by Terry Kramer
When 14-year-old Davis Priestley got bored with his idle summer afternoons, he decided to become the Gulliver of landscape architects and build a miniature garden with tiny trees, a pocket pond and a Lilliputian Buddha.
The inspiration came from a magazine article about bird baths.
"I saw a really simple (miniature garden), just a chair and a bird bath. That kind of inspired me. It gave me something to do, " he explained.
Davis designed his project on paper first, then started construction by building a one-by-two-foot wooden box, two inches deep, and filling it with potting soil. He cruised the nurseries with his mom and found miniature rock garden plants for landscape material.
A rock-lined pond made from a plant saucer became the focal point, and in the middle of it he perched a miniature ceramic Buddha on a small stone. Tiny bits of duck weed float serenely under Buddha's gaze. Hugging one side of the pond is a tiny fern plucked from the woods surrounding Davis' yard.
The landscape also features miniature ground covers of Rauolia and Corsican mint. A tiny erodium serves as a small border shrub, and barren areas are mulched with bits of miniature bark.
Choosing the plant material for his miniature garden posed a challenge for Davis, who was just learning about plants and their culture. His creative nature found solutions such as the bit of ground cover that stands tall as a tree next to the tiny wood arbor in the garden. He took a piece of Santolina chamaecyparissus (lavender cotton), a herb-type ground cover that grows up to two feet tall in normal landscape situations, and fashioned it into a handsome columnar mini-tree.
Although he designed the landscape on paper, Davis learned that installing the plants was not easy. "One thing is that when I was planning I didn't realize that once I started getting stuff in there, (the garden) got really small. I kept on thinking 'Oh, this is never going to turn out.'
"You start out with a vision, but you realize it will never look like that. But it ended up nice," he said.
The hardest part of the project, Davis said, was building the miniature garden furniture, including a chair and bench. He used balsa wood, "a little saw and some glue. I'm always building something with my dad. But this is the first project on my own," he said.
Pleased with the results Davis has decided to create more gardens with different themes: a Southwestern garden with cacti and succulents; an English cottage garden; and a formal garden with neatly trimmed plants.
Davis imagines the sound of trickling water adding tranquility to his tiny garden environment, perhaps even "a waterfall, and if (the garden) was of good size I could put fish in it."
Once these gardens are completed and established Davis hopes to sell a few to help fund his future educational expenses.
"The gardens are a great thing for anyone who wants a full-sized garden, but can't have one because it doesn't take up much space."
Terry Kramer is a Bayside free-lance writer and owner of Jacoby Creek Nursery.
The North Coast Journal Table of Contents