It was an enchanting hosta garden that got me thinking about the possibilities of displaying miniature outdoor plants. Tiny hostas were displayed both in the ground, with other shade plants, while others were planted together in pots, rocks and tree stump crevices, and in hypertufa planters. Now creating some type of miniature plant garden is on my radar and I’m excited to source my plants.
Because a lot of people are living in smaller urban spaces, from townhomes or bungalows on wee lots, to balconies, many companies are coming out with more compact varieties of both edibles and ornamentals. Patio varieties of veggies, like beans and cucumbers, make edible gardening more attainable in a wee space, while other cultivars, like the Bloomerang Lilac, are more compact to fit in smaller gardens.
Then we head down the scale to these even smaller miniature varieties. I think terrariums first sparked the tiny plant trend for indoor plants, as well as fairy gardens for both indoor and outdoor plants. I’ve been all over the indoor minis. On a recent garden centre visit, I bought a mini ‘Crispy Wave’ fern, which now sits in a tea light holder in my office. And I wrote about miniature cyclamen in my cool houseplants article, and created some projects with Christmas-themed minis. Now I’m ready for an outdoor project.
Plant varieties for a miniature plant garden
Looking back through my photos from a visit to the California Spring Trials with the National Garden Bureau refreshed my memory about the miniature annuals and perennials I’d seen. Hort Couture had a couple of vibrant little coleus varieties that were new to their Coleus Under the Sea line: ‘Sea Urchin Neon’ and ‘Sea Monkey Rust’. I discovered in researching this article that this series of coleus was developed by horticulture students at the University of Saskatchewan. And as a result of less-than-perfect greenhouse conditions, the plants were introduced to harsh conditions at both ends of the thermometer, and can therefore withstand both full sun and shade, heat and a bit of cold. ‘Sea Urchin Neon’ is a wee 4”, but grows to about 10” and ‘Sea Monkey Rust’ gets to be 7” to 12”.
Also part of the collection is ‘Bone Fish’, with its delightful fuchsia and chartreuse leaves, which grows to between 8” and 14”, as well as ‘Sea Monkey Purple’, which has purple outer leaves with cream to bright green hues inside. It grows between 7” and 12”.
If you’re on the hunt for miniature plants, don’t be afraid to look for plants branded for fairy gardens. A perennial grower that’s fairly local to me, Valleybrook, has a line called Fairy Flowers, which you can add to a miniature plant garden, even if it’s devoid of tiny accessories. For a mini tree, look for ‘Karla Kay’s Golden Dwarf Hinoki Cypress’. ‘Belle’s Pink Cranesbill’ would be a delicate flower addition to a garden.
Back at the California Spring Trials, Terra Nova Nurseries had created some great potted arrangements featuring miniature perennials. I love heucheras, so I was quite taken with the LITTLE CUTIE Series. There is a lovely range of colours available: from ‘Sweet Tart’, with its lime-green leaves and bright red blooms; ‘Coco’, with its deep-chocolate foliage and light pink flowers; and ‘Blondie’ with yummy, caramel-hued leaves and these lovely yellow flowers.
Terra Nova also has a dwarf coleus collection. Plants are self-branching with very small leaves. The leaves of Coleus TERRA NOVA ‘Persia’ look like mini oaks, but are yellowy-green, with orangey-red centres. Coleus TERRA Nova ‘Macaw’ is a frilly maroon colour with cream-coloured centres.
A bit more digging revealed a miniature dianthus from Bluestone Perennials: Dianthus gratianopolitanus ‘Tiny Rubies’, which is described as a “charming cushion of 1” foliage with masses.” This has been added to my list!
And lastly, the hostas that led me down this fun little rabbit hole. Actually, I realized looking through my photos that I visited two hosta gardens. One garden actually featured tags among the plants, so I snapped a few favourites: ‘Little White Lines’, ‘Stiletto’ and ‘Snow Mouse’. There are lots of varieties with “mouse” in the name. ‘Mini Mighty Mouse’ seems like a popular variety with its lime and dark green round leaves. There is a hosta specialist in my area called LotsaHostas.com with a variety called ‘MiniSkirt’ on its list, so I will definitely be checking this place out to start my collection.
In-ground ideas for a miniature plant garden
Miniature perennials would make a nice addition to a modest little garden, perhaps out front of a townhome—or in back. Some plants would make nice additions to a little rock garden, too. Whatever you plant, just be sure to check the plant tag to be sure the conditions required for your wee little one to thrive match the conditions of the home you create. I have some concrete blocks around patio stones that used to be under a hot tub. Some of the holes are empty, while some are home to sedums and a dianthus (don’t know how that got there!). Some of those mini heucheras or coleus would fit perfectly! They would also create a nice border around a much smaller garden.
Container ideas for a miniature plant garden
There are all sorts of container combinations you could create with miniature plants. Don’t be afraid to combine perennials, like hostas and heucheras, in pots. These are great options for those with balconies, or small decks and patios. I can imagine miniature perennials working really well in window boxes, too.
So right here I’m going to say this article isn’t over because I’ll be sharing new finds, as well as any mini developments in my garden! Stay tuned.
Do you garden with minis (sans the fairy accoutrements)? Share your photos!
Anita Berlanga says
I have avoided miniature plants because I always associated them with fairy gardens – and I am not at all interested in miniature houses, train tracks & people! But I’ve also been intrigued by mini hostas (to begin) and am loving the design ideas you show in this post – and Floyd knows I have enough rotting wood to make several gardens!
This is exciting! Come spring I won’t avoid the Fairy Garden section of my local nursery – just the furniture 😉
Thanks for sharing this!