Have you ever spotted a teeny tiny door in the woods and wondered why it was there? All around the country, these enchanting entryways are starting to appear in forests and on trails and are capturing the imaginations of our little ones. But where do they come from, who is putting them there and why? Well, as far as many children are concerned, these petite portals are the work of the fairies and are just a glimpse into their tiny world. Not limited to just a doorway hidden in a tree trunk, this miniature world of the fairies is finding its way into regular people’s gardens too...
Where did they come from?
Like many weird and wonderful phenomena, fairy gardens first originated in the US all the way back in the 1890s. Starting out as gardens in a bonsai dish, they gained popularity thanks to the Japanese Pavilion at the Chicago World’s Fair. After the New York Times featured these intriguing creations, the trend really took off and now we see them all over the world in forests, gardens and even inside homes. They are providing the perfect opportunity to spark children’s imaginations as they explore them and even as they create their own.
What do they look like?
A fairy garden can be whatever you want it to be, whether you live in an apartment block or you own 5 acres! They can be found in vegetable patches, plant pots and even glass terrariums. And they’re not limited to look like traditional home gardens either. There is a whole world to replicate, from mountains to deserts to underwater landscapes - the beauty of working on such a small scale is having plenty of space to play with.
A few constants you’ll see in almost every fairy garden are succulents (a beautiful, compact way to create big impact), miniature structures (be it buildings or bridges), miniature objects, characters and even bodies of water. Fairy gardens look as realistic as possible, inspiring children’s imaginations and even encouraging them to leave notes and gifts for the fairies to enjoy. And don’t be surprised if you see some wildlife getting involved too. Depending on where they are placed, these tiny gardens are often a great opportunity to care for wildlife - perhaps a little feeding station with treats for the birds, or a bed of leaves for insects to get involved with.
How do I make one?
Because the popularity of fairy gardens has been growing for a while, you will likely find all you need to create one in your local garden centre. First, assess your space. Do you have a grand outdoor area where the fairy garden can be a centrepiece? Or perhaps you’re looking at a smaller area where just a plant pot will do. Decide on the space that works best for you, inside or outside.
Next, choose your theme. A lot of fun can be had crafting a traditional fairy garden - think old time fairytales and mystical forests. But there are so many more ways you can make the garden your own. Does your child have a favourite fairytale or children’s book? Incorporate this into your fairy garden or even make it the central theme - whether this be a Gruffalo-inspired deep dark wood, a Rapunzel style tower, or a miniature Hogwarts world. Having them pick out a theme they love will make it extra special as they choose what to place in the miniature garden.
Decide on a layout. Have space for mini houses with paths leading through the succulent ‘trees’, and you can even include bridges over water (be it real or plastic). The beauty of a fairy garden is that you are able to add to it over time. Starting with just a mini house, or even a bench - when you start small, you can build it up over time, making this an ongoing, exciting project for your kids to get stuck in to. To make it even more of a project, create the buildings and structures yourselves using lolly sticks and modelling clay. There’s nothing better than seeing the masterpiece in your mind come to life. Once you have decided on the layout and collected your plants, pathways, structures and characters - get building!
Have fun with it.
Not only is this a fantastic way to spark a child’s imagination, but it is an enjoyable project for parents too, and if you or your kids are not into fairies, make the garden for their favourite characters, for the garden gnomes, or even for real-life heroes.
Get in touch with your magical side as you help your kiddies craft this mystical world. And you never know… you might just get a tiny winged visitor or two.