It was a Twitter about terrariums that started it all.

An avatar on Twitter that caught my eye, of a clay-made doll-of-a-girl with curly, purple hair and a yellow dress photographed at an angle. Very fun. It made me click for more.

A new connection north of the border was instantly made, as I was checking her Web site out, while she was checking mine.

“I love your work!”

“Me, too! - Er, I mean, I love your work, too!”

Thyrza Segal lives in Vancouver, B.C. and is an avid terrarium artist. Alright, she is a gardener, but her work is that of an artist, and, hey, why can’t there be terrarium artists anyway?

When I first saw her terrariums it was love at first sight. There were magical glass scenes full of plants and moss - and these wonderfully strange creatures popping out of the foliage.

“Organic dioramas from thrift store glassware and ceramics.” What a perfect blend of “green,” too! Reusing containers AND making them into terrariums. Succulent planters, coffee pot terrariums – what is there not to like?

Photo credit: 
Photos courtesy Thyrza Segal

Try these whimsical terrariums ideas to add a smile to your day - everyday. CLICK IMAGE TO VIEW MORE.

With this wacky weather we've been having, there is no telling what kind of weather we'll get this winter. The upside is that we can react a lot faster because our gardens are miniature.

Here are some tips for the colder areas – or if the weather dips like it did here in Seattle last winter - and this will work for your other containers, too, not just for miniature gardens.

When a plant is in a container, subtract up to 15 degrees off the hardiness of that plant. A potted plant is a contained micro-environment, and the roots only have the walls of the pot to protect them.

It’s this difference that we forget about, and lose our marginally hardy plants to the winter weather.

Here’s more:

~> Keep an eye on the weather reports and stockpile what you need ahead of time so you can react quickly, without hassle.

~> Plant in the biggest pot you can. Big pots don't freeze as fast and the extra soil insulates the roots. This may be late news, but keep it in mind for future reference.

~> Plant the whole pot right in the ground for the winter, with the foliage above the earth of course, and let Mother Earth insulate the pot.

Photo credit: 
Janit Calvo

A few simple steps in preparing for winter can save your containers during an unexpected freeze.

Carol Ann Isaac may be a new gardener, but look at her go!

A member of the Urban Crop Circle, a Sustainable Ballard project, she participated in a group seed purchase that included tromboncino squash (they generally grow rather straight with a bulbous end, hence the trombone).

If you’ve never tried this type of squash, it’s a nice surprise. Ever get tired of mushy zucchini in a stir-fry? This guy holds his own and remains firm.

Flavor? Yummy. Plus, the seeds are located in a small pocket in the round end, leaving the rest for good eating.

Now, Carol’s squash is a little orange, and at first we suspected cross-pollination. But a little research has shown that they are a relative of the butternut and tend to the orangy color as they get larger.

She recently took a specimen to Nicklesville, the traveling camp for homeless folks, with a smaller version that was only about three feet long. Residents took turns posing for phone-camera shots with that one.

I’d say Carol’s neighbors better look out over the next couple of weeks; she plans to harvest this big boy very soon.

Photo credit: 
Rhonda Brown

Carol Ann Isaac and her first tromboncino squash.

It was my first “layout.”

I was invited to a meeting of the Puget Sound Garden Railway Society several years ago, and asked to bring some of my plants and accessories to show them what I did. It was a bright and sunny day when I ventured down, southeast of the Seattle city limits, to see what my new friend was on about.

“Watch out, step over the track, there!” was one of the first things I was told.

The voice belonged to the owner, who had set up a railroad in his backyard – and his backyard wasn’t a small one. I looked down, then up, and saw a lot of track going every which way.

A train meandered by at my feet.

A “layout” is the insider’s term for any model railroad.

The train track was on a shelf, built right onto the fence, and went all the way around the yard. Further down, on the far side of the grass, the track moved toward the center of the backyard, through the vegetable garden, around another bed, and then looped around the pond.

morning train  flower 021.jpg
Photo credit: 
Al Ward

Garden Railroading is miniature gardening with a different theme running through it - literately! This is from Al Ward in Florida.

One of the joys of miniature gardening is that you really don’t have to know a lot to start. And, this can work the other way around, it is a great way to begin learning about gardening.

Baby steps, as they say.

Here is a brief primer on the difference between indoor and outdoor plants. This is a popular question that every beginner eventually asks.

Indoor plants are, for the most part, tropical plants that want to stay 60 degree F or above all year round.

In general, if you bring an outdoor plant inside, it will think it is the summer growing season all the time, and grow itself to death. The dry air from our forced, indoor heating, plus the 16 odd hours of supposed “daylight” from the indoors, will put unwanted stress on the outdoor plant that would normally prefer a cool, humid, winter-like environment.

When a plant doesn’t get the rest it needs (like going dormant in winter) it will get stressed out - just like us. When the plant’s defense system is compromised and weakened, it leaves the plant open to pest and diseases.

Photo credit: 
Janit Calvo

Your mini garden can be brought in for a centerpiece for the holidays - if you stage it right. Pot is 18 inches wide.

