Garden Photo of the Day

Travel Adventures and Imagination Shape this Miniature Garden

By Kim Charles

Karla Roady uses her travels to Japan as inspiration for her unique miniature garden.

"I live in Southern Oregon (the best climate in the U.S., Zone 7-8.) A love of bonsai figurines and a fear of tending bonsai plants lead me to imagine and develop an oriental-themed miniature garden. When I found miniature plants I was on my way. A friend gave me two bonsai plants in their containers; they are in the garden and their roots have now grown through the containers. My husband and I built from Japanese kits, three temples (ones we had visited in Japan.) The garden includes a broken-down cart with a broken vase. Sitting on some of the shards is the sad little man whose cart and vase are ruined. There is a lake with fishermen. From the lake one passes by the first temple, then on to the walled garden with the women having a tea ceremony. Behind them is a mountain; not Mt. Fuji, more like Oregon’s Mt. Hood! I am now working on a Middle-Earth Woodland Garden."

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  1. Quiltingmamma 02/22/2017

    This is really clever. What a fun miniature garden focus and nicely done. I have some of these figurines. Didn't realize they were for bonsai. They are still some of my favourite childhood mementos.
    Does a 'middle earth' garden mean you have to go to New Zealand for inspiration? Awe, poor you ;-)

    1. KarlaRoady 02/22/2017

      No such luck. It is almost done - it's more conceptual - Hobbiton, Fangorn, Rivendell, and a nod to one of my favorite movies - Fairy Tale a True Story.

  2. deeinde 02/22/2017

    Very creative and fun! I have a miniature garden but my squirrels play with it constantly. I take it you don't have squirrels? I look forward to seeing your 'Middle-Earth' woodland garden!

    1. KarlaRoady 02/22/2017

      I do have squirrels - what mostly happens is a deer will take off through it. I hope the word doesn't spread to my squirrels! I have also had moles tunnel under it and then the garden sinks.

  3. pam_clemmons 02/22/2017

    It's so much fun to see how creative fellow gardeners can be! This is simply delightful to view and enjoy. Isn't it nice to be able to enjoy your own creations! Bravo!

  4. User avater
    meander_michaele 02/22/2017

    What a thoroughly delightful miniature world you have created, Karla. I love that it connects what must be your love of travel and your love for nurturing. There's something about small things that draws us in and makes us curious. I'm sure guests of all ages stop in enchantment when they come upon this and you enjoy hearing their spontaneous "oohs and ahhs" of discovery.

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    treasuresmom 02/22/2017

    Love your use of natural objects in your garden.

  6. NCYarden 02/22/2017

    Just plain awesome. What a great "little Japan" you've created. Some years ago, I got enthusiastic (OK, overzealous) with bonsai which of course led to a collection of pots and little figurines. And though I still maintain just a few bonsai (really all one needs), many of the plants ended up in the ground in the garden as well. I like what you have done with repurposing the accoutrement back into your own. I just may have to implement your creative genius and invade Christine's Fairy garden this season...haha. Your style and whim in this "little" garden is delightful and inspiring. It's an amazing little world. Love the trunk, by the way, on that Japanese maple twisting in the background. Thanks for sharing.

  7. LaurelEm 02/22/2017

    How Adorable. Love your imagination. Now I wonder if Bonsai would survive outside in Wisconsin?

    1. Chris_N 02/22/2017

      There are a number of dwarf evergreens that do well plant outside in Wisconsin. True bonsai are more work but can be done. Google Wisconsin bonsai winter and you will find a nice article from the Badger Bonsai Society.

  8. Chris_N 02/22/2017

    Well, Karla, that was a learning experience for me. I must admit that usually the idea of miniature gardens leave me cold. I think of little dish gardens put together at some party that then die a slow death in some unlit corner of a room or that are cared for but all those tiny plants grow up to full size overwhelming everything else. Ha! You taught me a lesson. I was hooked on the first photo and then amazed by the third photo where the scale of your garden became apparent. What an accomplishment. I am looking forward to Middle-Earth.

  9. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 02/22/2017

    This is charming, Karla. Nice selection of plants and fun sculputural and figurative additions. I really love the 'driftwood' taking center stage, too. I love the little Tori gate. Is it metal? Very cool.

    1. KarlaRoady 02/22/2017

      The Tori gate is wooden. It is now in my shop for repair and I'm painting it red, as I believe they most often are. I hope it looks acceptable when I'm done.

  10. Sunshine111 02/22/2017


  11. User avater
    LindaonWhidbey 02/22/2017

    Hi Karla, ever since I was a child and saw the miniature houses at the Art Institute in
    Chicago, I've been fascinated by small replicas. Like you, I love bonsai but am a bit afraid of the caring of them so your situation is the best. It's also perfect that your bed is elevated so that it can be appreciated. Thanks for sharing this creative garden.

  12. thevioletfern 02/22/2017

    This is exquisite! What a wonderful world you have created. If ever there was a place to "stop and rest" in the garden, this is it! Thank you for sharing your vision with us!

  13. sheila_schultz 02/22/2017

    Karla, you have opened my eyes to the beauty of an expansive miniature garden. Like Chris N, the miniature gardens I have seen is the past typically didn't do it for me, but yours is like seeing a story unfold close to the ground. It's amazing!!! Please send photos of your Middle Earth garden.

  14. greengenes 02/22/2017

    Dearest Karla... what a wonderful display of a miniature garden! I really got the sense of it when your one photo showed how the whole area is elevated! Great idea! I have seen other miniature gardens but this is by far the best! What a wonderful world you have created! I would really enjoy seeing the other one you are creating too! Thank you for expanding our visions today!

  15. GrannyCC 02/22/2017

    Very creative Carla thanks for sharing it with us. Nice to see it in the raised bed, which really highlights it.

  16. schatzi 02/22/2017

    Unique, creative, imaginative, beautiful - and obviously a labor of love. Love the stump Mt.Hood. Tell the wildlife to leave it alone! Great job.

  17. Meelianthus 02/23/2017

    Karla, what a unique and fascinating gardening hobby. You have done an incredible job of making it look so real. You have taken creativity to a wonderful high. Thank you for sharing your miniature garden and little characters.

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