There is a perennial fascination about miniatures in all forms of life. Perhaps it is that the human mind becomes tired of coping with the larger issues and turns with relief to the contemplation or construction of small things, whether they are small-scale engineering models or tiny plants. But, whatever the reason, gardening in miniature is finding more and more devotees.
Introduction to Miniature Gardens
NOT the least of my difficulties in writing this section of this website has been to know what to call it. Miniature is, after all, a relative term, and I know of several little gardens which might, with reason, be so described and yet lie outside the scope of my present subject. For, to qualify for a place in our team, the garden not only must be small but must also be enclosed within some form of artificial container. ‘Sink Gardens’ they have often been called, ever since some genius discovered that the old-fashioned stone sink, now fallen from favour as a kitchen fitment, made an admirable receptacle for growing plants; but as there are several other kinds of container which may be used, this is not sufficiently comprehensive. Nor will ‘Enclosed Gardens’ meet the case, for this was appropriated many years ago on behalf of those delightful rectangles of mown grass surrounded by clipped yew hedges, such as we are accustomed to associate with Elizabethan manor-houses.
The fact is that no apposite term has yet been devised to describe the type of garden I propose to discuss; so Miniature Gardens it will have to be. But perhaps these introductory remarks (if, indeed, anyone ever reads Introductions) will serve to convey to my readers an adequate idea of my scope and subject.
The undoubted popularity of miniature gardens is not altogether easy to explain. For some people, of course, the advantages are obvious: the elderly gardener, for instance, who finds full-scale operations beyond his fail- ing powers, yet cannot bring himself to abandon his lifetime’s hobby entirely; the rheumatic sufferer, who prefers to avoid the painful necessity of stooping in order to tend his plants; or the town-dweller with only a small backyard or balcony at his disposal. Yet besides these there are many others, sound in wind and limb and with several rods, poles or even acres at their command, who yet enjoy playing with toy gardens having a total area of no more than a few square feet.
This phenomenon can be accounted for only by the strange fascination which all things miniature seem to exercise over men, women and children alike; a fascination to which the large number of exhibitors and visitors of all ages at the annual Model Engineer Exhibition in the R.H.S. Hall bears ample testimony. And, incidentally, we who construct miniature gardens may learn a useful lesson from these model-makers in the matter of working to a predetermined scale. We cannot, of course, build to the same degree of mathematical precision, if only because we have to buy the most important parts of our models, the plants, ready made. Nevertheless, we can at least keep an approximate scale in our mind’s eye when ordering the plants and planning the layout, taking care that no single feature is too obviously out of proportion with the rest. I mention this because, to judge by results, it seems to be so often overlooked. Yet, surely, one of the essentials of the miniature garden is that it should be miniature in all its parts.