It is my job to keep you informed about all aspects of horticulture – which is why I put together these sample fairy gardens in order to give you some sense of this recent trend.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that I am in the habit of, or have ever been keen to play with tiny fairy figurines or gnomes – although in my younger years I had been known to enjoy an action figure or two (G.I. Joe and Major Matt Mason).
Now that we’ve put that potential misunderstanding behind us, we can explore this trend, which I think might be here to stay.
Fairy gardens are essentially miniature landscapes, and while incarnations have been around for quite some time, for the most part, these have been limited to the realm of scale train enthusiasts or alpine troughs.
The difference here is that the mass marketers have decided to target a younger demographic and have flooded local nurseries with a plethora of small-scale garden paraphernalia, including tiny entrance gates, ornate metal fencing, patio furniture and, of course, myriad fairy and gnome figurines that make the rest of the bric-a-brac so essential.
While I might sound a bit jaded in regards to the marketing minds behind this trend, I definitely see some benefits to fairy gardens – the most important of which is introducing children to gardening and the natural world.
These little projects are also perfect for sharing – whether it’s a pair of siblings working on their own fantasy world, or a grandparent helping a young one with plant placement, even just selecting the right sized pot to start with.
The other nice thing about this trend is that you decide just how large these projects are, even an old eight-inch terracotta saucer holds some potential as a fairy garden base.
Marketing companies aren’t the only ones jumping on the fairy garden bandwagon, as nurseries such as Pacific NorthWest Propagators of Chilliwack have introduced their Garden Delights line of miniature conifers that look right at home in tiny landscapes.
A sampling of their plants includes Abies koreana ‘Cis’, Cunninghamia ‘Little Leo’, Chamaecyparis ‘Wissel’s Saguaro’, Tsuga ‘Jervis’, Podocarpus ‘Red Tip’ and Cryptomeria ‘Tansu’.
You can also take advantage of the four-inch plants now available for seasonal planters – with Hebe ‘James Stirling’, Wintergreen, Euonymus ‘Green Spire’, Deer Fern, Thuja ‘Teddy’ and ‘Pixie’ English Ivy all being good choices.
There are even miniature ponds available for fairy gardens, with fine-textured floaters such as Azolla or Duckweed (Lemna) being ideal for surface coverage from spring to fall.
This hobby also goes indoors with the only difference being that you use houseplants instead of hardy shrubs and perennials in your garden display.
Golden Club Moss (Selaginella ‘Aurea’) and Brake ferns (Pteris) both work well in miniature displays, although just about any tropical plant in a two-inch pot is fair game.
While we’re on the topic of moss, a few of the fairy garden houses have peaks will built-in lips and drain holes, so that you can peel a little live moss off the rocks in your backyard and create your own tiny green roof – nicely mirroring the real world.
Unlike complicated Lego sets or 3-D puzzles, fairy gardens are quite easy to create and this helps our kids gain a sense of accomplishment and builds their self-esteem, both of which are essential in our very competitive world.
If, in the meantime, they just get to enjoy the fairies and gnomes, well, that’s okay, too.
Mike Lascelle is a local nursery manager and gardening author (firstname.lastname@example.org).