The miniature garden photograph that started it all in 2000. This scene is 10 1/2" wide and fooled one of the top horticulturalists at the nursery I was working at. When she thought it was a full-sized garden, I knew I had something.
One of the first prototypes for the greeting card line.
The more I got to know how a miniature garden grew together, the more I understood that a few basic planting rules combined with a few valuable miniaturist's rules, would keep from having to rebuild the garden each season.
Oh Joy! Oh Bliss!
At the Fremont Sunday Market in the freezing December temperatures
testing our ideas - and our resilience!
Seattle, Portland, Chicago, Wenatchee, Mulkiteo, Everett, Edmonds, Fremont, Kirkland, Woodinville, Lake Forest Park, Tacoma, Bellevue, Beaux Arts, West Seattle, Leischi, Spokane - the tour list is endless. Needless to say, we burned ourselves out on the show circuit. All our efforts are now online only.
Small and large victories, like our second Best of Show award at the Seattle Miniature Show above, kept me motivated and focused. In fact, anytime I felt like hanging it up and getting a "real job," I got a phone call, email or card from a customer thanking me for introducing them to such an enjoyable hobby.
I've set up in people's kitchens, living rooms, dining rooms, back decks, back yards, museums, office buildings, empty storefronts, and of course, numerous garden and miniature shows... my next business idea will have something to do with feather boas - or something equally lightweight!
Happy Miniature Gardening!
Our Miniature Garden Story
Life Before Seattle
Since graduating high school in the mid-eighties, I tried a number of different jobs, including the family hobby and collectible business. I knew I was artistic and creative, but I was born into a family that stressed settling down and getting a “real job.” So, I tried to get into certain industries from the bottom up – from layout artist to being a managing bartender or assistant editor for our family business, I endlessly tried to find out where I fit in.
At the age of 32, I went back to the Ontario College of Art and Design, the same art college that rejected me out of high school, and enrolled in a four-year program. My end thesis was two-parts: the artistic part was a computerized kinetic painting, blending movement with painting to make a personalized experience. And the second part was organizing the year-end art shows for the department. Yes, I was a nut, but at least I was an ambitious one. I graduated with an honors diploma in 1996.
Travel was a big part of this exploration. I toured northern Europe, travelled across Canada and stayed in Vancouver, B.C. for way too long, took numerous trips to the US, dipped into Mexico from time to time and found myself going to central America alone as well. I soon found out why I would do such a silly thing like travelling alone in Costa Rica, I found my husband Steve, a native Seattle-ite, who remains my best souvenir from my travels.
“It was a combination of desires. I wanted to own a successful business - but the purpose of the business needed to hold my attention, it had to be connected with nature and it must be creative.”
I moved to Seattle to be with my fiancé Steve in 1998. Our first flat was a cute walk-out basement apartment with a large concrete patio area; you could see Lake Union when the leaves dropped from the trees in winter. The Evergreen State was getting under my skin and I eventually fell in love with the flora of the Pacific Northwest. In the year 2000, Steve and I were married in our wee garden.
After trying several odd jobs getting to know the city, I decided that I wanted to learn more about gardening in the PNW and landed a job at Swanson’s Nursery, a local high-end garden center in north Seattle. (I was at the nursery for final interview when the 2001 Nisqually earthquake shook Seattle, ironically enough.) At the garden center, we were allowed to take home dying or broken plants that were not up to standard for the customers. It was then I earned the title “two green thumbs” as neighbors and friends watched us nurture and coddle the poor plants to health to create a spectacular garden.
Steve and I found that we loved to be in the garden and eventually accumulated over 300 planted containers of perennials, vegetables and small trees. We puttered and played with plants endlessly but found that when July and August arrived, all there was left to do was to water and dead-headthe spent flowers. There was nothing to play with until the fall when the plants needed us again.
"My only mistake was not dreaming big enough."