One inch to 6 inches per year? Huh? Why can’t they decide?

We often see this kind of information on a plant tag at the nursery, or in plant listings online, the growth rate that differs as much as one foot sometimes.

Why don’t we know how big it grows? What’s up with that?

This kind of growth rate information is common on plants that are shipped by the larger nurseries throughout states and Canada. Instead of creating a dozen different tags for each climate zone the plant can be grown in, they group the rates together on the one tag to save time and money.

I found this out when I started mailing plants, years ago through Ebay. A woman from the East Coast engaged me after purchasing some plants and was asking about the growth rates, as she wanted only true miniatures for her collection. I sent her some wee conifers and signed off for the season.

I got back in touch with her in the fall, only to learn that the wee conifers grew too fast that summer.

“But, they were slow-growing dwarfs, about 1.5 inches per year?” I queried.

“In Seattle they are. In North Carolina, they aren’t!” She said.

Photo credit: 
Janit Calvo

The Jean's Dilly Dwarf Alberta Spruce, majestic in a miniature garden, comes in a 4 inch pot.

I often feel like a mad scientist. Trying out insanely silly things that just might work together.

In art college, my thesis project was an interactive, computer controlled kinetic painting. I applied electronics and motors to painted panels. Designed a software program to turn the motors in either direction. All activated by a digital scale disguised as a platform to turn it on for random amounts of time. The idea was to give each viewer a completely different, and individual, experience of the painting.

I know, whacky. The painting department didn’t like the electronics, and the electronic department didn’t like the painting aspect. I was truly onto something.

But, I guess that was part of the reason that I got into the business of miniature gardening in the first place. It was because there wasn’t a book in the library (yes, it’s been that long ago) on “How to Start a Miniature Garden Business."

Heck, there weren’t even any Web sites that referenced anything remotely like it. When I Googled “miniature garden,” all I would get would be an artificial garden or two attached to dollhouses. Nothing living, no leaf, soil or plant to be found.

Photo credit: 
Janit Calvo

Experimenting with Miniature Moss Terrariums. It takes about two hours to rejuvenate the moss from a completely dried state.

The Northwest is home to many creative talents of all types, whether you’re baking bread or blowing glass, but there is still a difference in being artistic and being a true artist.

I’ve had the pleasure in recent years to get to know one of the true ones, a customer turned friend, Patty Steele-Smith.

Patty’s work encompasses many different forms: two and three dimensional sculpture, ceramics, art cards, installation gardens, and, you must have seen this one coming, miniature gardens.

Patty is an award-winning gardener for her life-sized gardens. She has won the Edmonds in Bloom award since 2002, The Golden Scoop Award from the Pacific Northwest Gardens in 2006, and the Edmonds in Bloom Garden Tour in 2007.

You can see her work on her website and this weekend up in Edmonds, too - but first, let me tell you a bit more about who she is and how we met.

A couple of years ago, Patty called me up one day asking about my mini garden classes. I didn’t have any that were scheduled, and she pressed about a one-on-one class. Sure! Why not? I never taught a solo class and she sounded like a keen learner, so we booked a day to meet.

Photo credit: 
Patty Steele-Smith

You can see fellow miniature gardener, Patty Steele-Smith, and her gardens, at Edmond's Studio Art Tour this weekend.

The 15th Annual West Seattle Garden Tour held this past July 19 raised money for five area organizations. An awards ceremony was held Tuesday, Sept. 16, at ArtsWest where nearly $25,000 was distributed to the following beneficiaries:

Junction Park Plaza

Seattle Youth Garden Woks

Transitional Resources



Arts west garden tour photo.jpg
Photo credit: 
Steve Shay

Lee Kramer (from left to right), WS Garden Tour president, Janice Dilworth, director Seattle Youth Garden Works, Alan Harrison, executive director ArtsWest, and Cass Turnbull, president PlantAmnesty, chat at the 15th Annual Garden Awards function at ArtsWest where nearly $25,000 was raised for five area organizations.

It is a particularly dangerous time of year for me. It’s the time of year that I am tempted the most by all the possibilities around me.

We are no longer strapped down by the heat and drought. We no longer have to pull the hoses around and curse to ourselves that we should have rigged up a self-watering system. We can plant, plan and arrange and then plant some more – at our leisure.

It’s the great Northwest, and this is our time for gardening!

Well, gardening in the Northwest is really a year-round hobby here actually – that just sounded good.

But, really. We can go through our gardens and see what worked, see what we’re tired with, what took way too much pampering - and try new things, too.

By planting your trees, shrubs and perennials right now, the winter rains and cool weather will help them adjust perfectly to their surroundings before next spring. When the weather warms up next year, the plant will already be “home” and ready to grow.

And, because the plant will be somewhat established in the landscape and it will be a lot easier to maintain, and won’t need as much watering, too (with the exception of the big trees, of course).

Photo credit: 
Janit Calvo

Enjoying the last days of the warm weather - and taking advantage of it, too. The canoe is about five inches long.

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