Most Viewed Stories
Create a miniature garden with your child
If you think your children or grandchildren are spending too much time playing with their new Christmas video games, why not encourage them to take a break from technology and plant a fairy garden or dinosaur garden with you. The concept of wee creatures frolicking in a mini garden spurs the imaginations of young and old alike, and planting a miniature garden opens the gates to an endless world of fun.
Miniature gardens have been identified as a top trend by both the Garden Media Group and Better Homes and Gardens. The sky's the limit when it comes to creating a miniature garden, and the fun comes from making the garden a unique expression of your own imagination. If you Google “fairy gardens,” you will be amazed at the array of miniature items for sale. These gardens can become a very addictive hobby, since there is always room to add another small item or tiny plant.
For girls, a fairy garden is a fun project. For boys, planting a dinosaur garden for Tyrannosaurus Rex or Diplodocus to live in is exciting. A hobbit, wild animal or angel garden are other fun garden themes. For grandparents, a miniature garden tucked beneath a tree or in a corner of a patio will provide hours of fun for visiting grandchildren. You'll never hear the plaintive wail, “There's nothing to do” when there's a miniature garden to tend. And for those of us who just love tiny, fanciful things, creating a miniature garden is just plain fun.
The garden can be as small or as large as you wish. A small pot is just the right size to hold one fairy and her garden, while a large flower bed can be filled with a village of fairies and their cottages. Like potato chips, it's hard to have “just one” miniature garden. For your first mini garden, a pot 12 inches wide and 12 inches deep is a good size. However, the container can be anything large enough to hold potting soil and which has several holes for drainage. Even a basket can be used; just line it with plastic and poke a few holes in the bottom. Deep containers work best because they hold moisture longer.
Once the container is chosen, it's time to find that perfect fairy or creature to live in the garden. If your child looks closely on the shelves of thrift stores or toy aisles, I'm sure she/he will spot a special fairy or dinosaur sitting there waiting to be discovered. Half the fun of miniature gardens is the hunt for items to make the garden unique.
Take a nature walk to collect tiny rocks, twigs, and other interesting items. Pebbles or shells can form walkways, and container lids or a round mirror can become a tiny pond. A small milk carton can be cut down for a fairy cottage and decorated with rocks, leaves or sticks glued on the outside walls, with grass, dried leaves or moss attached to the roof. Helping create one-of-a-kind fences, cottages or bridges out of “found” materials is challenging, yet rewarding, and is a way to include dads and grandpas in the project. Fences can be created from twigs glued together, while large rocks placed among the plants will give a dinosaur garden that prehistoric feel. A house nestled in the soil and covered with leaves or moss is the perfect home for a hobbit.
Visit a nursery and choose plants with small leaves and a size that will make the garden look lifelike. Alyssum, lobelia, succulents, dwarf marigolds and herbs all work well. Parsley, woolly thyme, baby's tears, blue star creeper, brass buttons and cilantro are easy-grow plants for a mini garden and will give a lush look. Succulents can add texture and interesting shapes. Small-sized petunias also work well and add nice color. Sphagnum moss makes a nice groundcover and helps keep the soil moist. Once planted, invite that special fairy or dinosaur to take up residence.
Set the finished garden in a location that will receive good light. It can even be kept indoors near a window. Add a spoonful of fertilizer when watering to keep the plants healthy.
Tie the garden to story time with read-aloud books. “Fairy Houses” by Tracy Kane, “Olivia and the Fairy Princess” by Ian Falconer and “The Very Fairy Princess” by Julie Andrews are fairy books that are fun read-aloud books. “Danny the Dinosaur” by Sid Hoff, “If the Dinosaurs Came Back” by Bernard Most and “Digging up Dinosaurs” by Aliki are wonderful books to go along with a dinosaur garden. For a hobbit garden, read “Teeny Tiny” by Tomie dePaola, “The Elves and the Shoemaker” by Jacob Grimm and Jim Lamarche and “An Elf for Christmas” by Michael Garland.
According to statistics, the more children play outdoors, the less likely they are to become overweight. Surveys have shown that gardening increases a child's self-esteem, helps them develop closer relationships with family members when the family gardens together and gives them a sense of ownership when they help create a garden and it grows well. Also, planning what to grow and designing the garden are good outlets for creativity and imagination.
If your child shows an interest in gardening once their miniature garden is complete, it's not too late to plant annuals and herbs outdoors. Once the gardening bug bites, it will last a lifetime.
Happy mini gardening!
Karen Bowen is a master gardener and member of Yuma Garden Club. This column is sponsored by the Federated Garden Clubs of Yuma.