Miniature Gardens

Miniature Gardens

Part of Ep. 1601 The Magic of Gardening

Glen Spevacek, one of the co-founders of Green Bay Botanical Garden and a marketing consultant for the Green Industry and Mayflower Greenhouse, shares his expertise creating miniature gardens. There are many plants to choose from: miniature trees, dwarf conifers, dwarf saxifrages, sedums. Don't forget to add the human element with tiny furniture and garden paths.

Premiere date: Mar 01, 2008

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley:
Whether you garden in a 40-acre garden or a small condominium there's a new trend in gardening that you're going to want to hear about.  It's called miniature gardens.  I'm with Glen Spevacek.  You're a marketing consultant for the Green Industry.  And you do consulting for Mayflower Greenhouse here in Green Bay.  You're also one of the co-founders of the original Green Bay Botanical Garden.  And now, what are you doing? 

Glen:
A big botanical garden is quite a bit of real estate.  This is a lot easier, and I like it a lot. 

Shelley:
I like that idea.  Tell me about why the excitement with miniature gardening. 

Glen:
There's always been, through history there's been a lot of excitement with miniature gardens.  The first one that I think we're all aware of is the Japanese art of dwarfing trees, called Bonsai. 

Shelley:
Miniature trees. 

Glen:
Miniature trees.  A lot of people on a very small island nation this gave them the opportunity to garden even if they didn't have much real estate.  A good rationale. 

There's also another trend that entered a little later on from England called trough gardening.  The troughs were used for watering livestock and sinks in houses.  When they threw those out and started going modern these were turned into little planters.  And one of the natural things, because they were made of stone they kind of indicated this would make a nice planter for a miniature landscape. 

Shelley:
What I like about it, as gardeners age some of our knees get worse.  This brings the whole garden up to my table.  I don't have to do any bending.  And also, look at how many plants I can cram into this little place if I'm like a plant collector. 

Glen:
Sure, there's a whole variety of plants we'll talk about a little bit later, the alpines.  Plus, dwarf conifers.  There's a whole bunch of miniature things we can throw into a trough and make a landscape. 

Shelley:
We're going to do a landscape. 

Glen:
Which is basically nature.  It's plants, maybe some stone.  But it's just a replication of nature.  It's not a garden yet. 

Shelley:
So what makes it a garden? 

Glen:
Adding the human element, of course.  There's all different ways, like a bench. 

Shelley:
This adorable, cute, miniature bench. 

Glen:
We'll set that right there on that rock. 

Shelley:
I could get addicted to just the miniature furniture. 

Glen:
It's amazing, the transformation that happens when you add that one little human element.  You can kind of imagine yourself in a little fantasy world walking up along here up onto that rock and sitting down on that bench, having your two-minute vacation. 

Shelley:
Your eye is drawn to that as a desire to go to it. 

Glen:
And it gives a new scale to this whole thing.  It gives it a human scale. 

Shelley:
Now this is a tree.  It's not a miniature little plant. 

Glen:
And this is a shrub now, which before it was a dwarf conifer.  It all of a sudden makes it human or connects it to the human psyche. 

Shelley:
It's like fantasy only.  So make me one. 

Glen:
Okay, we'll take it to the next step.  We have a few things planted here.  I picked a ming aurelia that we chose, because it had a branching structure much like a miniature elm tree. 

Shelley:
So instead of a house plant, now it's a grove of trees. 

Glen:
The trough gardens used to be big on durability and perennial nature but we can have more fun with this.  It's a temporary plaything that we work over and over. 

Shelley:
So any container will work, then? 

Glen:
A box like this one here that in a year or so will be falling apart is fine for now.  This plant may get killed by frost, you know, no problem.  We'll re-do this next year. 

Shelley:
We've got lots of choices.  We've got a miniature tree here.  There's lots of conifers out there. 

Glen:
Dwarf conifers are very common and they're very popular right now.  Arbor vitae, false cypress, spruce, pine every major forest tree has a dwarf correlate. 

Shelley:
What's it need now?  It looks like it needs a ground cover. 

Glen:
Now it's just a bunch of trees and a rock.  What you would do in your home landscape, in the miniature gardens, they’re designed exactly the same way as you would a large garden.  What I like to do is journeys and destinations.  So we need to define that journey.  And how you do that is you add plants that will border your garden pathway your journey through the garden.  You can use dwarf saxifrages, like this here. 

Shelley:
This looks like teeny, tiny roses. 

Glen:
You can use sedums.  I like to really concentrate on contrast.  Make sure that you have color contrast and texture contrast.  Sedums offer a lot of opportunities.  There's gold ones.  There's blue ones.  All of them with this dwarf foliage. 

Shelley:
I don't know which one I'd decide, maybe both. 

Glen:
Either of those could very well represent a large-scale perennial plant. 

Shelley:
You know what I like about these, too is because it's so close up if somebody is having trouble bending what a wonderful way to bring scent up close to your nose. 

Glen:
We have a wonderful scented pine here that works into that contrast. 

Shelley:
This is a creeping thyme? 

Glen:
Yes, and it's variegated, so it gives you textural and color contrast.  That really stands out against that conifer. 

Shelley:
So now you've got color, texture and scent, how cool. 

Glen:
This is mint. 

Shelley:
It looks like a carpet.  That’s beautiful.  So we've got all these different choices.  Now we have to bring the human element back into it. 

Glen:
Right. 

Shelley:
I love that. 

Glen:
I got this from a company in Minneapolis.  It's a little Japanese style bridge.  We'll put that in here. 

Shelley:
Look at that. 

Glen:
All of a sudden, what is just a slice of nature becomes a garden scene because of this human element. 

Shelley:
There's a lot of miniatures out there, too. 

Glen:
There's a number of sources I found on the Internet.  But you've got to make sure they're created for outdoor gardens that they're made of resin, metal or cement that doesn't deteriorate in the elements. 

Shelley:
Anybody who's into doll houses or gardening would have a ball with this. 

Glen:
There's something about us all that loves miniature whether it's trains. 

Shelley:
Miniature poodles! 

Glen:
There's all kinds of stuff. 

Shelley:
Glen, this is great.  I can't wait to play with something like this.  Thank you for this little fantasy trip. 

 

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