--- 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
plants for Fairy Gardens:
|Spleenwort fern||Miniature violets
|Crispa fern||Dwarf boxwood
|Spotted Wintergreen||Japanese maples
|‘Chocolate Chip’ ajuga||Any bonsai tree subject
|Mondo Grass||Rooted cuttings
|‘Beacons Silver’ lamium||Tiny houseplants
|Labrador and Korean rock violets||Sweet alyssum
|Southern wood||Veronica 'Georgia Blue'
|Club moss fern||Carex
Related Show - #15 from 2007