Just as some adults spend hours building model trains or dollhouses, others enjoy creating miniature gardens, terrariums, or window boxes. The impulse is similar: in an insecure world, this one small thing is manageable.
“We live in uncertain times,” says Tom Fischer, senior acquisitions editor at Timber Press. “People want to find an activity where they feel like they have control over something. With tiny gardens, you’ve got control over this whole little world you’re making.”
In June, Timber is releasing The Gardening in Miniature Prop Shop by Janit Calvo, a follow-up to 2013’s Gardening in Miniature. In that book—which has sold 13,000 print copies, per NPD BookScan—Calvo explained how to construct pint-sized living tableaux, including where to source dwarf plants and scaled-down patio furniture, bridges, and more. Her new title digs deeper, instructing readers in how to build their own accessories for themed potted worlds—directions for an outer-space garden, for instance, explain how to craft a tiny rocket ship and alien.
Other books on miniature gardening have sold well in recent years, including those devoted to very niche pursuits. Fairy Gardening by Julie Bawden-Davis and Beverly Turner (Skyhorse, 2013), for instance, which showcases tiny domains meant to attract folkloric creatures, has sold 17,000 print copies per BookScan.
Terri Jadick, editor at Tuttle, says that tending to a tiny garden offers a satisfying kind of challenge: the cultivation of a light hand and the ability to slow down in order to focus on something so small. The publisher, whose catalogue has long highlighted books with Japanese roots, will release Miniature Moss Gardens by Megumi Oshima and Hideshi Kimura in May and Miniature Bonsai by Terutoshi Iwai in August.
The decluttering movement popularized by Marie Kondo, another Japanese author, dovetails nicely with the tiny garden trend, Jadick says. “People are downsizing or just trying to live with less stuff, to live more mindfully. But we never want to give up the green in our lives. We need that.”
Terrariums, a fixture of 1970s suburban living rooms, have been given a new life in the Instagram age. Urban plant shops across the country—including Succulence in San Francisco and Sprout Home in Brooklyn and Chicago—offer classes in creating and caring for domed gardens. Michelle Inciarrano and Katy Maslow, the owners of Brooklyn’s Twig Terrariums, are also the authors of Tiny World Terrariums (Abrams, 2012); it’s sold 11,000 print copies, per BookScan.
After reading a BuzzFeed article on the terrarium trend, Nicole Frail, an editor at Skyhorse, took to Twitter with a manuscript wish list and received numerous submissions. Abigail Gehring, editorial director of lifestyle titles at Skyhorse, says that Glass Gardens by Melanie Florence, which pubs in July and is aimed at beginners, stood out because of its photography and decorative appeal; she also liked its mix of projects, which include tiny jewelry terrariums that can be worn as necklaces.
My Tiny Indoor Garden by Lia Leendertz (Pavilion, Apr.) profiles 20 gardeners who share advice on how they keep up their small spaces, including Emma Sibley, whose East London studio is home to 150 bottle terrariums in progress, housed in repurposed pickle jars, science-lab flasks, and other discarded glass vessels.
Green Is the New Black
Several forthcoming titles showcase houseplants themselves as design pieces, made for sharing on social media. “Plants are very Instagram-able,” says Kajal Mistry, senior editor at Hardie Grant, which also owns Quadrille. “A plant is a beautiful object to capture.”
Sophie Lee, whose botanical design shop Geo-Fleur has 93,000 followers on Instagram, shows space-constrained city dwellers how to add green to their lives in Living with Plants (Hardie Grant, June). Using a mix of photography, illustration, and text, she describes how to make upcycled containers, plant stands, and wall hangings; demonstrates how a kokedama (hanging moss ball) or air plant can lend visual interest; and suggests the best plants for party decor.
House Jungle (Storey, Aug.) began as a self-published Kickstarter project from Annie Dornan-Smith, a stationery and housewares designer. With its small, 6.5 x 6.5–in. format, hand lettering, and illustrations in shades of green and pink, the book—which zeroes in on air plants, succulents, herbs, and other high-impact, low-maintenance plants—is itself a sort of design object.
Mariah Bear, associate publisher at Weldon Owen, likens the popularity of design-focused houseplant books to the adult coloring book trend: both pastimes offer simple ways for adults to express themselves creatively, without devoting hours to learning a whole new art form.
At Home with Plants by Ian Drummond and Kara O’Reilly (Weldon Owen, Sept.) teaches readers how to decorate with houseplants, dividing greenery into the bold, the edible, and other categories. Drummond, who has won medals at the prestigious Chelsea Flower Show, and O’Reilly, a lifestyle writer and editor, encourage indoor gardeners to think creatively about potential containers for their plants and where to place them around the home for maximum impact.
Rehab for Plant Killers
Even the most seemingly irredeemable of black thumbs can find guidance and encouragement in a plant care guide. How Not to Kill Your Houseplant by Veronica Peerless (DK, Aug.) aims squarely at people who’ve had no luck with greenery in the past—“the horticulturally challenged,” in the words of the subtitle—but who are eager to try again.
The guide includes advice on how best to care for 50 types of popular houseplants, such as donkey’s tail, “a forgiving plant,” and the snakeplant, which “has a reputation for being nearly indescructible.”
Houseplants by Lisa Eldred Steinkopf (Cool Springs, Oct.) includes more than 400 photos of, and care details for, some 150 types of plants. Steinkopf, who blogs as the Houseplant Guru and who has written for Real Simple, Michigan Gardener, HGTV’s gardening website, and other outlets, shares essential details, such as when to expect a particular plant to bloom, and how to spot the difference between an underwatered and an overwatered plant.
In The Little Book of Cacti and Other Succulents (Quadrille, Apr.), Emma Sibley debunks a myth many beginners believe about low-maintenance plants: that they can survive all sorts of neglect. Since that’s not necessarily true, she offers care instructions for 60 varieties, with graphic symbols denoting instructions on light, water, pruning, propagation, and more. With its tidy trim size (6.5 x 7 in.) and beauty shots of succulents set against monochrome backdrops, the book could convince even the plant-shy to take a chance on some greenery.
Dianna Dilworth, former editor at GalleyCat, is author of the upcoming book Mellodrama: The Mellotron Book (Bazillion Points).
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