Plants

Gardening: Make a mini garden

Gardening: Make a mini garden

Dwarf plants: make a mini garden

Some plants are tiny jewels. To appreciate them you must stop, bend over, and look closely at their delicate flowers and leaves. The intricate detail will astound you.

You can use these small herbs, miniature conifers, and diminutive perennials to create an enchanting miniature garden. The plants are the same as those used in garden railroads, bonsai, and small rock gardens. These imaginative miniature worlds—complete with tiny houses, furniture, and other objects—look right at home in trough gardens, unique containers, raised beds, or a quiet spot in your landscape. Miniature gardens take very little pruning and little time to water.

Container garden

Terra cotta, concrete, or lightweight hypertufa containers all work well for miniature gardens. A miniature container garden differs from an annual-filled container because it uses dwarf perennials and conifers that stay in the container from one year to another. The container must have drainage holes, the potting mix must drain well, and the plants should have similar sun and water requirements. For example, don’t combine moisture-loving plants such as astilbe with herbs that prefer dry soil.

Pick a unique piece of miniature furniture or an interesting plant with unusual texture or colour to use as a focal point. Then build a tiny landscape around it, adding plants and other objects that are similar in scale. Add small pebbles for texture, and fine mulch (such as cocoa bean shells) to help keep soil moist.

Place your miniature container garden on a deck or bench to bring the small plants closer to eye level. If your container is large enough, you can add a few pieces of dollhouse furniture, stones to make a path, or an elf or two to watch over the plants.

Within a larger landscape

You can also plant a miniature garden within a larger garden or a raised bed. This gives you room to incorporate tiny buildings, fences, walkways, statues of fairies or elves, and even water features. Small pebbles become a dry stream bed, medium pebbles become stepping stones, and larger pebbles become hills. Use toothpicks, flexible twigs, or balsa wood to make tiny benches. You can buy clay or porcelain replicas of houses, bridges, people, and other miniature figures. Some gardeners personalise their garden with children’s toys because children love to play in the miniature garden world. Other enthusiasts create entire villages by adding new areas each year.

Tips

  • Use a soil mixture that drains well so roots won’t get waterlogged. Soil must drain quickly but retain water.
  • Build your miniature landscape around a focal point, just as you would in a large garden.
  • Check labels before buying plants to make sure they aren’t too big for the miniature landscape.
  • Use plants with a variety of textures, foliage colours, and heights to add interest to the garden.
  • Water containers every day, especially the first year, and fertilise on a regular basis. Prune lightly, if necessary, to keep each plant in proportion to the entire planting.
  • Protect the container in winter, if you live in a cold climate, by covering it with straw.
  • You’re limited only by your imagination—have fun and think creatively about materials, plants, and design
Desert spoon really adds character to your garden

Desert spoon really adds character to your garden

Desert spoon

The stiff, spiky, blue-green leaves of desert spoon (Dasylirion wheeleri) look almost grasslike—but they’re not. The elegant leaves are edged in vicious spines. In spite of the risk to tender flesh, many dry land gardeners find a place for this desert dweller, which is native to northern Mexico and the American Southwest, because they appreciate its architectural beauty. The spherical clump of narrow, leathery leaves is bold and dramatic, and the bloom is even more so. Every second or third year, desert spoon sends up a flower stalk that’s 8 to 12 feet tall and carries spikes of tiny white blooms throughout the summer.

Common name: Desert spoon, sotol, blue sotol

  • Botanical name: Dasylirion wheeleri
  • Plant type: Evergreen shrub
  • Zones: 8 to 11 (colder for some varieties)
  • Height: 3 to 4 feet
  • Family: Agavaceae

Growing conditions

  • Sun: Full sun
  • Soil: Well-drained sand or gravel
  • Moisture: Dry; drought-tolerant when established.

Care

  • Mulch: None needed.
  • Pruning: None needed.
  • Fertiliser: None needed.

Propagation

  • By seed, or by separating offsets from the main plant.

Pests and diseases

  • Possible target for scale insects.
  • Susceptible to root rot if frequently wet.
Desert spoon really adds character to your garden

Desert spoon really adds character to your garden

Garden notes

  • As a desert native, Dasylirion wheeleri is extremely tolerant of drought and heat. Use it as a specimen plant in a spot that’s too dry and sunny for other plants. But don’t forget to give it occasional water while it’s settling in.
  • Because of its spines, D. wheeleri should be planted well away from foot traffic.
  • In the right spot, desert spoon can give your garden a shimmery, magical effect. Find a place for it where the late afternoon sun will shine through its leaves.
  • Flowers attract bees and hummingbirds.

Cultivars

  • None known.

