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Learning to Grow: Fairy gardening fun for adults, kids

Published: Friday, July 18, 2014 5:12 p.m. CST
Caption
(Provided photo)
Fairies decorate a miniature garden camping scene.
Caption
(Provided photo)
A cracked birdbath is the perfect container for a fairy garden.

Fairy gardening has taken the country by storm. Maybe it’s because it is a great way to get kids in the garden; maybe it’s because gardening in a very small place is manageable even by the busiest people; maybe it’s because adults like playing as if they were kids again. Whatever the reason miniature gardening is here to stay.

If you’re new to miniature gardening, start by deciding if you want to use a container or include it in an existing garden. If a container will house your miniature garden, only your imagination can limit what you choose. Decide on the theme of your garden. Will it be formal or whimsical, cottagey or contemporary? Will it utilize natural accessories or brightly colored decorations? Your container should reflect the style of your garden. I’ve seen them in old suitcases, dresser drawers, vintage purses, and of course, all kinds of pots. Whichever container you choose, make sure it has drainage if you will be using live plants.

If you are placing your garden in an existing garden, choose a site close to a sitting area where you will be able to enjoy it. Or tuck it away along a pathway where visitors will be delighted when they come upon it unexpectedly. Maybe it will be in a secret location that only you and your grandchildren can find.

Next, choose the plants that will form the ceiling, walls and floors of your garden.

Dwarf conifers are often used to give needed structure. Be sure to check the growth rate of preferred candidates. Even dwarf conifers can get very large over time. Only include dwarf conifers with a growth rate of an inch or two a year unless you are willing to move them into the “normal-sized” landscape as they outgrow their home in your miniature garden.

Rosemary or tiny boxwood starts can form the walls of a fairy house; thyme or moss creates a soft carpet. Add tiny-flowering annuals and perennials for color. Try perennials like campanula, catmint and dianthus. Consider annuals like impatiens, million bells and vinca. Imagine what types of flowers fairies might use for their skirts, hats, pillows and blankets and share these stories with your children.

Purchase a ready-made miniature cottage or fashion one from an old stump. Create patios and pathways from gravel, wood slices or small pieces of flagstone.

Now you’re ready for the fun part – choosing the miniature furniture and accessories! There are so many different styles of arbors, trellises, chairs and tables, benches, birdbaths and pots. Select items based on your theme and position the largest pieces first.

Who will inhabit your miniature garden? Will fairies and gnomes reside there? There is a wealth of fairies available from cute pixies to naughty gnomes and saucy sprites to elegant, collectible flower fairies. Or will the fairies visit your garden only when no one is looking?

If you have children or grandchildren, if you are a kid at heart, or if you have a small space you’d like to garden, consider creating your first (or another) fairy garden. Get inspired to garden in miniature!

• Diana Stoll is a University of Illinois Extension master gardener for Kane County. Call the extension office at 630-584-6166 for more information.

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