This blog is about growing tropical-looking plants in the Phoenix, Arizona area

June 2, 2014

Creating a tiny garden that invites closer inspection

I love miniatures. Hey, look at my dog! But I hate tiny spaces that are cramped, such as the inside of airplanes, and gardens that have overgrown plants in narrow spaces.

So, if you have a tiny space, think miniature. And also consider that human beings will need to get closer. This is no place for hoses lying around, or places where people will misstep. I've learned by watching how people look at the garden, and how I look at gardens that I visit. So this is what I've learned:

• Make a very clear space for people to walk, and stand. The placement of the pointy rocks there is critical. No, don't have a *border*, people will just want to step on it, or worse yet, walk along it, balancing. And no flat rocks! If it looks like a stepping stone, people will step on it. If it's jagged, like these pointy rocks, it says *keep off*. And be sure the rocks are buried down in the ground deep enough so that if someone accidentally kicks one, it stays put, and doesn't roll into the garden, crushing things.

Sadly, I have visited gardens where it's almost impossible to stand to get closer to the interesting plants. If you've made a space that is so narrow it feels like you are squeezing down the aisle of airplane, you have made a mistake. The flagstone is where people stand. The garden is where the plants live - they need to remain separate.

• Design a space like this the same way that a container with various plants is done. If you want to see how it's done, go visit any garden center that sells succulents arranged in containers. The rocks are part of the picture. And use the *thriller, filler* concept. No spillers, though! You don't want plants spilling out into where people will need to walk. See above.

By the way, the tall plants (the *thrillers*) are, at left, Canna Tropicanna, at center and back right are Caribbean Striped Agave (Agave angustifolia variegata), and the plant that just looks like a green stick right now is an euphorbia. Once it's rooted, it will send more offshoots. The fillers are various aloes and agaves, which are miniatures, given to me by my plant expert friends. At left, just above the pointy rock is a cycad, a Zamia angustifolia. Unlike most cycads (like sago palms) zamias grow in a more bushy shape, so it should fill that space better once it gets going.

Oh yeah, one more thing, add a small path light so that people can see the plants, and where to step, at night. No, not one of those cheesy *solar powered* ones that just add glare! If you don't have decent garden lighting, put it on your *to do* list!

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