a fairy garden
(Image credit: carlofranco / Getty Images)

Small gardens are an excellent way to bring the outdoors inside. Miniature plants are more than just dwarf varieties or bonsai specimens. Miniatures may also be carefully pruned perennials or even young conifers. The goal is to create a landscape that has been shrunken down and often includes little touches such as lamp posts, benches, animal figures and even topographical features like ponds. The only limitation when designing miniature gardens is your imagination. Your choice of plants is one of the most critical part of planning a fairy garden. The selections should not only thrive in such confined conditions but reflect the magical nature of the scene. Many gardeners add mosses to enhance the feeling of being in a secretive, yet whimsical, forest where every corner could contain an elf or other enchanting creature. Here is a list of our top 10 plants for the miniature fairy garden. Each has different attributes and can help create a breathtaking display that will captivate and charm the landscape. 1. HerbsCreeping thyme, woolly thyme, dwarf rosemary and chives. Not only do these stay small and convey a sense of whimsy, but they add aromatic appeal to the garden. 2. SucculentsSedum, hens and chicks and other Sempervivum species are a classic example of little plants with big appeal. There are many types to choose from with various forms and colors. 3. Dwarf conifersBonsai plantings and other dwarf conifers like alpine white spruce, Canadian hemlock, and juniper can bring in a sense of permanency and woody charm to the fairy garden. Keep in mind that these may require vigilance in pruning. 4. Ferns – There are too many small forms to list. Ferns add a woodland feel to the garden and enchanting, yet durable, foliage. 5. Edibles – Create a magical garden from which you can dine! Cut and come again greens of all sorts, strawberries, cherry tomatoes, violas, even baby carrots with their feathery leaves enhance an outdoor fairy garden. 6. Topiary boxwood – This is a must have. Boxwoods can be trimmed and shaped easily into a host of wonderful topiary forms. Their ease of care and dense, lovely foliage are perfect for the mini garden. 7. Mushrooms – You can almost see wee fairies playing hide and seek behind these functional fungi. Mushrooms are a natural for these little landscapes. 8. Flowering plants – Choose small-flowering types like primrose, Epimedium and cyclamen. 9. Ground covers – Plants like miniature ivy and ajuga provide the miniature garden with great places to hide whimsical characters. 10. Indoor specimens – Just for fun, check out the indoor garden center for adorable little plants. Cactus can be part of the plan if you want a desert scenario. Dwarf hosta, dwarf grasses, miniature roses, and young asparagus ferns all add texture and to the garden with easy care and adaptability. Once you have chosen your plants, the real fun begins. Add rocky touches, wooden benches and outbuildings, pebbled paths and furnishings. There are no firm rules on the final vision. Close your eyes and dream of the world you want and take it from there. The plants are just the anchor and provide the whimsical feel you need to start, but the added decor will really give it magical appeal.

Bonnie Grant