If youve noticed some curious activity in your garden lately, dont blame it on the squirrels.
Its just the fairies, busy fanning one of the hottest trends in gardening. From California to Colorado to the Carolinas, fairy gardening is catching on with people who like to combine light gardening and a little fantasy.
Like their namesake, fairy gardens are small. Think of them as the marriage of a dish garden with a dollhouse.
These miniature gardens can be created for indoors or outdoors. The key ingredients are usually a shallow container filled with potting soil; one or more small green plants; moss to cover the surface around the plants; one or more tiny fairy figures or other similar-sized accessories; something shiny like a couple of marbles; and some pebbles, acorns, twigs or other natural items found in the woods to complete the scene.
Commercial accessories, available at most garden centers, can easily run the cost of a fairy garden to $75 and up, but are less necessary than finding fun items that mean something to you.
Fairy lore dates back to Greek and Roman times, enjoying spikes in popularity thanks to writers like Shakespeare (in A Midsummer Nights Dream) and J.M. Barrie (Peter Pan), who wrote in a later novel, When the first baby laughed for the first time, his laughter broke into a million pieces and they all went skipping about. That was the beginning of fairies.
Local garden shops are hustling to keep up. On a recent Saturday, no fewer than 30 people showed up at Kings Greenhouse in Stallings for a workshop on fairy gardening by Lisa Basinger, greenhouse manager.
Fairy gardening was big in Victorian England, when women would set aside an in-ground corner of their gardens for the fairies, and then passed the tradition to their daughters and granddaughters. Gradually it died out, but the idea started gaining steam again in the 70s with the green movement, Basinger said.
Then a year ago, at Christmas 2011, she went on, people started asking for more dish gardens and terrariums, so we added a few fairy items in our shop to dress them up, and they just flew off the shelves no pun intended. By fall 2012, the trend just mushroomed.
The retail response even led to Kings becoming an outlet for Fairy Gardening Inc., a Colorado company specializing in miniature plants and tiny, fairy-scaled accoutrements like cottages, furniture, wheelbarrows, lanterns, bridges, windmills, gazebos and even fairy lights.
Other local garden centers like Blackhawk Hardware at Park Road Shopping Center and Royal Gardens in Elizabeth also carry accessories, so even the most inexperienced gardeners can create their own fairy gardens.
Twigs, moss, pebbles
But as Madge Eggena of Mills Garden Herb Farm, Statesville, points out, fairies dont require anything particularly lavish. In fact, one can make a fairy garden with commonplace items in just about any container as long as drainage and scale are kept in mind. The key ingredient is whimsy.
Eggena has been attuned to fairy culture for many years, having hosted her first fairy party in 2004. All you need is some moss, twigs, pebbles and something shiny, she says. Fairies are attracted to sparkly things, and they like shade. They like places to hide. There are some flowers they prefer to others such as bluebells, cowslips, clover, foxgloves and pansies. And they love toadstools, of course.
If you see mushrooms growing in a circle, dont step inside it. Thats where the fairies come to dance, Eggena added.
Appealing size for kids
Says Mary Mitchell of Blackhawks garden department, Making a fairy garden is a great way for grandparents to connect with their grandkids. Theres nothing stopping you except your imagination. And you can rearrange a fairy garden or add to it anytime you like.
She suggests that fairy gardens also make interesting table arrangements for indoors.
Royal Gardens Lara Barnett adds that the easy, hands-on activity of creating a fairy garden is an excellent way to teach children about nature.
Its the best introduction to gardening in the world because its on a scale that children can relate to, she says.
From the fairy gardens created at the recent Kings Greenhouse workshop, a lot of inner sprites were unleashed. Carol Edsell of Matthews designed her tiny garden around a pond to which shell add shells from a recent beach trip.
Nena Husted of Mint Hill was inspired to include a well with a tiny bucket hanging from a twig so her fairies could have a cool drink. Eight-year-old Catherine Moore of Charlotte, attending with her mother, grandmother and sister Jordan, 6, created a picnic area complete with a ring in which her fairies could dance.
Tinker Bell would have been proud.
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