If Tinker Bell had a garden it might look like the one Janet Magnuson and her 8-year-old granddaughter Victoria created in her backyard last spring.
The two took a small space of land in Magnuson’s backyard and created a tiny garden spot using several Stepables—a type of plant which can be walked upon—such as Golden creeping speedwell and thyme, both are winter hardy, and small annuals including a fern and begonia plant.
“For mulch we used cocoa bean shells,” said Magnuson, a Porter County Master Gardener. “They are small and look nice against the smaller plants.”
But because this a garden for fairies, more than plants were needed. And so the two made a pond out of the bottom of a grape tomato package, covered it with blue painters tape and then filled it with blue glass gems.
“We bought a 97-cent sign at the craft store and Victoria painted it and wrote ‘Victoria's Fairy Garden’ on it,” said Magnuson. “She also bought an unpainted fence and painted it in bright colors. We took a branch from a Clethra alnifolia—Sixteen Candles—shrub, painted it white and sprinkled glitter all over, and it made a perfect tree for our yard. We used a green bamboo stake and made an arbor over our walkway, which was made with pea gravel and colored glass gems.”
Tiny fairy gardens filled with miniature plants and the type of enchanting furniture that would tempt any fairy worth her pixie dust are a growing trend.
“It’s really taken off recently,” said Marsha Bradley, nursery manager at Chesterton Feed and Garden in Chesterton which offers classes in creating fairy gardens and also sells accoutrements like waterfalls, ponds, pools, miniscule strings of lights in shapes like hearts and bubbles and figurines—fairies, animals and birds.
Taltree Arboretum & Gardens in Valparaiso is hosting an exhibit of fairy houses for the month of May and also has classes.
“We’ve been doing this for a while now, and it’s very popular,” said Anicia Kosky, Taltree’s communications director.
“I am a garden author and master gardener, and Tinker Bell was my favorite animated character as a kid,” said Julie Bawden-Davis, co-author, with Beverly Turner, of "Fairy Gardening: Creating Your Own Magical Miniature Garden" (Skyhorse Publishing $16.95). “Beverly really is the Fairy Godmother of Fairy Gardening. She is a forerunner of the trend. She started making them 13 years ago. They have become really popular within the last five years or so.”
Turner, who is also head designer at M & M Nursery in Orange, California, said she became intrigued by fairy gardening in a roundabout way.
“I decided that even though I was an adult, I wanted to build the dollhouse I’d always dreamed about as a child,” she said. “I found a basic dollhouse model at the hobby store and proceeded to do some kit-bashing. I came up with my own dollhouse and added and added to it, including creating a diminutive garden that rivaled Central Park. After a while, I discovered that what I really enjoyed was the mini garden, so I started planting real plants and eventually added the fairies.”
For those starting off, Turner suggested the best way is to plant a container fairy garden.
“This gives you the opportunity in a manageable way to learn how to create an enchanting fairy garden,” she said. “You can experiment with theme and growing the miniature plants. This also gives you the opportunity to create a sun or shade fairy garden. Potted fairy gardens can be easily moved from one area to the other, including to the center of a table during a dinner party as an eye-catching centerpiece that everyone is sure to talk about. In terms of what to buy, choose high-quality fairies whenever possible and other accessories that will stand up to the weather and watering. And only plant miniature/dwarf plants.”
Fairy gardens in tea cups are also an easy way to begin. Chesterton Feed & Garden also sells fairy garden kits containing much of what you need to get started. They also sell one of kind ornamentations for the garden—and we’re talking seriously cute items like tiny boots, castles, carrots, mushrooms and much, much more—created by Chesterton sculptor Rita Jackson.
“People often have an idea of what they want, and Rita can make it,” said Bradley.
Turner sees fairy gardening as therapeutic.
“It’s a fun activity that brings out the kid in all of us,” she said. “You forget about your troubles when you’re planting a miniature tree and deciding where to place a fairy in your little corner of the world.”
Suzanna Tudor, Porter County Master Gardener, Publicity and Promotion Committee, became interested after her daughter purchased a small woven chair, angel statues, and bronze horse at a consignment store to furnish a fairy garden for me nestled into my perennials.
“I joined forces with a group from the Porter County Master Gardeners at the Chesterton Library Service Center where we built a fairy tree house last January,” she said. “I enlisted the help of my granddaughter for that project. “
Bawden-Davis also suggested working with other fairy garden devotees.
“One really cute idea included a group of fairy gardeners who planted fairy gardens next to trees throughout a neighborhood. The sky really is the limit for fairy gardens and fairy gardeners,” she said.
“Victoria and I enjoyed watching the garden grow and change throughout the season,” said Magnuson. “Santa brought her some new trinkets to add next year.”