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Prune Bush Thyme Into Living Miniature Trees for Fairy and Railroad Gardens

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Choosing a Thyme Variety to Prune Into a Scale Miniature or Bonsai Tree
An immature thyme plant in training to become a miniagture tree for a fairy or railway garden.

An immature plant of Thymus 'Silver Posie' trained as a miniature tree form for a fairy or railway garden.

Photo copyright 2010 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

You can prune most bushy varieties of herbal thyme easily into bonsai or living miniature trees for dolls houses, fairy gardens, garden railways and other scale miniature scenes. There is the added benefit that the leaves you prune can be used fresh or dried as an herb. As locally available varieties have widely different common names, the following list gives general characteristics, allowing the reader to choose the best locally available variety to try to prune into miniature trees.

Characteristics of Thymes Best Suited To Train Into Miniature Branching Trees:

  • Appropriate Sized Leaves - choose a thyme variety with leaves appropriate to the scale of tree you are trying to mimic. Thymes with narrow upright needle like leaves such as "French Thyme" are not as suitable for turning into standard tree shapes as are broader leaved thymes including common thyme, lemon thyme, golden thyme.
  • Suitable for Containers Some Thyme varieties do better in containers than others. Common thyme (thymus vulgaris) and many of its varieties, lemon thyme, silver thyme, orange balsam thyme, do well in containers or in dry inhospitable conditions.
  • Upright Growth - The most important aspect of turning a busy thyme plant into a standard miniature tree shape, is that the branches need to be self supporting, rather than droopy or weeping. Spreading varieties of Thyme will not develop a supportive trunk and branches that will make a sturdy miniature tree. If the branches on your chosen variety are weeping or 'floppy' you will not be able to turn it into a standard tree form for a miniature garden scene (unless you tie it to a support to grow a pseudo 'weeping' variety).

The photo above shows a small tree for a fairy garden, purchased in a 4 inch pot, and pruned to make a multi trunked tree with foliage clusters on top. As this variety of thyme continues to grow, it will be pruned (as a cooking herb), the main 'trunks' will be kept clear of leaves, and the top clusters will be pinched when pruned to thicken the growth. Eventually it will make an eight to ten inch tree if kept in the container it it growing in now, or grown in a small pot either indoors or out.

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