Victorian Garden Party
Who doesn’t love a tea party? When starting out as a miniature gardener or fairy gardener, some of the easiest accessories to find are those that will help you recreate a garden party, tea for two, or another semiformal outdoor setting. From pergolas to trellises, white-painted wrought-iron bistro tables and decorative miniature garden planting urns, you’ll find hundreds of treasures in this style.
This project would work equally well as an outdoor or indoor mini-garden, depending on the plant choices. You can use a pergola or trellis as a focal point or unifying feature or a (relatively) larger shrub or plant as a “tree” in place of the pergola.
Think “white wicker” or “wrought iron” for your Victorian Garden Party miniature garden. Look for faux concrete urns and a tea set or lemonade pitcher. Ask yourself, “Would lovely ladies in white dresses like to sit a spell at this table or rest a minute on this bench?” It helps to put yourself in the place of the miniature inhabitants for whom you’re planting the garden.
This outdoor fairy garden is ready for a tea party.
- White painted “wrought-iron” furniture, including a pergola
- Tiny gravel for a patio
- “Concrete” birdbath and planting urns
- Tea set
- Garden cloches
- Topiary planter
- Garden fairy
The accessories used in this garden are somewhat ornate, so your best container choices will be simple. A wide-mouthed terra cotta bowl, a square miniature garden planter, or a plain, glazed pot are all good containers for this project.
Use standard potting soil (not garden soil or topsoil) for this project.
Because the accessories are key to this garden, choose plants that will set off the accessories nicely.
Remember the principles of contrast (so that all of the plants and accessories show up distinctly and don’t blend together) and scale (so that everything works together and creates a lifelike scene), which
you can see in the photo on the left.
You might not use every plant that you gather. That’s okay. You’ll have more left for another garden, or because these are outdoor plants, you can find a place to tuck extras in the perennial border or give them away to friends. I find it easier to have more choices, rather than fewer, especially if I’m at home planting the garden, rather than at the garden center.
- Buxus spp., boxwood
- Ilex vomitoria ‘Nana’, dwarf yaupon holly
- Hosta ‘Blue Mouse Ears’, dwarf hosta
- Ajuga ‘Chocolate Chips’
- Ophiopogon japonicus ‘Nana’, dwarf mondo grass
- Muehlenbeckia axillaris, wirevine (this is hardy where I live; it is an indoor plant in zones 6 and lower)
- Mentha requienii, Corsican mint
- Laurentia, white star creeper
- Selaginella kraussiana ‘Gold Tips’, Gold Tips spikemoss
- Ficus pumila var. quercifolia, oak leaf fig
Victorian Garden Party Step by Step
Fill the container
Add potting soil (not garden soil) to the container until it is one-half to two-thirds full. You want to leave room for the plants and still have a slight lip or edge of the pot sticking up when you’re done planting and filling with soil. (That way, when you water the garden, you won’t end up with soil or gravel spilling over the sides.)
Position the pergola
You always should position the largest plant or accessory first. If you were going to use a larger “tree” instead of a pergola, you’d place the tree first.
Break up your plants
One standard-sized pot of dwarf mondo grass or white star creeper goes a long way in a mini-garden.
Separate plant clumps when you can in order to get more plants. You’ll get more out of your purchases and you’ll be able to mold the plantings to your design aesthetic, meaning you won’t be stuck with large masses when smaller pieces would fit better.
Add accent plants
Once the massed plantings are in place (the mondo grass and white star creeper), you can add accent plants. In this planter, the oak leaf fig will trail over the side. The Ajuga is used as a specimen shrub in several places in the container. It is situated between the white star creeper and where the patio gravel will eventually go because its dark leaves will contrast against the lighter colored gravel.
Keep Adding to Your Miniature Garden
Just because the main assembly is done, the fun doesn’t stop. I’m always on the prowl for accessories that will complete the look. In this case, I found some blown-glass “picks” to add to the garden that remind me of full-sized blown-glass art by one of my favorite artists, Barbara Sanderson. With their addition, this mini-garden is truly a little replica of my larger garden. (I also added a blown-glass marble to the birdbath to approximate the pond floats I have from Barbara.)
Add more potting soil
If you’ve primarily just positioned your plants, it’s important to go back and actually plant them before you add accessories. You’ll find out quickly, in a day or two, if you didn’t plant something, as it will start to shrivel up because its roots are exposed to air and can’t get water.
Create the patio
After the plants are planted and before you place the furniture and accessories, create the patio. I’ve used tiny gravel that mimics river rock. You could also use aquarium gravel. The smaller the pieces, the more it looks like pea gravel and less like a flagstone path or patio.
Position the accessories
Once the plants are all planted, you can add the accessories. Place the furniture, “plant” any miniature containers within the mini-garden, and set the table for tea. In this garden, tumbled blue glass serves as “water” in the birdbath. The finished garden is a perfect setting for a visiting garden fairy.
This garden would be just as charming without the pergola or with a tree as a focal point, or “shelter” under which the bistro set could be placed. If you were going to plant this garden with indoor plants, you could use ferns and polka-dot plants for the shrubs instead of the dwarf mondo grass and Ajuga. Use the spikemoss instead of the white star creeper for the groundcover. A dwarf myrtle or fig tree would work instead of a holly or boxwood if you want to include a tree instead of a pergola.
Same furniture, different garden. This miniature fairy garden has a small tree to provide shade or shelter over the same bistro table and chairs.
Care and Maintenance
Water this miniature garden as you’d water any other container garden: when the top inch of soil is dry.
The groundcovers planted in this garden can be aggressive. Keep the scissors handy to give the white star creeper a trim if it starts invading the space of the Ajuga or dwarf mondo grass.
Deadhead the Ajuga flowers (snip them with scissors) once they’re finished blooming.