About What to Add to Your Realistic Mini Garden
With literally thousands of accessories available, it can be hard to rein in shopping impulses. It is nice to have a collection of pieces from which to choose and swap out accessories when needed. However, resist the urge to overload a garden with incongruous items, or to place them in unrealistic settings. Ask yourself, “Would I do this in my full-sized garden?” If the answer is no, err on the side of restraint. Less is more when recreating realism.
The addition of garden furniture to your wee world can elegantly complete a vignette. Since it’s such a familiar part of our full-sized world, furniture also conveys scale quickly. A simple garden bench under a tree, or a solitary chair on the patio, can transport you to a different place and time instantly.
A patio set is equally enchanting, especially if there are small personal effects, such as a miniature book or drinks. Your imagination starts to fill in the blanks. A 1/2-inch scale table, not even 2 inches tall, with 2 tiny chairs, creates a very sweet miniature setting. A 1-inch patio set with a table and 4 chairs leaves room for family and friends to join you. One comfy chair in a partially hidden corner implies a special hideaway.
Lounge chairs, settees, rocking chairs, twig chairs, benches, and love seats can communicate different messages and moods. With your choices and arrangements of furniture, you can convey relaxation, contentment, whimsy, or togetherness.
Structures in the garden are larger accessories such as trellises, fences, bridges, wishing wells, or walls and panels. Some settings feature buildings—garden sheds or cabins. At full size, they are usually hard to move, so you plant around them. In miniature, there are many kinds of structures you can add to your garden quickly and easily—and best of all, you don’t have to bribe your neighbor to help move them.
Most miniature garden structures are available in large size or 1-inch scale. When placed as they would be in a full-sized garden, they can add an extra layer of realism.
Some structures, like a wishing well or fence, can be easily added without disturbing plants, yet can instantly change the theme of your garden. A wishing well can look right at home between shrubs, with perhaps a path leading to it. Fences can easily line a patio or pathway, or they can rim the outside of the pot or border.
Structures like arbors or bridges require a bit of pre-planning to look right. An arbor could arch over a pathway or shelter a bench at the bottom of a path. A miniature bridge over a dry riverbed provides the perfect hiding place for a wee gnome.
Gazebos, fairy houses, and more, are available in miniature. Just be careful to select items of the same scale. A 1/2-inch scale bench will look lost in a 1-inch scale gazebo. A 1-inch scale birdbath will tower over a tiny 1/4-inch scale bench. Note that when you put a house in the garden it pulls the eye away from the garden, and the house becomes the focal point of the miniature scene.
Tools and Equipment
Miniature tools and equipment can add a lot of fun to your setting. Tiny hand tools, shovels, and rakes, potting benches, wheelbarrows, and lawnmowers can all help with the theme. A straw hat on a bench next to a small bucket of garden tools is a peaceful garden scene. A rusted lawnmower in a pot full of long grass can make a fun joke gift. Find these types of replica tools at your favorite miniature store.
The smaller the miniature garden accessories get, the more apt you are to lose them. Gather tiny hand tools into a miniature trug or bucket, use a tall pot to corral your rake, shovel, and hoe, and stand them up against a miniature tree. A little silicone glue can hold that hat down on the garden bench so it doesn’t fly off when a squirrel scurries through. (Honestly, they don’t remember where they bury their nuts, so it is a random search every day.)
Barbecues, fire pits, and all kinds of miniature pots and urns can unleash countless opportunities for fun. Take it one step further and get some food to barbecue. Find stumps, twigs, or driftwood for the fire pit. Use Sedum cuttings and plant the mini pots with living plants.
Statuary is a fancy word for statues; a statue is a sculpture that represents a human or an animal. In the garden center world, it refers to anything cast in stone or iron. By simply adding a single statue or urn, you can change the whole tone of your miniature scene. A statue of the Madonna or Buddha can turn the setting into a miniature grotto or altar. Any of the classic sculptures or large urns can instantly give your garden a European flair.
The scale of the sculpture can be flexible, as full-sized statues come in all sizes. But do try to make sure the piece is somewhat in proportion to the garden. A tiny sculpture of David in a large in-ground mini garden would get lost; he would do better on the patio of a mid-sized container garden. An 8-inch-tall bather sculpture would be ideal next to an in-ground garden pond.
Staking small sculptures is usually necessary because of the columnar shape and narrow base that the little figure stands on, which normally does not offer much of an anchor. You can stake accessories easily by drilling a hole at least 1/4 inch deep into the bottom of the accessory and use two-part epoxy to keep the metal rod in place.
Using abstract miniature garden art can be tricky. If you wouldn’t normally see it in a garden, there’s nothing from real life for the eye to compare it with, and the sense of scaling down—along with the illusion—is lost. If you choose to go abstract, place a bench or other recognizable accessory somewhere in the scene so there is an access point for the viewer to identify that it is a miniature scene.
Animals add an entertaining dimension to any garden, but for a miniature scene, you can include them in more ways than one. The toy and dollhouse industries provide us with many realistic four-legged miniatures to use in the garden. Pets and farm animals are plentiful, and the selection is quite wide. For jungle, forest, and desert animals, check toy or craft stores. Plastic dinosaurs and all kinds of fish are available if you are doing a prehistoric or underwater theme. The quality of these items has been improved over the last few years and it is no longer difficult to find pieces with nice detailing and precise painting.
By changing the color of the miniature animal, you can turn it into garden art. Paint it verdigris, bronze, or rust and dedicate it to a favorite pet. Mount it on a pedestal for added effect.
Miniature Water Features
Water and plants are a natural fit, capturing a soothing sense of refreshment. Creating them in miniature significantly reduces the complexity, time, price, and maintenance typically involved in full-sized water features.
Design additions can be as involved as a small waterfall or as simple as a birdbath. Creating a natural-looking water feature will add another level of expertise to your bag of miniature gardening tricks. Lakes can be installed right in the garden bed; ponds can go in a small pot. Be sure to match the scale of a lake or pond with the surrounding plants. A good rule of thumb is the rule of thirds; i.e., make the lake one-third the size of the container and plantings can take up two-thirds of the space, or vice-versa. A pond can be smaller.
Have fun with different looks by using the shape of the lake or pond pot. Or create only a section of the lake, where water comes right up to the edge of the container, looking like a slice taken out of a bigger scene. Create your own beach vacation, a favorite fishing spot, or a lost world of your very own. For more ideas, please see the Miniature Water Features section.