Gnome alone in a fairy garden

AS SOMEONE who delights in fanciful garden gnomes, I don’t know why I haven’t yet embraced fairy gardening – a huge, new trend being promoted around the world.

If you haven’t already investigated it, fairy gardening simply is gardening in the miniature.

It’s not unlike the terrariums and dish gardens of the ’60s and ’70s, but fairy gardens are decorated with small fairy figurines, miniature structures, furnishings and accessories.

It’s sort of like having a doll house but the “house” actually is a miniature garden in a container or a small area of your garden.

Is it just a gimmick by retailers to sell more stuff to gardeners?

Perhaps, but it might also appeal to a long-buried desire to soar with a capricious flight of fancy.

My grandmother used to tell me the most delightful stories about fairies hiding under the leaves in the garden.

Miniature gardening is not new. The Chinese may have been the first miniature gardeners, with the art of penjing, which means “pot scenery”. Penjing was practised during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD). It involves the creation of artistically trained potted trees, as in bonsai, but can also include other plants, rocks, structures and figurines.

How do you start a fairy garden? First, decide if you want your fairy garden in a pot or tucked away in an out-of-the-way spot. (Keep in mind that fairies prefer to stay hidden, so they avoid high-traffic areas.)

If you select a pot or container, it should have drainage holes. A container that is wider than tall gives more space to create a landscape, but a smaller volume of soil. (The less soil, the more frequently you’ll have to water.)

You’re already tapping into your whimsicality, so it should not be hard to come up with imaginative container ideas, such as a wooden drawer, an old suitcase or a rusty wheelbarrow.

Fill whatever container you use with a quality, well-aerated potting mix.

Next comes your selection of plants. Nurseries that are promoting fairy gardens should have some suggestions.

When choosing plants for your fairy garden, be mindful of the scale you are after. You want it to look like a miniature garden. Moss is the main ground cover and too many other plants may detract from the mossy atmosphere.

You can use an immature tea tree as the main focus. It will want to grow very big, so trim it often to keep it stunted. The tree sets the scale of the garden.

If your garden is in a smaller container, a shrub will have the same effect as a tree.

Also, keep in mind the colour combinations … silvers, light greens, dark greens, browns … as many colours as possible as they add texture and interest. Another consideration when choosing your plants is to make sure the combinations all like the same amount of sun and water.

If you are going to be using moss, remember that it likes sun to part shade and lots of water … add other plants that like the same.

If you are going for a desert garden appeal, pebbles, rocks and various cactuses look wonderful, but do make sure that too many prickles won’t deter your little one from playing in his garden.

If you have a fairy garden that can’t easily be taken indoors for the winter, you will need to consider the plants’ cold winter hardiness. © Marianne C Ophardt

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