If you’ve noticed some curious activity in your garden lately, don’t blame it on the squirrels.
It’s just the fairies, busy fanning one of the hottest trends in gardening. From California to Colorado to the Carolinas, fairy gardening is catching on with people who like to combine light gardening and a little fantasy.
Like their namesake, fairy gardens are small. Think of them as the marriage of a dish garden with a dollhouse.
These miniature gardens can be created for indoors or outdoors. The key ingredients are usually a shallow container filled with potting soil, one or more small green plants, moss to cover the surface around the plants, one or more tiny fairy figures or other similar-sized accessories, something shiny like a couple of marbles and some pebbles, acorns, twigs or other natural items found in the woods to complete the scene.
Commercial accessories, available at most garden centers, can easily run the cost of a fairy garden to $75 and up, but are less necessary than finding fun items that mean something to you.
Fairy lore dates back to Greek and Roman times, enjoying spikes in popularity thanks to writers like Shakespeare (in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”) and J.M. Barrie (“Peter Pan”), who wrote in a later novel, “When the first baby laughed for the first time, his laughter broke into a million pieces and they all went skipping about. That was the beginning of fairies.”
Fairy gardening is beginning to catch on in Raleigh-area local garden circles.
Atlantic Avenue Orchid & Garden has scheduled fairy gardening workshops in April and May. “It’s really neat and different because fairy gardens are so versatile,” said Emily Woodward, marketing coordinator. “We’ve found that adults love creating them as much as their kids and grandkids, and it’s a great activity to do together.”
Lochmere Garden Club recently had its own private workshop at Fairview Greenhouse & Garden Center on the topic. Club founder and president Sharon Short requested the session after noticing the influx of miniature retail garden accessories on store shelves.
“Fairy gardens just bring out the little girl in me and remind me of my dollhouses,” Short said. “I love switching out the planters on my deck, and with the idea of fairy gardens you can add things and change things all the time to keep them fresh.”
Plants, twigs, pebbles
Fairies are considered important because they bring good luck and a sense of wellbeing.
Fairy gardening was popular in Victorian England, when women would set aside an in-ground corner of their gardens for the fairies, and they passed the tradition to their daughters and granddaughters.
Retail response to tiny, fairy-scaled accoutrements like cottages, furniture, birdbaths, wheelbarrows, lanterns, bridges, windmills, gazebos and even fairy lights has been expanding in North Carolina over the last couple of years, according to several garden center managers, including Brittany Leggett of Garden Supply Co. of Cary.
Perfect for children
“These little mini-gardens are great for patios, or they can bring a magical, garden atmosphere indoors,” Leggett said. “It’s like a little playhouse with plants. You’d be surprised what people come up with. And it’s a great hands-on activity for children because it’s on a scale they can relate to.”
Fairies don’t require anything particularly lavish. Even the most inexperienced gardeners can create their own fairy gardens with commonplace items in just about any container as long as drainage and scale are kept in mind.
Start with some found objects, including something shiny, at least one plant to give your fairies someplace to hide, and a few twigs, pebbles and some moss.
The key ingredient is whimsy. The only limit is your imagination.
Fairy gardens can be an ideal way to repurpose containers and other items that otherwise might be discarded, Leggett said.
While fairies seem to appeal mostly to girls, boys can do their own thing, too.
“Boys usually go for gnomes, dinosaurs or tiny action figures,” Leggett said, “but that’s the great thing about fairy gardens. You can put anything in them so long as you have fun doing it. I don’t see this trend losing its appeal any time soon.”
The real draw is nostalgia, added Anna Yarborough of Fairview Greenhouse & Garden Center in Raleigh.
“I made fairy gardens in the ground when my daughters were young. It was a wonderful way to introduce them to nature. They were just precious little environments, and we had fun hunting in the woods for things to add to them,” she said.
Since they’re miniature, Yarborough pointed out, fairy gardens are also perfect for apartment dwellers.
Tinker Bell, after all, doesn’t need a lot of space.