Lilliputian Gardens
Color in Garden - Plate 11b

Surely no pursuit in the domain of gardening, indoors or out, surpasses in heady fascination the art of creating miniature replicas of nature. For imaginative children such tiny gardens are fairylands. Imaginative adults have skillfully devised many ways of making them, both out of doors and in the house.

The construction of outdoor small-scale gardens or landscapes in boxes and concrete troughs is a hobby only infrequently pursued in this country. But the Japanese have practiced this art for centuries. Hakoniwa, they call it, meaning box garden or box yard. These little gardens are long-time creations, meant to last for years. They are planted with dwarf trees, shrubs and grass, and usually have small ponds for tiny goldfish. Natural stones, bridges, houses and miniature figures are used to make them realistic.

The English have developed a similar form which they call "sink gardens" after the old stone sinks originally used as containers. Cement troughs are more common now. Natural landscapes or formal gardens are the usual themes, and the English lean strongly on tiny alpines and dwarf conifers for plant material. They also use structural aids such as trellises, fencing, formal pools, old wells, pergolas and bridges.

These little gardens of the Japanese and English could serve as prototypes for an absorbing hobby for the older child with artistic leanings, imagination and an interest in plants. A young person whose qualifications might later turn him naturally toward a career in landscape gardening should find this a particularly compatible undertaking.

An excellent book to read on this subject is Miniature Gardens by Anne Ashberry, the foremost English designer of sink gardens. Her coverage is thorough and practical. The photographic illustrations would charm even a skeptic.

With only a little basic information on procedure, however, the qualified child can experiment for himself, and be sure of a satisfying degree of success, combined with a lot of fun.

The container will be more enduring if it is cast in concrete. A wooden box, however, treated with a wood preservative will last a long time. Size is optional, within limits. A planting space of twelve or fifteen inches by twenty-one or twenty-five inches should be large enough.

Drainage must be provided by holes in the bottom of the box. These holes are covered by large pieces of broken flower pot. Then a drainage layer of finer broken flowerpots or pebbles is laid over the entire bottom. Over this goes an inch or so of damp peatmoss to retain moisture and prevent washing of soil into the drainage layer.