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A glimpse of the past: an article from The Prairie Garden--1953: Dish gardens. (2003 Feature Section--"Themes and Extremes").

Dish gardens or small plant arrangements seem to have become a very popular fad in recent years. Greenhousemen and florists have had tremendous demand for tiny plants suited to such culture. It is possible now to buy collections of small cactus and succulent plants that fit in such a miniature garden scene.

The containers used for these gardens are as varied as plants used in them. Low, flat containers adapt themselves well in the development of this kind of garden. They may be clay, porcelain or of metal ware. Containers may be square, round, oval, rectangular, or even irregular in outline.

This type of garden is much easier to handle if provision is made for good drainage. If drainage holes already exist or can be made in the bottom of the container, it offers the best solution to this problem. In addition, lining the bottom of the container with coarse sand, broken flower pot, or other similar material is suggested. The upper portion is filled with a regular potting soil mixture. If the garden consists mainly of cactus and succulent plants a mixture of equal parts of coarse sand and good garden soil is suggested. For other plant types, a mixture of three (3) parts garden loam, on (1) part manure or peat and one (1) part sand is advised.

It is well to have a theme or idea in mind when laying out the small dish garden. The garden in miniature may represent a desert garden, a woodland, a Japanese garden, a tropical garden or any other idea that comes to mind. With this goal to work for, one can proceed with securing plants and accessories in keeping with the theme. If no definite theme is worked out, the garden may look like a hodgepodge mess.

The use of tiny accessories help to carry out the theme you have in mind. The use of mirrors help to represent a lake, river or stream. Tiny bridges, houses and a hundred and one accessories help to carry out ideas. The plant materials used should be the dominant material used in the scene. An accessory, or even an unusual plant may be used as the center of interest or focal point in the garden. From an artistic standpoint this should not be placed directly in the center of the garden but over to one side, and the plant material added should be used in such a way to give proper balance to the scene.

The entire garden should show good scale. An oversized plant, or an accessory that looks too big for the garden will throw everything out of balance. The use of too many accessories or too many plants can make the whole effort look too heavy--use restraint in developing the garden and don't make it look crowded or overdone.

A rather important point is not to mix plants that belong to diversified plant types. A garden that contains both cacti and ferns doesn't look right, because it neither represents a cactus garden nor a woodlands garden.

Plants that can be used in dish gardens are legion in number. The only limitations are the use of plants that grow slowly and will thrive under conditions as represented in the home where they grow. There are dozens of species of tiny cactus and succulent plants that lend themselves well to such culture. Oprentia and Mamillovia cactus are useful; among the succulent are Echeverias, Alves, Crassulas, Kalanchoes and many others. Bromeliads also offer many possibilities.

For the woodland gardens, one can use many kinds and types in keeping with this type of scene. Tiny begonias, ferns, club mosses, philodendrons, lichens, African violets are only a few suggestions for plants for this type of garden.

The plants grown in rock gardens offer plenty of material for dish garden use. Tiny phlox, Drabas, Orsbas, Sempervivums, Antennarias, Sedums, Thymes are only a few of the many rock garden species that could be used.

There is no end to the possibilities in developing these dish gardens of miniature plants. The important thing is to think of an idea, gather suitable mixture plant material and accessories, and work them into the idea you have in mind using good design, principles and you should have no trouble in developing an attractive small scale garden that will please the hearts of many.

This article has been reprinted as it appeared in The 1953 Prairie Garden. Some of the latin names cannot be identified, perhaps due to errors in transcribing. In particular: Oprentia may be Opuntia, Mamillovia may be Mammilaria, Alves may be Aloe and Orsba is unknown.
COPYRIGHT 2003 This material is for informational use. Views are not those of the editorial committee. Reference to commercial products is made with no discrimination intended or endorsement by The Prairie Garden.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2003 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Yager, T.
Publication:Prairie Garden
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Jan 1, 2003
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