My Miniature New Zealand Garden

My miniature New Zealand garden started with a sheep.

New Zealand glass sheep

Glass sheep, crafted in New Zealand

Wooly sheep are an iconic Kiwi symbol of course, but this glass sheep sporting a charming grin is a gift from our gracious New Zealand hosts.

Pauline and her daughters presented each of us with a bag of New Zealand goodness at the start of our visit earlier this year. In case you missed it you can catch up here and here. Among the treasures were Pauline’s hand-made cards, delicious, local chocolates, and the sheep that launched my miniature garden.

Part of the fun of pulling together a miniature garden is using items you already have. If you can pick something up from the garden floor, that’s even better. The challenge is finding small-scale plants and flowers. I wanted to keep this miniature garden water wise, so I used succulents and drought-tolerant herbs. Dried moss defines the grassy area, so it looks like grass but doesn’t need watering.

Miniature New Zealand garden plants

Small-scale, water wise plants

I’ve found from experience that shallow planters dry out quickly. I wanted to find a container that would allow for deeper roots, but one that would fit nicely on our back steps. I combed several nurseries and garden centers and in the end, I found what I needed in our back yard: our hose bowl. Serendipity!

Hose bowl with hose

Hose bowl with the old hose (and Mouse)

I put up with our ornery garden hose for several years, so when it finally broke, I happily replaced it, this time with a retractable one. They don’t get tangled or require taming like the typical garden hose, especially when cold. Further, they shrink into a small space. I store my new hose in a much smaller pot and I repurposed the hose bowl into the base for my miniature New Zealand garden.

Hose bowl with plugged hole

Hose bowl hole plugged with perfectly sized jar; lava rock for drainage

What separates a hose bowl from a regular pot is the hole for threading the hose. I easily solved that problem by blocking the hole with a perfectly sized jar, (more serendipity) then lined the bottom with a layer of lava rock. I filled the rest of the bowl with planting mix and then could get started on the garden.

You may remember this photo from Hobbiton the Movie Set.

Yellow Hobbit Hole, New Zealand

Hobbit Hole, Hobbiton the Movie Set

I used this image as a starting point for the garden. In addition to the glass sheep, I made a walkway using Pāua shells gathered along the beach. I bought a few more packaged shells in Wanaka. As serendipity would have it, I’m growing New Zealand flax in our back garden. I used that as well.

Here is my miniature garden homage to New Zealand.

(Click each gallery photo for details)

To create a grassy roof, I removed the bottom of two plant cell packs then placed them on the soil in the back. I left the sides of the container in place. The roots can grow down into the pot, but the containers will hold their shape. The glass sheep “grazes” along the roof.

Miniature kiwi garden

The Hobbit hole’s hilly roof

I used a small wooden stepping “stone” from one of my fairy gardens for the door. I glued a couple of embellishments from my scrapbooking supplies for the door handle and knocker.

Hobbit hole door

Hobbit hole door

Just like the movie set, the frame of the Hobbit hole is a facade. Pieces of a broken desk-top fountain create the foundation. “Lumber” across the top and sides are twigs dropped from a neighboring pine tree, pruned branches, and detritus from the garden floor. The lower half of the house is covered with dried New Zealand flax.

Broken fountain pieces use to frame Hobbit hole

Hobbit hole facade

Hobbit hole facade made from slate, flax, glass, wood, and recycled plant stakes

Hobbit hole window

Hobbit hole window (photo taken before the glue dried, now clear)

The Hobbit window “reflects” a piece of plastic from the bag of soil. The crossbars are yellow toothpicks cut to size with a small plastic clip in the center. Getting the plastic and the glass to stay put till the glue dried proved to be a slippery affair, but I finally got it to hold.

Hobbit hole window

Hobbit hole window

My friend Kelly sent me the small chair and the lantern you see hanging from the house. Aren’t they cute? Believe it or not I had a small, rusty watering can, once planted with a tiny succulent. The scale is off, but I love it there anyway.

Finally, a pair of spotted red and white fungus, similar to what we saw growing in Wanaka. I’ll say it again: serendipity!

More of the natural beauty of New Zealand

I can see the miniature garden from our bedroom and our living room. It’s another beautiful reminder of an extraordinary trip.

Miniature New Zealand garden and flax

Miniature Kiwi garden in the foreground. New Zealand flax growing at the corner of the house

64 thoughts on “My Miniature New Zealand Garden

  1. What a labor of love,Alys. I always think this is what we look look me from the larger universe. I love the way you scavenged things, as that is what is done in the pictured world–adaptive reuse!

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      • It’s an architectural preservation term, whereby old buildings are not knocked down, but upgraded and put to another purpose. It’s the opposite of a facadomy, which just uses the front of the building and puts a whole new thing behind it. 2000 Pennsylvania Avenue is the only adaptive reuse that I’ve ever seen that looks like a facadomy because there’s a big, honking building attached behind it.

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        • I looked it up after your first comment. I’m intrigued. You were the one who taught me the term facadomy when we were wandering around Georgetown. We have a handful of vintage theaters here that are now converted to shopping areas with an effort to preserve the external elements and even share the history of the building. I love architecture and history.

