Blue & White Miniature Garden
Take your accessories in before Old Man Winter comes a’knockin’ ! They will last longer and won’t get damaged by the extreme weather.

~ The rains finally came back to Seattle a couple of weeks ago after a record dry spell of over 90 days. Thankfully, our in-ground miniature garden was already established in the garden bed, we (re)planted it when we moved in June of 2011 so there was minimal watering to do over the drought. We tucked the garden into a cool-sun spot too, so it’s shaded by a row of Rhododendrons to shield it from the hot afternoon sun.

{ By “established” we mean that the roots of the plants are able to seek out and find water and nutrients by itself.  We help them in the dry months by watering them otherwise, that established plant should take care of itself.  Easy gardening! }

So, it’s time to share some fall winterizing tips for your miniature in-ground garden. Are your gardens in a container? Here’s a blog post on winterizing your containers.

Our old Miniature Garden
Our old Miniature Garden that we moved to the new house in 2011. See the next picture of it today.

–       Remove your accessories before it snows or freezes. Store your miniature or fairy garden accessories safely inside over the winter, you’ll get more out of them. Most accessories these days are resin which technically doesn’t freeze but the wear and tear from the elements can take its toll on the them. Keep them safe inside where you can clean them over the winter. Spray them with UV protectant to keep the colors at their best and you’ll be ready for next spring. Find the UV spray at your local hardware store.

–       Leaf mulching is better for your full-sized garden, or for anywhere there is bare soil – not ground covers, a.k.a. “miniature garden bedding plants.” The mulch/leaves will smother the low-growing foliage, not allow air and light through, and the tiny plants will get pale and leggy.

–       Remove any fallen leaves. After the autumn rains come, the leaves will sit and rot – and rot anything underneath it. Comb them out of your miniature and dwarf trees too.

–       Check the soil – is it compacted? Roots need air too. Carefully work around – and close to the trunk of your trees and plants with a strong stick or rod, and loosen the soil just a little bit. You are only aerating the soil, not lifting or moving it, so a little poking throughout the rootball should not harm the plant. (Unless it’s a really delicate plant but, if it is, you know what it needs.)

–       Divide any perennials that need it. (Perennials are the plants that go dormant and grow back year after year. Annuals only live for one season.)

  • The groundcover perennials that we use for miniature gardening need diving every couple of years to keep looking their best.
  • Some perennials clump and some spread slowly. If your plant has created another “clump,” or if the plant has spread out to create another smaller root system, you can cut it off from the mother plant and transplant it to another part of the garden.
  • More on how to know if your perennial needs dividing:
    • Divide after the year that the plant looks really good.
    • When there is a gap in the middle of the plant.
    • When you start to see smaller leaves in the center of the plant.
    • When you start to see yellowing leaves in the center.
    • When the plant has no more room left to grow.
An in ground Miniature Garden
This picture was taken in early September, you can see by the brown grass and yellow leaves on the Rhododendron, it was a really dry summer. Our established miniature garden needed a little help with the watering which we did at night, watering deeply and infrequently, to help train the roots to look for their own water source.

–       Best time of year for dividing plants: Spring and fall are the ideal times – with the fall being the best. The new plant can take its time getting established over the winter and be ready to grow in next spring.

–       Be ruthless about your invaders. Some plants are very aggressive and, as anyone tempted by the look of a darling miniature plant, we sometimes plant aggressive plants in the ground unknowingly. NOW is the time to cut them short, cut them off and cut them back. Spare no runner, no clump. Just keep a small part of the plant and that will multiply two-fold next spring because it is established in your bed. I know, I know, but you have to – you’ll thank me next spring when your garden is not invaded by these things. And hey, I speak from experience.

  • Some aggressive miniature garden plants are:
    • Fairy Vine, Muelenbeckia complexa and the Tricolor variety
    • In some areas: Baby Tears, Soleirolia soleirolii, both varieties
    • Violets
    • Bugleweed, Ajuga reptans
    • Brass Buttons, Leptinella squalida
Blue Bench in the Miniature Garden
See the heart-shaped leaves? There is one of them in front, off to the left. Those are violets. Every once in a while, I have a weak moment and leave them be – only to be overrun with them by the end of the summer. I’m tearing them out ruthlessly now, by next spring they should be at a manageable level to deal with – they self-sow way too much and look very weedy.

–       Water until it freezes. There’s a difference between “freeze-dried” and “frozen.” If your area has been in a drought, keep watering. The roots want to stay damp until they freeze for the winter. Do water in the middle of winter if it has been dry if you have to. (Smile and wave hello if the neighbor sees you out the yard in the middle of winter watering your garden!)

–       Clean out your conifer dieback. All trees and shrubs exfoliate somehow. The miniature and dwarf conifers are no exception; they just do it differently. Slough off all the dead foliage and clean it out from the middle of the plants and away from the base of the plant to let light and air into the center of the plant. A kitchen fork makes the perfect rake for the miniature garden.

Conifer dieback in a Golden Sprite Hinoki Cypress
Conifer dieback in a Golden Sprite Hinoki Cypress. Part the branches of your miniature or dwarf conifer to see if there is any dead foliage that needs cleaning out.

–       Use boughs to insulate. Cover the garden with evergreen boughs – it is nature’s insulation. Wait until the weather is cold enough though, you don’t want it to rot – only to protect. And be sure to take them off promptly in the spring for the same reason. This works for in ground and containers.

–      Keep the snow on it. When it does snow, keep the snow on the garden. Resist the urge to unbury it. The snow will insulate the plants from the cold air and drastic dips in temperature.

Note that this is a blanket advice and you can always look up the care of individual plants on the Internet. In fact, the Internet has become so huge that you can literally type in your question and get an answer – to just about anything.

Got a tip? Leave it below for our Fellow MGs. We all have different ways of doing things.

Visit our store to see all the possibilities of the miniature and dwarf trees and shrubs, hardiness information is listed for your convenience.

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Fairy Gardening with Two Green

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