What is it about miniatures that everyone finds so fascinating?
Just like gardening has seen a resurgence in interest in the past 20 years, so has the world of miniatures. It was about that long ago that I acquired a doll house.
This doll house is huge, probably too big for storing my house, yet I managed to incorporate the help of the husband to build it from the bottom up and proceeded to decorate it with tiny furnishings from pots and pans to pictures I hung on the tiny wallpapered walls.
As our granddaughter grew older, she took over the care of the doll house, which is still at our house, but is now under her supervision. She changes things the way she wants, including fresh paint jobs for the second and third story bedrooms and rearrangements of the furniture. When she visits, I never know what I'll find when she's gone home. Sometimes she leaves the tiny family in their beds and other times they are relaxing in the living room or standing around the wrap-around porch.
''When are you going to put the roof on?'' she asks when she visits.
''One of these days,'' we tell her. The roof is stuffed in a closet - somewhere - still in pieces. Maybe it will be finished by the time her children play with it.
The fascination with miniatures isn't just for doll houses though. Along with the interest in gardens and gardening, miniature gardens have also gained popularity. Generally in gardening, miniature garden is translated to fairy garden or train garden, but it doesn't have to be that way.
Because there is so much interest in miniature gardening, cultivators have been working hard to come up with new varieties of miniature plants. These plants aren't just smaller versions of larger plants with the same size leaves and flowers, but are actually tiny plants with tiny leaves and flowers. After my interest in the doll house waned, but not my interest in miniature gardens, I searched online and found several sources for miniature plants. My favorites were tiny conifers.
Dwarf conifers aren't what you think. While they are indeed quite small, usually gracing the garden at around 6 to 12 inches, they are in fact plants that will continue to grow. The trick is that they grow very slowly, usually only an inch a year. If you maintain a dwarf conifer for 20 years, it will not be such a dwarf any longer. Conifers fascinate me anyway. These shrubs and trees may not produce lovely, colorful flowers, but the plants themselves are so diverse, they can be a garden all by themselves.
Conifers are plants that have broad, scale-like needles or leaves. Not all conifers are evergreen, although most of them are. Some examples are Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides), Ginkgo, Bald Cypress and several species of Larch. These trees are deciduous, meaning they lose their leaves in the fall. Conifers that are evergreen include pine, fir, yew, juniper and cedar.
There are other miniature plants besides dwarf conifers and some do bloom. Miniature roses are particularly popular. We often see them encased in brightly colored foil wrapped containers in the grocery stores. Not only are they easy to grow, they are easy to grow from seeds. Many rock garden plants are miniatures, including Campanula poscharskyana, with its small bell-shaped lavender flowers, or several varieties of dwarf dianthus, commonly called 'pinks.'
Many miniature gardens seem to carry a particular theme. While fairy or train gardens are the most popular, you also can go with a woodland theme, or even a city park theme with buildings and streets that encircle a central park with a pond and tiny people enjoying themselves on a warm, sunny day.
Garden centers are catching on as well, and more and more garden decorations can be found that carry miniature replicas of much larger yard art.
The point is to have fun with it and use your imagination. You don't have to settle for just fairies or trains that run through tunnels - unless, of course, you really like them.