Balcony decoration in miniature: creating a mini garden

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It's really trendy to have tiny green plants in the home or on the balcony. If you haven't got a lot of space, you can create a mini garden to enchant you and your guests.

The charm of a mini garden

It's not just a case of planting a few plants next to each other in soil. A mini garden is much more than that. Think of it as a small floral world, enriched with stylish accessories, small garden paths, furniture, bridges, statues and even water features. Miniature parks or biotopes that are true to scale are examples of things that work well, as do typical gardens.

It all starts with the right container

The first thing to do is find an appropriate container. When choosing a container, you can almost let your imagination run wild. Planting bowls or plant pots are suitable, but so is nearly every other type of container. They can be round, oval, rectangular or square. However you should bear a few rules in mind.

If you want to design a mini garden that even defies low temperatures, then it must be frost-proof. And relatively large. Because the more soil you put in the container, the better the roots of the plants are protected from the cold. Capacity also plays a role in the required layout. Small growing flowers and shrubs need relatively little space for example.

So that there is no water-logging in the container later, you must make a drain hole and create drainage (e.g. from expanded clay) for irrigation water if not available already. We recommend putting a suitable dish underneath to collect the excess water. A good all-round container for a mini garden is a 30-cm deep dish with a diameter of about 50 cm. It can be moved easily and provides you with a sufficiently large platform for your (first) mini-garden.


Now let's look at the material

The question remains what the container should be made of. There is a large variety of materials. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.

  • Terracotta. Its untreated surface looks dull and natural. It looks especially attractive when it becomes weathered and covered in moss, for example. Terracotta containers are permeable to water. Therefore plants in terracotta containers must be watered more often. For the same reason, they are not winter-proof and tend to burst when it's frosty.
  • Ceramic. Fired bowls and pots hold water well and therefore usually withstand icy temperatures. They are particularly suitable for plants that need constant moisture.
  • Concrete. Like terracotta, this material quickly takes on a decorative patina thanks to its rough surface. It is very solid and heavy. This means that isn't suitable if you want to create a mini garden which you want to move about regularly.
  • Plastic. This material isn't permeable to water either and therefore dries out more slowly. However, it can't cope well with intensive solar radiation because UV radiation attacks its surface over time. This can result in cracks appearing. On the other hand, plastic bowls or boxes are light and so can be easily carried about.
  • Wood. This natural product looks particularly good in your mini garden, because it is plant-based itself. Cedar wood withstands inevitable moisture better and for longer than other varieties. The surface can be treated with specific care products and can be painted. But wood should only be treated with products and painted on the outside so that potential pollutants cannot harm the plants.

Time to choose your plants

Planting your mini garden really depends on location. Therefore placing plants which prefer shade in direct sunlight isn't the thing to do. How green-fingered you are is also a key factor. From experience, if you aren't really one for regularly looking after your little charges, more hardy candidates are perhaps worth considering. Of course in addition to your preferences and expectations with regard to caring for your plants, you should also consider plant growth and leaf size. Finally, the perfect mini garden should be a miniature version of a large garden. At the end of the day, all measurements and proportions have to fit. Here is a selection of plant species that look good in a mini garden.

  • Miniature trees and miniature bushes. As a result of breeding or nature, they grow more slowly than their larger relatives. They are therefore ideal candidates if you want to create a mini garden. Examples are the "Jean's Dilly" dwarf white spruce (Picea glauca Jean's Dilly) or the Hinoki cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa Nana gracilis), of which there is a small version. Caution should be exercised with plants known as "dwarf trees" or "dwarf shrubs". The term "dwarf" is not defined from a botanical point of view and can therefore be misleading. To be on the safe side, you are best off concentrating on the Latin names.
  • Bonsai. These are trees whose roots are kept extremely small by being trimmed regularly. They are therefore limited to a very low level of growth which means they can virtually look like normal trees in miniature. However they require ongoing care. If you don't plant them in a shallow pot, they spread their roots out and start to grow normally. The miniature effect comes sooner or later. It's best to place the bonsai in the planter together with its original, tight container. These little trees can also be placed in a pot in a mini garden, provided you do justice to their specific characteristics.
  • Succulents and cacti. Both plant species grow very slowly and therefore give you years of pleasure, particularly since they are also undemanding and need only a little water. However, for that very reason they don't get along well with other adjacent plants which need to be watered more frequently.

These candidates will suit any mini garden

To add to this general information, it's now time for some specific plant tips. All five of these plants are easy to care for and can be perfectly combined with each other.

  • Artillery plants (Pilea depressa, Pilea glaucophylla): These plants are creepers and form fleshy leaves. You can prune them well and thus keep them well in check.
  • Meadow spike moss (Selaginella apoda): This forms a short green carpet that offers an ideal replacement for a lawn. It really likes the damp and would prefer to be sprayed every day.
  • Wire vine (Muehlenbeckia complexa): This climber trails over garden accessories such as small pavilions or mini flower arches. You can also keep it under control by winding its shoots around structures accordingly.
  • Mind-your-own-business (Soleirolia soleirolii): By its very nature, this plant is blessed with small green leaves and slow growth, which makes it a very good candidate for your mini garden. It is easy to prune and shape.
  • Delicate mountain palm (Chamaedorea elegans): It thrives well as a miniature palm tree which lends itself to tropical scenes. It grows relatively slowly. But it is also quite thirsty and often needs water. This means it's not the best partner for succulents and cacti.

Accessories for the perfect illusion

Containers and plants are important but are by no means the only components for a biotope in a pot. Anyone wanting to create a mini garden needs another bit of equipment to create the perfect illusion of a miniature garden. This includes garden furniture like benches, tables or loungers. In specialist shops you can even find nesting boxes, garden tools, fences, rubber boots and figures of animals or small statues, made out of metal or plastic. When designing your area and combining the relevant pieces, you should make sure that everything fits together not only in terms of content but also in terms of scale. You can buy small objects in scales of 1:12, 1:18 or 1:24, for example. This is also true for paths and spaces which you can create out of small pieces of gravel, mosaic stones and similar materials.