All in the family

  • Desert spoon is often mistaken for yucca. Though the two are similar, and both belong to the Agavaceae family, yucca has smooth leaves and larger flowers. Several species of yucca are native to the Americas, some in climates as cold as Zone 4.
  • Some varieties of desert spoon can reportedly survive into Zone 5, if planted near a warm southern wall with excellent drainage. It’s said to be surprisingly cold-hardy when established.
  • The heart of desert spoon is used to make the drink called sotol, which gives the plant its other common name. Its fibres have been used to make baskets, mats, and ropes. The name “desert spoon” comes from the fact that the leaf forms a spoon shape where it joins the trunk.
Lilacs are heart shaped beautiful plants

Lilacs are heart shaped beautiful plants

Lilacs

Lilacs are a favourite old-fashioned shrub used for cut flowers, hedging, and landscape specimens. Most lilacs have dark green, heart-shaped foliage and clusters of blue, pink, white, or purple flowers in spring. The flowers are known for their sweet fragrance.

Plant facts

  • Common name: Lilac
  • Botanical name: Syringa spp.
  • Zones: 2 to 8, depending on species. Some are more suited to warm areas; others need cool conditions.
  • Size: To 30 feet tall and 20 feet wide, depending on species
  • From: Areas of Asia
  • Family: Oleaceae (olive family)

Growing conditions

  • Sun: Full sun is best for good bloom production. They’ll tolerate partial shade, but won’t bloom as profusely.
  • Soil: Moist, well-drained soil is best, but the plants are quite adaptable to different soils.
  • Moisture: Water during times of drought to ensure abundant blooms.

Care

  • Mulch: Lay a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch over the soil around the shrub. Avoid laying the mulch directly against the plant’s stem-leave a gap of several inches to prevent disease problems.
  • Pruning: Prune in early summer, once the plants have finished blooming. Remove spent flower clusters to encourage better blooms next season.
  • Fertiliser: In most soils, additional fertiliser isn’t necessary.

Propagation

  • Seed: Sow seeds outdoors in a cold frame or a sheltered spot in the garden in autumn. Note: Seedlings from named cultivars usually won’t look like their parents.
  • Cuttings: Take cuttings in early summer, after the plants have bloomed.
  • Layering: Bend one of the growing shoots toward the ground in early spring. Remove the leaves along a section of the stem, gently nick the stem in that area, then bury that section under several inches of soil. Anchor the shoot down to the ground. The stem should root in about a year. After it roots, cut it from the mother plant.

Pests

  • Anthracnose: If the leaves look scorched and spotted, the cause may be anthracnose. The spots may be grey, tan, or dark brown, and could be either dry or slimy. To deter the disease, prune any infected branches, dipping your pruning tool into a bleach or alcohol solution between cuts. Prune some of the inner branches to encourage good airflow in the shrub’s centre.
  • Aphids: These small insects often appear in large numbers on new growth. Spray them off daily with a stream of water; they will not attack a plant after being knocked off. Use an insecticidal soap or neem-oil spray for severe infestations.
  • Leaf spot: In summer or autumn, the leaves develop yellow or brown spots, often with concentric rings that form a bull’s-eye pattern. To deter leaf spot, prune the plant to allow good airflow and avoid wetting the foliage in afternoons and evenings
  • Powdery mildew: This disease appears in mid- to late summer. Affected leaves are covered with a greyish powder and eventually drop off. To deter the disease, prune the plant to allow good airflow and avoid wetting the foliage in afternoons and evenings.
  • Scale: Scale insects crawl up plant stems and cling to the plant. They appear as small, raised spots and are easy to overlook. To deter scales, encourage beneficial insects or apply insecticidal soap or horticultural oil.

Garden notes

  • To ensure good bloom production, it’s important to prune at the right time. Always prune right after lilacs have finished blooming. If you prune in late summer, autumn, or early spring, you will remove the next season’s flower buds.
  • Some lilacs are more heat tolerant than others; southern gardeners must choose those cultivars for good performance.

Selections

  • There are hundreds of selections in different sizes, bloom times, and colours. Choose carefully to ensure the best performance. Below are a few selections:
  • Syringa meyeri: Dwarf type. Grows to 6 feet with lavender flowers in spring. Zones 4 to 7.
  • Syringa x prestoniae: Grows to 12 feet with large heads of fragrant flowers. Zones 2 to 7.
  • Syringa protolacinata: Grows to 8 feet with finely divided leaves and small blooms. Zones 4 to 8.
  • Syringa reticulata: Tree type. Grows to 30 feet with clusters of creamy flowers that bloom later than other lilacs. Zones 4 to 7.
  • Syringa vulgaris: Old-fashioned lilac that grows to 22 feet with heads of fragrant spring flowers. Zones 4 to 8. There are hundreds of named cultivars, such as ‘Krasavitsa Moskvy’ and ‘Wedgwood Blue’.