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  2. Your creativity blows me away, Alys! I adore everything about your beautiful miniature garden (including the addition of small gifts from far-flung friends). And so much serendipity, too! Thank you for this delightful little peek into your world. xx

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    • Well that’s a day-maker! Thank you, HeideBee for your good cheer and enthusiasm. There were so many things that fell into place with this mini garden: the shape of the broken arch and the greenish step, for instance, mesh as one. The height of the slate pieces perfectly masked the plants behind it. The window has now had three lives: an optometrists lens, a necklace and now a window.

      The term “small gifts” takes on new meaning when used here. xo

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  3. Oh my gosh Alys – that is the most adorable thing ever; what a fantastic homage!! How brilliant to turn the cell packs upside down: I love how the little wooly sheep is peering through the higher foliage! LOVE it 🙂

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    • Thank you, Sara! Once I was “in the zone” it was fun scavenging around the house for that special something. I’m particularly delighted with the door-knocker. That’s a leftover brad from a card-making class I took a few years ago. It’s the perfect size and shape. xo

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    • Thank you, Karen! Hobbits seem to have a universal appeal, at least to those who’ve read the books or watched the movies. It was fun trying to incorporate some of the details from the photo. I only burned my fingers once from the hot glue gun. That might be a personal best. 😉

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  4. What a marvelous job you have done of creating this magical little garden. I studied each individual photo carefully. All that McGyvering earns you an honorary status as a Kiwi, given that we are famous for creating things from nothing (and our DIY attitude). Your problem solving ability has certainly carried the day here and the end result is just gorgeous!! When you said ‘hose bowl’ I thought you meant an ordinary garden pot that you kept the hose in and I thought what a clever Idea……. then I saw it really is a thing – a ‘hose bowl’ with a hole in the bowl for the hose to get to the tap. Oh my you Americans, you have everything! 😀 And now it is a little piece of New Zealand complete with that cute glass sheep on the roof! Danella found that sheep – wasn’t that clever of her! We’ll be keeping our eyes out for little bits that might be added to your own special Hobbiton. Or you could come back and collect them yourself. xoxo

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    • Oh! I love being an honorary Kiwi, Pauline.Thank you for this terrific honor. I do enjoy McGyvering things, and I know you do as well. I’m most impressed with all the ways you’ve made your flat into the delight that it is. You’ve done the same across town with your lovely daughter. I love the expression on the face of the sheep. I forgot to include a photo of Tessa as she watched me create. She thought it must be something to catch or eat, but once satisfied, she just sat and looked at it. Danella is clever and sweet…you all are. I would most definitely like to come back to gather small additions to the garden. Thank you, too, for keeping your eye out for a tiny addition that might strike your fancy. Perhaps you can carry it with you to Hawaii. xo

                                             

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  5. That’s so clever Alys. I didn’t realise just how miniature the NZ garden is until I reached the end of the post. It must have taken real skill to put that together!

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    • Thank you, Jane! It’s amazing how things can fall into place. The arch shape on the old slate fountain, mixed with the perfect size of shape for the door launched me into the creation. I set up my hot glue gun on the kitchen counter, spread out some wax baking paper and things just flowed. I kept going out into the garden to find things like twigs and bark and finally the flax. It’s fun once you get going.

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  6. Your miniature gardens have always fascinated me, and this one takes the cake! It is adorable, and has many layers of meaning for you. I love the way it started with a sheep ~ what a special present from Pauline. If you don’t have hobbits in California to come and live there, then I am sure the fairies that live in your garden will move in in a twinkle!
    (BTW, I so agree with your comments about hoses. I bought a retractable one a couple of months ago and I love it. It is so easy.)

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    • Thank you for your good cheer, Anne. I’m so glad you like it. Part of the magic of these little gardens is imagining a fairy or a hobbit or even a gnome just around the corner. When I look down into this garden I feel transported, as perhaps all of Tolkien’s fans have felt over the years reading his books. I wonder what he would think of a Hobbiton Movie Set in New Zealand, or a miniature garden in California? It’s fun to imagine.

      As for the retractable hoses, aren’t they amazing? I no longer dread the times I have to haul out the hose.

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    • Thank you, Eliza! I’m glad you had fun here. That sheep is adorable. I’m amazed when an artist can use what amounts to a couple of dots and a curve and make it look like an expressive smile. We had such an amazing time in New Zealand.

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  7. You are the magician of Hobbit town. I loved all the comments about your MacGivering abilities. You have vision when it comes to miniature gardens. I love how everything just came together for you. It is just too cute. Finding plants for them is always the hard part. They outgrow the pot so quickly. I need a little of your ingenuity.

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    • Thank you, Marlene! I’ve been having a lot of fun as you can tell. This flowering thyme is the perfect plant for a mini garden. I bought a six pack with each “plug” about 1 x 1 each. They trail nicely over the edges of the succulents and the structures and flower for awhile. The flowers are tiny. I wonder if you can grow it in your zone? It likes full sun (it’s getting filtered sun), but so far, so good. They do outgrow the pots quickly. I replanted last year’s fairy garden/peace garden with slower-growing succulents because the pots are shallow.

