The Fairy Garden

Fairy gardens are a trend which recently have become very popular in the United States. Garden centers everywhere now have sections with plants and accessories for the fairy gardener. Early fairy gardens are believed to have existed to draw good luck. According to legends, fairies are typically harmless creatures but they can have a dark side. During the ancient times, many new parents believed their babies could be replaced by baby fairies, called “changelings.” These replacements would have odd characteristics that included physical defects and developmental problems. Keeping a fairy garden was believed to please the fairies and lowered the chance of your child being “changed” or replaced.  First introduced in the US in 1893 at the Japanese Pavilion of the Chicago Worlds Fair, fairy gardens began as bonsai dish gardens and became popular after a feature article in the New York Times.

A Fairy garden can be found at the Teaching Garden and is lovingly tended by Master Gardener Eileen Murphy. Eileen has been a MG since 2015. and the bed leader of this garden since 2016.  She describes her garden as a “magical place, a little kingdom for fairies to romp and play”. You can find Eileen at her garden on most Tuesday mornings with various interns as helpers. This bed is in full, hot sun so Eileen has chosen plants that do well in these conditions including a Sedum ground cover.  She does not water except in times of extreme drought since the garden contains many succulents. Eileen  removed a weeping pussy willow since it attracted Japanese beetles, and has added dwarf spruce and other plants. She has also added some great fairyland miniature decorations that make the garden special including a main house, swimming pool and paths. The fairy home even has its own vegetable garden on the property! This year Eileen is adding some small annuals such as ice plant for pops of color.



Home gardeners can also create a magical fairy gardens with tiny houses, chairs, lawns and ponds – fairy worlds which can be created in any space – 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.  Fairy dish gardens or terrariums make an excellent gifts and most garden centers have plenty of decorations you can add. Design ideas can be found on social media and in gardening books. We have included references below.

The plants you select should naturally stay small or  trimmed to stay tiny.  Choose annual and perennial flowers that bloom at the height of your growing season and if brought indoors, will do well as indoor plants the remainder of the year.  When selecting plants for your garden, consider choosing varieties that will allow you to create a realistic miniature landscape. Fairy garden enthusiasts recommend at least one plant from each of the following categories:

  • Groundcovers that mimic grass
  • Shrub-like plants that imitate bushes
  • Trailing plants that creep over tiny arbors and gazebos
  • Tree-like plants providing the perfect shady spot

Be sure to think about the location where you’ll keep your Fairy Garden and select plants that will thrive in its conditions.

  • Full sun means plants will perform best with eight or more hours of direct sun per day.
  • Sun means plants will perform best with six to eight hours of direct sun per day.
  • Part sun means plants will perform best with four to six hours of direct sun per day.  If you live in a very hot dry climate, plants that say “full sun” or “sun” generally perform better in part sun conditions in the summer months when the heat is especially intense.
  • Part shade means plants will perform best with no more than four hours of sunlight.
  • Shade means plants will perform best with no more than two hours of diffused sunlight.
  • Full shade means plants will perform best in situations where there is never direct sunlight (i.e., a northern exposure).

Have fun creating your Fairy Garden! Its a great way to get children involved and a fun place for them to play. They enjoy helping pick out decorations and a fun way to teach them about gardening basics.



Fairy Garden Plant List: Fairy Garden Plant List

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