All summer, I’ve been staring at empty gardening pots. They’ve been convenient when needing to move and transplant various plants, but aside from that…. they’re so empty and sad looking! One pot in particular has had me stumped for awhile. It’s a fairly modern looking concrete planter, and for the longest time, I didn’t know what to put in it – until now.
A fairy garden!
So….What is a Fairy Garden?
Fairy gardens (or ‘miniature gardens’, as some like to call them), are small-scale ecosystems designed with both living plants, hardscapes (rocks, stones), water and other accessories designed to give the illusion of a tiny green-covered, colorful world – perfect for a fairy!
Do I Have to Believe in Fairies to Build One?
Nope! That’s the best part. There are SO many kinds of miniature gardens. Some people love the idea of fairies or gnomes living in tiny trees. Others enjoy a simple ‘reading nook’ or ‘creek-side picnic’ or ‘tea time’ atmosphere. Still others lean towards birds and other small creatures as the central focus of their designs. It’s completely up to you!
Great! Where do I Start?
The first choice you’ll have to make is where to build your garden. Ideally, it should be in a relatively safe/undisturbed area of your yard or house – especially if you’ll be using lots of trinkets or accessories. Protect your garden from lawnmowers and other yard-hazards! Many people choose a safe ‘nook’ area underneath a tree, a small garden bed close to the house, or even an indoor/outdoor container. Others get creative and build miniature gardens in hanging pots, wheelbarrows or red wagons!
What else do I need to know?
Once you have identified a location for your garden, start with a sketch or take a stick and etch in the dirt a general layout of plants, pathways, furniture, or whatever else you want to include. Once you have that decided — purchase and install your plants. Depending on your chosen location, small groundcover, short, tiny flowers and small shrub-like (think bonzai) plantings are great. Play around with the accessories and find your inner child. These gardens are meant for playtime! 😊
Now that you have a general idea of fairy gardens, let’s explore the one I put together in a small concrete planter!
This is the planter. I took a photo of it with my hand in front so that I could more easily determine scale when purchasing plants. I knew that something roughly the size of my hand would fill just over half the planter. (Excuse my poor iphone ‘sunny day’ photo skills. I was in a rush and too excited to go flower shopping!)
The Research/Design Phase:
I looked at a TON of examples and photos prior to heading out shopping. I wanted to answer 2 key questions:
- What do I want the overall look to be? Bridge over river to bench? Tiny gnome garden? Fairy reading spot? House? Something else?
What plants should I buy to fit the ‘elements’ of trees, bushes, flowers, pathways, etc that will keep some sort of continuity with the small scale idea.
To be honest, a simple google image search for “fairy garden” is probably the best bet. There are literally thousands of ideas in all shapes and sizes. I took note of what there was in common with my favorite designs. Simple accessories (nothing too fabricated or fake looking), groundcover (I LOVE the ones with covered moss and what not!), small pops of color, and lots of variation in texture.
Expert Challenge: DIY accessories! In case you’re feeling extra adventurous: http://www.pinterest.com/clk2244/fairy-gardens-~-diy-pieces/
The Shopping Phase!
I stopped by 2 garden shops/nurseries, and one craft store. I found all the elements I wanted: small groundcover, short flowers with tiny blooms, succulents (to add texture), a small chair, items for a pathway, and accessories.
I didn’t really know what direction the accessories were going to take. I looked around for dollhouse furniture, fairy garden accessories (one of the garden shops I was at had a whole section of that stuff! Most of it was just a tad bit too big for my planter though.), scrapbook materials, etc. I found a wire trellis and gardening tools that matched the scale of the chair pretty well – so I went with those. I decided to create a pathway out of small black rocks and mosaic tiles. Towards the end of my shopping trip I found a small white fence that was too adorable to pass up. Taking inventory of my loot, I realized that I was building a sort of reading/gardening nook — how cute!
I came home from the stores, and sat down with everything I had purchased. To be honest, I was a bit nervous! I had no real plan in place other than a general idea of what I thought I liked. I wasn’t sure if it would fit, or look good at all. I put on some music, sat on the front porch, and got to work. I quickly found out that gardening gloves were NOT going to work with all the tiny pieces… so this is definitely a ‘get your hands dirty’ kind of job. I cleaned out the top layer of moss and debris in the planter (I kept a couple tiny pieces of moss to re-plant in the garden). From there, I turned and re-filled the pot with better soil. Then, I started with the larger pieces – the yellow and purple flowers. The best thing to do is to remove the flowers from their travel containers, and separate as much dirt as you can without destroying the roots too badly. Seeing as things are supposed to be tiny, large clumps of plants aren’t really conducive to a fairy garden. I tried my best to separate the yellow flowers. The purple flowers were easier, and I set aside a small sprig to use later.
After the 2 main pieces went in, I manipulated the dirt in the pot to create the landscape. I placed the chair in for reference, and then planted the succulents – again, breaking apart the clumps as I went. Groundcover went in next, and I cut a small hole in the middle of it for the sprig of purple flowers and wire trellis. With all the main elements in place, I pressed down the soil, made my final adjustments, and started on the pathway. This is probably the worst element of my design. The mosaic tiles are small, and probably won’t stay very well. In hindsight (and I might still do this), gluing them to a tiny cardboard piece or other stable surface might prove to be a better option. I can then semi-bury the surface so only the tiles show.
After the pathway, I stuck in the fence, garden tools and called it a day!
Even my husband said the final result is sort of adorable…
Not bad for a day’s work!