My name is Lori Herlin, and I live on a 4.75-acre lot on the side of a mountain in Asheville, North Carolina. I retired here from Houston seven years ago. I was an avid gardener in Houston for 30 years but had a lot to learn about a very different climate that actually has four seasons and how to garden on a very steep slope. It took awhile to find shoes with good enough traction that I was not sliding downhill most of the time. Our lot was mostly wild forest with a small amount of landscaping along the driveway when we purchased it.
I spent the first four years landscaping the hill above the driveway up to the road and downhill below the house. We put in trails that zigzagged down the side of the mountain through our lot. I have three major park areas that I landscaped that are out on the trails as well. The trails and parks are decorated with some of my concrete projects as well as purchased statues. I switched from bronze casting to concrete for my sculptures because the larger outdoor scale made bronze casting cost-prohibitive. I have a life-size baby black bear in concrete in one of the parks.
For the last three years I focused my energy on a new project along the driveway that I call my Miniature Bonsai Garden. It combines the hobbies I brought with me from Houston of gardening and sculpture with a new bonsai hobby I picked up in Asheville. My new garden is 100 feet long and contains bonsai trees in training, flowering ground covers, succulents, and other small plants, as well as mosaic patios, small brick retaining walls, tile planter boxes (all built in my studio over the winter), tile sidewalks, and a stream made of rocks and concrete.
The miniature garden has evolved from experience and problem solving over the last two years and is currently in its third growing season.
Here’s the “before” shot of the space that would become the miniature garden.
And here is the “after” shot. Look closely at the plantings all along the front; they are miniature landscapes, with the small shrub being trained as a bonsai.
The miniature garden even has a mini-sidewalk and a tree swing.
A tiny water feature runs through the mini-landscape. The shrubs are Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Filifera Aurea’ (Zones 4–8), or a similar cultivar, that have been pruned up to reveal their trunks and make them look like miniature trees.
In this detail from the miniature garden, I particularly love the tiny vine-covered arbor!
I love how the landscape works on two levels. In a wide view, the larger landscape works as a whole, and when you look closer, you can take in all the miniature details.
A little seating area for tiny garden visitors on the mosaic tile patio
Traditionally bonsai are grown in containers, not in the ground, but the techniques can be translated to a wide range of situations. Wire wrapped around the trunks allows each branch to be positioned exactly where you want it to create a treelike effect in the garden.
Have a garden you’d like to share?
Have photos to share? We’d love to see your garden, a particular collection of plants you love, or a wonderful garden you had the chance to visit!
To submit, send 5-10 photos to [email protected] along with some information about the plants in the pictures and where you took the photos. We’d love to hear where you are located, how long you’ve been gardening, successes you are proud of, failures you learned from, hopes for the future, favorite plants, or funny stories from your garden.
If you want to send photos in separate emails to the GPOD email box that is just fine.
You don’t have to be a professional garden photographer – check out our garden photography tips!
Do you receive the GPOD by email yet? Sign up here.
Get our latest tips, how-to articles, and instructional videos sent to your inbox.