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      • Hmmm. I have flowering thyme in my front yard. The deep purple that has taken over much of the yard and the bumbles love it. I do love the glass lamb. I’ve been potting outside for a bit and today I will be doing a bit more as we have a bit of cool cloud cover. I think I might come up with something but nothing quite so creative. Ok, back to work I go. 🙂 Have a wonderfilled Memorial weekend. Hugs.

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        • Maybe you can dig out a plug or two for your miniature/fairy garden. I wonder if it would survive? I bought mine in a cell pack so it was easy to plant and arrange and super affordable. I’m glad you’re enjoying some cool cloud cover. We’ve been below seasonal norms for two weeks now. I like it! Enjoy your weekend. Any special plans?

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          • I’ve already pulled some of the flowering thyme from the front for the fairy garden. Have to do it before the bees wake up. They are absolutely in heaven with this stuff once it blooms. We shall see. This weekend will be quite the same as the others. Daughter coming today and then I will take the next 2 cool days to do a bit more work outside. Have a lovely Memorial Weekend yourself. Hugs, M

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            • Hello Marlene, How is your garden coming along? I’m glad you were able to set aside a few plugs for your fairy garden. I hope they work out for you. I like the small flower size. It’s the perfect combination of a gentle scent and a small flower with nice foliage.

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              • I’ve been taking photos but can’t seem to get the brain to put words together nicely. I’d bet I have over a hundred bees on those little purple flowers. Need to be out watering now while there is cloud cover. Have a happy, gentle week. Hugs, M

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  8. OMG! This is darling! Love the vintage door stop….I’m in for the night now, but I’ll go down to the shed tomorrow and take a photo of my favorite door stop. It’s an antique …not mini. FUN post!

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    • Thanks, Michele. I look forward to seeing your pic. I spotted this last October at a shop and couldn’t believe it was only five bucks. I knew I would put it to use in a future fairy garden. I never dreamed it would be the perfect gate for my mini New Zealand garden. I wasn’t sure it was a door stop until I researched it on the web. I saw one listed for $44 in “perfect condition”. I laughed, because as far as I’m concerned, the rust and dirt on mine mean it’s in perfect condition for the garden.

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  9. Gorgeous. It deserves its own name (and perhaps a sign?): Hobbiton-on-the-Doorstep, perhaps, or Hobbiton Parvus, like those English towns called Something Parvus, meaning ‘Small’…

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  10. I adore your miniature garden. And I especially adore the glass sheep. I think the miniature garden represents New Zealand very well because on a world scale NZ is actually very small. In fact so small that it is often left off world maps. There’s an hilarious meme World Maps Without New Zealand. http://worldmapswithout.nz. Even our Prime Minister go in on the joke. I will put that link, if I can find it, in the next comment.

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  11. Wow Wow! Every little Kiwi bit of your mini garden is so clever! Adorable and what a perfect containter too! I love that garden gate and the house is wonderful. It’s fun to have your little sheep on the roof! I’ve bought a couple of little plants for a garden and still looking for the right container. Mind has to have a lid because if it’s outside, it’ll get rained on, inside the kitties will mess with it. That’s why I put it on the front porch last year because it would be covered there, but I’m too scared to leave it out there now. You’re always inspiring! xo K

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    • I don’t know if you remember, but we were together when I found that garden gate. It was before we all gathered in New Zealand. I didn’t know it was a door stop until I looked it up based on the stamping on the back. Someone called it vintage, but it’s dated 1990! Now *that* makes me feel old. I remember when someone took your fairy garden treasures off of your front deck. What a sad day. This little garden is in our back yard under the eaves. I *wish* we got summer rain, but we typically go months and months without a drop. Too bad they didn’t make miniature umbrellas (like the ones you put over a garden table). Wouldn’t that be cute? Maybe you could find a toy umbrella. Oh the possibilities do sound like fun. Thank you for all your good cheer. xo

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  12. You must’ve had so much fun, doing this! I can just see you, buzzing around, finding details and giggling when you came up with a new idea! It’s a much better way to remember a great trip than a boring old scrapbook!

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    • (((Sheryl))) Thank you so much for sharing this post. You made my day! I’m glad you enjoyed it. It’s lovely of you to be sharing other blog posts as well. I hope your summer is going well. xo

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    • Thank you, Cynthia. That’s lovely of you to say. I had such a good time designing and “building” this little garden. It’s still growing strong and looking more naturalized too which is fun. I’m glad you popped over.

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  13. Hi Alys! I somehow missed this post first time round, so I am glad Sheryl reblogged it! The garden is adorable. You are so clever. A lovely reminder of your visit. I am having a bit of a break from blogging – we have moved to our country house and have lots to do, and it is HOT! Hope you are keeping cool in your heatwave. xx

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    • Hello Cathy! I’m so glad you caught this post the second time around. It was good of Sheryl to share it. Thank you for your kind words.

      How exciting to be spending time in your new country house. It sounds like a dream (except for the HOT part). Ugh. I hope you’ll blog about it when you return for the cooler months. Enjoy! xo

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