Fairies have that magical way of making you feel like you are sharing a secret with a special friend who no one else knows about. Of course that special someone has to have a garden all their own. It is a place where you are taken from reality for a few moments in time.
Wendy Brister the owner of Harvey’s Gardens in Wrightsville, PA and also an adjunct horticulture instructor at HACC shared the magic of building a fairy garden at the recent PA Garden Expo in Harrisburg. Her daughter Emma was close at hand to be her lovely assistant and could have passed for a fairy herself.
I also had the pleasure of attending the 15th Annual Home Gardeners’ School on the Central Susquehanna Valley in Milton, PA. Keith Phelps gave a fairy garden demonstration that was both informative and entertaining. Keith is the manager of Country Farm and Home Gift and Garden Center, in Mifflinburg, PA. The garden center is one of the largest in the Mifflinburg area and has a wide variety of fairy garden accessories.
To get you started, think about the design you might want to create. Who is the garden for? Who will be interacting with the fairy garden? Try to bring that personality into your fairy garden. Gardens can be made out of just about any container or area of the garden. Sure, you can purchase a container or find one around the house, such as an unused bird bath, wagon or even an old tire. You can have it hidden where only the fairies can find it or place it in a more visible area of your garden if it is something you want to share with others.
Perhaps you might want a moveable container such as the child-sized wheelbarrow that Wendy used in her demonstration. Will you want to move your garden indoors? If so, a movable, more portable container would be appropriate. Winters can be pretty cold in Central PA and fairies can be pretty scantily dressed, so you may want to invite them in as your house guest for the winter. They are small so they don’t take up much space, plus their diet probably doesn’t consist of anything you have in your refrigerator.
If you do decide to use a container, make sure there is good drainage. On the flip side of that, container gardens need to be watered more often. Just remember, fairies don’t haul their own water, so keep that in mind when deciding on a container vs. putting your fairy garden in the ground. Newspapers can be used to line your container to prevent the dirt from falling out. Wendy said that coffee filters work well for smaller garden pots. She had holes drilled in the wheelbarrow and said they can be plugged up with caulking sealant when the fairies decide to move out of the wheelbarrow and relocate.
The soil you use is important. Peat and perlite do not hold water well, so make sure you have potting soil with some finely chopped bark if you are using a container for your garden. Make sure you have at least 2 -3 inches of soil in the container. Both Wendy and Keith suggested using a moisture-retaining product, such as Soil Moist, and adding a slow-release fertilizer to the soil. Keith recommended using charcoal (without lighter fluid!) to the base of the container fairy garden to help with drainage.
Gathering supplies for the fairy garden may be a wee bit of challenge if you don’t have an imagination. Look outside for some natural elements such as moss, sticks and itsy-bitsy pine cones. Pathways can be made of items such as crushed gravel, fine pebbles, pine needles and finely cracked ceramic tile. The colorful plates you can buy at the thrift stores would work great for walkways if they were all cracked up into tiny fairy-size pieces. You can also buy fairy-garden materials on-line. There are companies that actually sell miniature fairy-garden furniture. You can think about using dollhouse items or go to yard sales for second-hand items if there is no “Fairy Gardens R-Us” near you, assuming you don’t have a fairy diva who is opposed to that. Judy Bono, owner of a York business, The Gardener of Owl Valley, was selling fairy-garden items at the PA Garden Expo.
As you gather plant material for the garden, remember to try to choose small plants. Keep them proportional to the size of a fairy. That said, a dawn redwood is out of the question, unless you want a Shrek-size fairy on your property! Keith suggested several plants that would be good for your fairy garden. They are a fine-leaf thyme, pink ribbon plant and violas. Terrarium houseplants and small bonsai plants are also good to use. If you make an indoor fairy garden and plan to move it outside, be sure you gradually get your plants and the fairies acclimated to being outside, starting around mid-May. Keep the plant material interesting by using a variety of texture and colors. Mosses can be used to cover the soil to give it a finished or aged look.
Be sure to have pruners or scissors available to give your garden a haircut as plants become too large. Wendy pointed out that the walkways in your fairy garden don’t need to be handicap-accessible, but fairies don’t like getting hit in the face with an overgrown plant either. I have also seen life-size fairy gardens where the concept is the same, just on a larger scale.
You might also find accessories for your garden at a craft store. There is furniture, animals, gates, arbors and a whole slew of other accessories to be found. Want a water feature? You can simulate water with the use of colored glass stones or have a miniature container that holds real water. You can add miniature anything to your fairy garden. Country Farm and Home Gift and Garden Center even has tiny fairy bicycles. I wonder why they need those when they have wings?
The magic begins when you add a fairy and pixie dust to finish off your garden. Glitter and hand-made or store-bought fairies transform what could be any ordinary garden into a home for your very special fairy. Wendy suggested making a Lego fairy, if a guy or more masculine fairy is what you need.
If I had a fairy garden, I would want a fairy that looks like Denzel Washington or perhaps a young Tom Selleck. Now that would be magical!