Miniature Hostas, Iseli Evergreens and “Truly Tiny Gardens” by Thomasina Tarling

Mini Mania

The popularity of dwarf and miniature gardens has taken a huge leap forward with the current passions for dwarf conifers and miniature hostas. But, how big is “dwarf” and how small is “miniature”? Contrary to logic, both dwarf and miniature refer only to the rate of growth, not the eventual size. A “miniature” conifer may get to 6 feet but if it took 30 years to get that tall, it’s still a miniature. Hostas are miniatures when the leaf surface is less than 6 square inches…they can spread fast and be 10” tall, but as long as the leaf surface is less than 6” square it’s a miniature. So, slow growth and shallow containers limiting growth even further are the key ingredients in creating miniature gardens.

Mini Choices

FancifulGardensPoster2010Iseli Nursery in Portland has put together packages of dwarf conifers for local nurseries. They come in cute little round 4” pots and are easy to plant. Dwarf conifers are the true gems in tiny gardens. Putting together a small landscape is far easier, faster and arguably more satisfying than excavating another section from the lawn. Tools are few…a shallow container, a small trowel or a big spoon, some gritty soil (1 part coarse compost, 1 part medium to fine bark, 1 part coarse sand and 2 parts pea gravel), a few hardscapes (rocks and weathered wood) and the fun of buying and arranging a myriad of munchkin-sized plants.

Mini Friends

Conifers and hostas are not the only minis for the truly tiny gardens. Look for Bagatelle Barberry, Compacta Boxwood, Little Lottie Lavender, Tom Thumb Cotoneaster, Sky Pencil Holly, Little Heath Pieris, Lilliputian Epimedium and Duckfoot Ivy. It’s a whole new plant world when you get hooked on miniature gardens.

 “Truly Tiny Gardens” by Thomasina Tarling


Thomasina Tarling (yes, that’s her real name) wrote “Truly Tiny Gardens” in 1995 when the trend was “bigger is better”. The 96-page book was ahead of its time, well received but not current with the big leaved, big garden fad of the 90’s. She wrote the book with a particular London garden in mind…hers. Now that “small is in” I suspect her book will be reprinted. Whether you have a large garden with small garden rooms or a patio, terrace, porch or roof begging for some plant life, you’ll find common sense tactics for creating a beautiful area in a small space. Designing in small spaces is tricky especially if you’re a plant nut.

This is not a book about miniatures; it’s a book about the clever use of space.

Alibris, really cheap