This is the fifth season for my backyard garden. Because the in-the-ground plants are all perennials, the garden returns, year after year. This means that although I weed and water and divide plants, as needed, and plant annuals in containers, the garden takes care of itself. It shifts each year, as plants fill in an area or pop up across the yard, however the garden no longer requires my creative input like it once did.
Therefore, my creativity turned this year to creating a different type of garden, one I’ve been thinking about for years. This afternoon I at last turned my vintage metal wheelbarrow into a fairy garden.
The old wheelbarrow has been in my garden for a couple of years. I’ve used it previously as a large container, holding neon colored portulaca. Last fall, as I cleaned up the garden and prepped it for winter, I eyed that wheelbarrow and knew it was destined to become a fairy garden.
I received my first miniature for the fairy garden as a Christmas gift. I purchased several other items in early spring at Michael’s Craft Store when cold weather kept my garden slumbering. I picked up a Dwarf Alberta Spruce recently during one of Sutherland’s half price sales, and the rest of the miniature plants this afternoon.
Today, I finally got to bring everything together…and have fun creating! And as with everything else in my life, the fairy garden is full of symbolism for me.
Because it was the largest piece, I planted the Dwarf Alberta Spruce first. The beautiful craggy rock next to it was in my herb garden, and originally came from Leta Moore’s garden in Arkansas. It caught my eye a few days ago as I watered. It’s interesting shape appealed to me so into the wheelbarrow it went.
After figuring out where the miniatures would go, I removed them and planted an assortment of sedum called the “carpet collection”. These plants will fill in, horizontally, but remain close to the soil. I used 12 of these plants in the wheelbarrow, plus I transplanted a hen and chicks plant set from another location in my garden. All of the plants thrive in full sun.
Next to the larger rock I planted a Danica Arborvitae, another miniaturized plant that is perfect for a fairy garden. The photo above shows the area behind the tree and rock.
I used a small terra cotta saucer as a shallow pond. The saucer is stamped with the words Made in Italy. I have never noticed that until today. How perfect! The saucer represents my love of traveling. And exactly one year ago today, I was in fact, in Italy, exploring the Tuscany region with my daughter and grandson.
I wondered aloud about placing small stones in the saucer, just as Greg came outside to inspect my work. He said he had a jar of polished stones. He let me use them and they look great in the saucer. I added a couple of small rocks to the wheelbarrow, to create balance. And then it was time for the fun pieces…the miniatures.
Daughter Elissa gave me the dwarf in a canoe for Christmas. It represents two things to me. The river and the canoe were my symbols for 2016, symbolizing the Flow of Life. The dwarf is a nod to The Hobbit story and ties in with other items in my fairy garden. I added water to the saucer and placed the canoe with its adventurous passenger in the “pond”.
I selected each miniature because of the story it tells. The castle tower connects me to my beloved Scotland, and also to the Lord of the Rings, and JRR Tolkien’s stories of Middle Earth. When Greg brought me the jar of polished rocks, I found a tiny ceramic butterfly mixed in with the stones. With Greg’s permission, I hot-glued the butterfly to the tower. The butterfly was a symbol for me, in 2011, representing Transformation. It is also a nod to a scene from Lord of the Rings, when a moth visits Gandalf as he is held captive atop a tower. Moth…butterfly…close enough for me!
And speaking of Gandalf…my fairy garden has a little wizard, complete with a hat and a cloak and a long beard. I used three flat rocks to create a path for my wizard to stand on. The owl perched on his staff reminds me of another series of stories that I love…in the world of Harry Potter. And look at that little house behind the wizard! The words Once Upon a Time connect to my theme this year, of Story. The wizard also fits perfectly atop the tower, if I want to play and move him around.
I am extremely pleased with my fairy garden. It looks and feels complete to me. And yet, if I find something else that draws me and connects to me, I have room to add more items.
I enjoyed this form of creative play this afternoon. And I love that each piece tells a part of my story, representing things that I identify with and appreciate.
Fairy gardens are a trend that began in the US with fairy doors. There are now many miniature items that can be purchased to create customized gardens. Here are three easy steps to create a fairy garden of your own:
1. Decide on a container for the garden. Possibilities include a large clay flower pot, a metal bucket or container, a wooden half barrow or a corner of an existing garden.
2. Decide on a location and note how much sun the garden will receive. A shady spot will require shade loving plants, whereas a sunny location needs plants that tolerate full sun. Purchase miniature plants accordingly. Lowe’s Garden Center has a great selection of plants that are ideal for fairy gardens. Be sure to read the care instructions for the plants and water them frequently so the fairy garden lasts all summer.
3. Pick a theme and purchase miniatures to support that, or go with an eclectic mix. This is your time to play and create. Have fun with the process. Miniatures can be purchased online through Amazon or at craft and garden shops.
My fairy garden is located in the backyard, near my back door. I’ve popped outside several times this evening, just for the delight of catching sight of that miniature garden. I look forward to seeing how it thrives this summer!