet’, ‘Moonstone’ and ‘Topaz’.

Not only does it flower, it’s drought tolerant. You don’t have to worry about watering it.

Alternative: Use ice plants in a rock garden or strawberry jars.

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