- Doug Green
All the while we were toying with different business ideas, (pun intended,) and Steve and I were developing a greeting card line from 1/6 scale miniatures. We had props, designs and mini-stages for most rooms in the “house” that covered all kinds of occasions and holidays. When spring fully arrived at the garden center there was a small selection of miniature and dwarf conifers from Oregon that took hold of my imagination and they wouldn’t let go. I realized that if I paired these with small-leafed groundcovers I could make a miniature garden backdrop for a garden party invitation for the greeting card line. The idea was born.
I went home that weekend, nailed a planter box together and made my first miniature garden.
I took the end photo of the miniature garden back into the nursery and showed it to one of the top women, or “walking-plant-encyclopedias,” that worked in the information booth. She passed the photo back to me quickly and said, “That’s nice, Janit.” I was miffed. For about 2 seconds. I realized she didn’t know the scene was only 10 ½” wide! The miniature garden idea started to evolve.
After working one full year in the perennial department at the garden center, the circle of the seasons arrived I saw the end of this path for me, it was called “routine.” I stayed another year and a half in the garden accessory department in the hopes that it would be more interesting but it wasn’t. I had to move on to something more challenging and more engaging.
“I’ve had people break into tears and hug me, thanking me for introducing them to miniature gardening.”
I took on a variety of odd jobs, house painting, gardening, minor construction work, staging houses for sale, graphics design, logo/brand creation, custom upholstery for sailboats, and taking over the maintenance of a local pub-garden – some I got paid for, others I didn’t – but I found I was working consistently for solo business owners. It was then that I realized if “they” could own and run a business, I certainly could, and I got up enough nerve (or was it frustration?) to start my own business.
Two Green Thumbs
Two Green Thumbs was initially created to be a venue to sell our ideas - and miniature gardening was only supposed to be a part of my product line. Hand painted furniture smalls, vintage finds, customized pottery, plant stands, eclectic container plantings, the greeting card line, and stepping stones were part of my initial inventory. When I set up at the touristy Fremont Sunday street market to test it out the ideas, the people really focused on the miniature gardens so I retooled my plans and added “Miniature Garden Center” to my business name.
“I could never have started this business elsewhere. The access to the local growers, garden centers and nurseries in this area is a tremendous resource.”
After a couple of years selling completed miniature gardens and garden art and still working odd-jobs whenever I could, something changed in the economic climate and I found people asking and wanting to make their own miniature garden. So, I backed up and started selling both – the gardens and the plants, parts and pieces to make them. Realizing that I could ship the smaller pieces, TwoGreenThumbs.com was started in 2004.
I first sold through eBay, then as I accumulated more product, I was able to create a stand-alone online store. Eventually I was able to do it full time.
Over the years of nurturing the business and slowly spreading my reach through local street markets, garden and miniature shows, speaking and demonstrating at local garden clubs and spreading word online through social media, the miniature garden bug gradually took hold of the nation’s imagination. Steve came on board full-time in 2011 and we haven’t looked back since. While he manages the online store and customer service, I take care of everything on the computer, the social media, writing and researching everything miniature garden.
“At my very first garden club talk at the Dirty
Girls Garden Club of Seattle in 2006, one woman
asked with an air of disbelief,
‘Are you really making a business out of this?’ ”
A New Way to Garden
Today, Two Green Thumbs Miniature Garden Center entertains people from all over the world with this website, the online store, the popular Mini Garden Guru Blog and our monthly newsletter, The Mini Garden Gazette.
In business since 2001, we remain the trailblazers of this hobby by being the first to bring this idea to market and make it accessible to anyone and everyone. Miniature gardening is not new, people have been creating miniature and fairy gardens for decades, but its exposure and accessibility to the marketplace is. And now everyone can enjoy a miniature garden wherever and whenever they want to.
"Miniature gardening can be just as challenging to the experienced gardener too. The idea has incredibly long legs, and is much more adaptable than any other kind of gardening."