C.S. Clarke, Ph.D.
Table top gardens in containers have been around for a long time. But clever ones are rare. Even during the terrarium garden rage of the 1970's, truly exciting designs were few and far between.
But, in all their forms, indoor container gardens have always sold fairly well. I remember the advice given by a craftsperson in a forum, years ago. A succinct "rule of thumb" that I recognized immediately as true: "if it has to do with the garden or with birds, it will sell."
Everyone enjoys gardens. Few people can design or keep one up outdoors. Too much work. Yet in most homes and offices, you'll find at least one or two potted plants. Psychological studies have shown that simply observing nature (landscapes, trees, plants, parks, etc.) measurably reduces stress levels. Even observing paintings of landscapes, parks, lakes, seascapes measurably reduces stress.
Imagine what people feel when they can observe nature in an indoor garden or landscape. I remember the first time I saw a table top landscape. The gardener/craftsman had a wide variety of designs, but the first one I came upon was a long, flat container simply providing a plot of grass, a miniature shade tree (about 2 feet tall) and a miniature bench under the tree. The idea just blew me away. A living piece of a park that you could sit on a coffee table. Not a model. Real grass. Real tree. Wow.
If gardening is among your talents or your interests, the making of table tops and miniatures is ideal. A focus on local sales is easiest and fastest, but with careful packaging, you could sell online and ship anywhere. After all, there are many online flower shops and gift catalogs that feature living plants in containers of all sorts. And they do a brisk business.
Another great feature of this product is the possibility for providing custom designs and custom installations. The ability to expand your product line into a service is an opportunity for additional profits. And both the product creation and related services can be easily outsourced, leaving the design and prototyping to you. Less work. More money.
As with many projects, making the first one of a design is the most time consuming. But as you put it together you will get ideas on how to make each small garden, landscape or terrarium more efficiently and systematically. And, as most product sellers learn, you will find it best to test your product by making some as gifts in the beginning and graduating to production for selling as you get better at the work.
Unlike many of the crafts that turn later to manufactured products, this product doesn't lend itself to mass production. The designer usually has to depend upon local help because he/she needs to supervise the end product closely. Furthermore, you need a lot of gardening experience, as well as a love of gardening to tolerate the slow process of making the right plants work with the right containers. And making it all work indoors. You can certainly make tabletop and miniature gardens for the outdoors. But unless you are providing installation services, most of the money seems to be in making them for the indoors. Especially for offices and apartments.
Also, if you do distribute your product by mail, UPS or FedEx, you'll have to learn how to do speciality packaging. Living plants need very special care when you ship them.
Naturally, you're wondering where you would sell your creations. Ready? Craft shows. Swap meets. Nursery gift shops. Other gift shops. Etsy.com. Ebay. Amazon.com. They all sell them.
To read more about making tabletop gardens and miniature landscapes, check out the books in the pictures I've shown you throughout the article.
•Tabletop Gardens: 40 Stylish Plantscapes for Counters and Shelves, Desktops and Windowsills
•Miniature Garden Guidebook: For Beautiful Rock Gardens, Container Plantings, Bonsai, Garden Railways
•Container Gardening: 250 Design Ideas & Step-By-Step Techniques
•Terrarium Craft: Create 50 Magical, Miniature Worlds
To see some inspiring photos of table top gardens, miniature landscapes, terrariums and other container gardens for the indoors, try these links:
• Google Search for Miniature Gardens Images
• Miniature Garden Shop