There’s something magical going on in gardens. It’s a trend which started in America and is slowly but steadily growing in popularity in the UK. If you go down to your garden centre today it’s likely you’ll find a section devoted to…fairy gardens.
It’s very easy to be a bit dismissive about them, but I defy you to look at one of these gardens and not smile. They are enchanting, the detail and devotion will engage you, and, if it has that effect on adults, just think how bewitching they are for children.
What are they?
They are miniature gardens filled with magic. Tiny houses, chairs, lawns and ponds – fairy worlds which you can create in any space you have – inside or out. A corner of a flower bed, under a tree, in a pot on the patio; they are so small they’ll fit in any space. The best fairy gardens have a level of precision from the tiny napkins next to the plates on the table, to the ‘smoke’ coming out from the chimney.
Mulberry Burrow, £25.95, Fairy Gardens UK
How did the trend start?
Since gardens came about there’s probably been a tendency to make miniature kingdoms in the garden. Japanese bonsai dates back over a thousand years, but this latest boom can be traced back to fairy doors; tiny doors made to nestle into crevices of a tree. Five to 10 centimetres high and intricately detailed and decorated, they spark children’s imagination and, when they appear, kids start to leave notes and presents for the fairies. In the US, the door trend has blossomed into quite a movement and it’s starting to catch on here. In October this year, the Daily Mail said these doors had appeared all over woods in Devon and Somerset, and shortly after that, the BBC reported they’ve started popping up in Oxfordshire.
Who are they for?
Well of course, children love them – they are mesmerized by the intricate details and the sheer wonderful enchantment of them. But there are plenty of adults too who just love to muck about arranging and rearranging, building and buying new bits and bobs, and getting it to look just right. Something which started with just a door, develops into a mail box, a pond, tiny woodlands and paths, seats and…well, a whole miniature world.
It’s a cliché but it’s true – they are for ‘children of all ages’ and how far you go with it is limited only by your imagination.
Luxury Frog and Lily Pond, £14.95, Fairy Gardens UK
How to start?
One of the many wonderful things about fairy gardens is that you can start small and build up over time. So, put your toe in the water with just a bench or a door, but choose your scale carefully when you start as you need to keep the same scale throughout or it will look odd. Most accessories you can buy are very tiny – houses typically are under 30cm high – but if you make things yourself you can choose a larger scale. Because they started in the US the scales of bought accessories tend to be imperial – typically 1:12 (one inch to one foot).
Garden houses, furniture and accessories available from The Fairy Garden Shop
If you get bitten by the fairy bug there is a world out there to explore. There are themes and stories to tell, just as full size gardens can have a cottage or a classical theme, these tiny gardens can be fashioned along similar lines. A popular way to build a garden is around a fairy tale – Rapunzel or Alice in Wonderland, it’s a wonderful way to capture the imagination of a reluctant reader – children will rush to the book to get more information for the garden. At this tiny scale, gardens don’t have to be what we’d traditionally call gardens – you can build tiny mountains and deserts, farms and undersea worlds. If the garden is for children and they turn their noses up at fairies, try elves and gnomes or widen the action to the surface of the moon, or a chocolate factory. These gardens are not bound in any way like the full size world – they are completely open to imagination and children will supply that in spades!
The Fairy Garden Shop
All items from The Fairy Garden Shop
Large Starter House Kits, £49.95, and Princess Tower, £28.95, both from Fairy Gardens UK
Where to buy
You can buy all the accessories: tiny furniture, gazebos, wishing wells and cottages either at your local garden centre or online but you can also make your own with lolly, match and cocktail sticks, wire and modeling clay. These projects are small enough to do in an afternoon. A pair of curtains 1cm long is easy and quick to sew and it really doesn’t matter if the finish isn’t perfect, it all adds to the charm.
Fairy Boot House, £48, Fairy Gardens UK
What are the best plants?
Alpine plants and succulents are often ideal for fairy gardens – pretty and compact. A great tip is to buy tiny plants and then keep the plant in its pot and sink it into ground to restrict growth.
Top 7 best plants:
- Mind your own business (soleirolia soleirolii)
- Miniature daisy (bellium minutum)
- Miniature ivy (hedera helix ‘Miniature Knight’ )
- Sempervivum (sempervivum ‘Speciosum’ )
- Corsican mint (mentha requienii)
- Oxalis (oxalis corniculata)
- Stonecrop (sedum album Faro form)
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