Whether or not you believe in fairies, you can create a garden for these mythical creatures in a small space filled with shrub roses, foxgloves, pansies and dainty, adorable ‘fairy flowers.’ It is a perfect project for a children’s garden, too.
Some people argue that fairies are real creatures from the kingdom of the elementals. Some people don’t believe it for a second. But whether or not you actually expect small winged tiny people to populate your garden, you can create a miniature garden “for the fairies.”
This garden can be a small plot (as little 1 square foot if you like) filled with fairy-themed plants and sprinkled with miniature garden benches, tables and chairs, doors into “the Other World” and even houses or castles. You can also add fairy statues, or just hope real fairies will show up.
For a small fairy garden, you can place it within a large container or a hypertufa trough — which looks fabulous planted with an Irish moss (Sagina subulata) “lawn” and tiny sedum “shrubs.”
The fairy statues I chose were the Flower Fairies by Cicely Mary Barker, a children’s book illustrator born in London in 1895. I liked their antique quality. However, these (and other figurines available) were not meant to withstand the weather. To remedy this, I sprayed them with an outdoor polyurethane as a protective coating.
A round hypertufa trough makes a great place for a fairy garden — Irish moss serves as the lawn and sedum spills over the sides.
Although many garden centers and dozens of websites offer fairy garden figurines, furniture, gazebos, accessories, buildings, bridges and more, you can make many of these items yourself. Simple flat-fronted boulders can serve as a “castle” — and they look especially neat with a purchased fairy door (like the one I used, purchased from webstore Enchanted Gardens at www.miniature-gardens.com). You can also prop a fairy door at the base of a tree. You can make a fairy table from a flat river rock or small piece of flagstone then add miniature chairs around it. The tiny tea set I have was a garage sale find. The tiny toadstools were fashioned from Fimo Modeling Clay, an oven-hardening polymer clay available at craft stores (www.fimo.com). The toadstools form a “fairy ring,” and are secured in the ground with wooden dowels. In fact, many fairy items — benches, topiaries, toadstools, garden tools — can be molded from Fimo clay.
Choosing the fairy garden’s plants is the most fun of all. Dwarf conifers work well because they are suited to small-scale vignettes like bonsai. There are dozens you can try. A “lawn” of creeping thyme, blue star creeper (Isotoma fluviatillis, hardy in Zone 6) or any of the mosses or sedums is a must. Then create a stepping stone path with small smooth river rocks. Don’t forget to enclose the garden with “walls” of shrub roses (there are several with “fairy” names), foxgloves (which are supposed to be used by fairies as hats or gloves), boxwood, evergreens or a lush mix of annuals and perennials.
A fairy garden can be as small as a hypertufa trough or as expansive as you care to make it. It just requires a little imagination.
‘Day and Night’ snapdragon adds a dash of crimson.
Strawberry foxglove is supposed to be a favorite flower of fairies.
‘Fairy’ Plants for Sun or Part Sun
• Shrub Roses. Roses are a fairy garden staple. Several have “fairy” in their cultivar names. Try ‘The Fairy’, ‘Mystic Fairy’, ‘Fairy Queen’ and ‘Lovely Fairy’.
• Foxgloves. Tuck them near the roses where they will enjoy a little shade. Foxgloves are supposed to be used as hats or gloves by fairies. Try Strawberry foxgloves (Digitalis x mertonensis) and purple foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea).
• Rosemary. Sometimes called the “elf” plant (Rosmarinus officinalis).
• Thyme. ‘Elfin’ creeping thyme (Thymus serpyllum ‘Elfin’ hardy to Zone 4) or other creeping thymes. Thyme allegedly increases your ability to see the wee ones.
• Irish Moss. Grows to make a little “lawn” strewn with tiny white flowers (Sagina subulata, hardy to Zone 4).
• Lavender. Fairies are said to make wine from the flowers (Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote’).
• Snapdragons. Said to attract fairies (Antirrhinum majus).
• Pansies. Lore says these are used in fairy love potions (Viola x wittrockiana).
• And More. You can also add butterfly-attracting plants and scented plants like alyssum, daisies, cosmos, purple coneflower, salvia and scabiosa.
Sources: “Garden Witchery: Magick from the Ground Up” by Ellen Dugan, www.gardenfairy.com and www.gardenchick.com/fairy_gardens.html.
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(From State-by-State Gardening November/December 2011. Photography By Michelle Byrne Walsh.)