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Fairy Garden


--- Anne K Moore February 9, 2009 ---
Photos by Anne K Moore ---

Once upon a time, long, long ago, little people were said to populate gardens.  They were known as fairies, elves, or leprechauns.  Today, the most popular stories are of the garden fairies.  They are enticed to visit tiny landscapes, either in the ground or in pots, created for them with miniature plants, furniture, and garden tools.  These are the perfect display gardens for all things small.


What child does not love make-believe?  Children are enchanted with tales of magic and fairies.  What could be a better experience for them than sunshine and flowers?  However, you don’t have to entertain children to plant fairy gardens.  Adults love them, too.


Many cultures pass down stories of “faeries.”  Wicked faeries were once known as netherworld creatures, godless and unable to enter heaven, causing all manner of evil wrongs to humans.  As might be imagined, the “wickeds” are not welcome in gardens.


Instead, small creatures who care for birds, collect feathers and bells, and dance in the moonlight are encouraged to visit the small worlds created for them in these miniature landscaped Edens.


Cicely Mary Barker popularized flower fairies with a series of Flower Fairy books, the first published in 1923.  These books dance with fairies and flowers, and sing with poetry.  Barker died in 1973, leaving a legacy of books as popular today as when they were first introduced.


Trough gardens have become hugely popular, making a proper setting for a fairy garden.  Most are not original water or feed troughs rescued from abandoned farms, but are made of Hyper-tufa, a lighter weight stone-like substance, often built by gardeners.  (Instructions on how to build a Hyper-tufa trough.)  It is not necessary to use a trough to create a fairy garden.  Any container will do.     


There are all kinds of combinations that you can put together to make little landscapes.  Keep any dwarf shrub or plant in a small pot sunk within the trough.  Treat it as if you would a bonsai to contain its growth.  Mosses are wonderful additions, adding soft smooth “pettable” lawns to the diminutive garden.  Employ plants that are more drought tolerant in the sunnier parts of the garden.


The potting mix you choose should vary with the material you will be planting.  If you are setting sedums or plants that need more drainage, use a sandier soil, a soil that drains more freely.  Plant moss gardens in a mixture of compost and peat moss.


Sedums are succulents that can have fleshy large leaves, or small foliage.  They do well in the sunny to semi-shade areas of a garden.  


Use small ferns in containers you plan to locate in the shade.  The crispa fern (Crispa Cristata) has unusual contorted parsley like foliage, which explains its other common name - parsley fern.  Male fern (Dryopteris Filix-mas) is hardy up to USDA Zone 3.  The evergreen spleenwort fern (Asplenium platyneuron) grows best in dry, rocky shaded areas.  It gets only six to eight inches tall when confined to a trough.  The ‘Moonshadow’ winter creeper (Euonymus fortunei), is a deep green and almost white variegated small shrub.


Fairies love the herb thyme.  To make a touchable garden, sink soft wooly thyme next to the open texture of club moss fern (Selaginella).  Houseplants are good subjects.  You do have to move tropicals indoors during the coldest days and nights.  Add color by changing out annuals according to the seasons.


You can use dwarf rhododendrons, Japanese maples, dwarf cotoneaster, dwarf pieris, blue star creeper, and rush in mini-gardens.  Buy the tiniest plants, which are also the most inexpensive, and when they overgrow their tiny garden, plant them out in your life-size garden.

Children love the miniature characteristics of the gardens they create themselves.  Small hands can easily dig tiny plants into the soft earth of a planter.  Diminutive garden tools and furniture are easy for little hands to hold and place.  Imaginations soar with the flower fairies.  Is there fairy dust sprinkled in your garden?



Miniature plants for Fairy Gardens:

Small sedumsThyme
Spleenwort fernMiniature violets
Crispa fernDwarf boxwood
Spotted WintergreenJapanese maples
‘Chocolate Chip’ ajugaAny bonsai tree subject
Mondo GrassRooted cuttings
‘Beacons Silver’ lamiumTiny houseplants
Native mossesLobelia
Labrador and Korean rock violetsSweet alyssum
Southern woodVeronica 'Georgia Blue'
Club moss fernCarex


Related Show - #15 from 2007



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