AS FAR AS I’m concerned, fairy gardens can’t disappear fast enough.
Like doll houses for gardeners, they feature tiny plants and hobbity houses and furnishings, gnomes, sprites and bunnies. They can occupy a spot in a garden—or, if you’ve abandoned smoking, grow in your old ashtrays.
There was one for several years on a corner near us, settled into a small wedge of a corner plot where it developed over time into a miniature estate.
I took photos.
Winding through the scene was a gravel path lined with neatly tended miniature succulents, tiny stone mushrooms, fallen pillars and a little fountain planted with bits of green stuff. The eye followed along, finally arriving at a frilly white metal arch, beside which sat a teeny-tiny outhouse.
Tucked back a bit, a dwarf fir tree formed the backdrop for a doll-house-size cafe table and chairs. Maybe that’s why the fairy needed a latrine.
I had never seen anything like it, and hoped not to again. But they’re everywhere.
There’s a whole section of miniature gardens on display each year at the Philadelphia Flower show; pots and platters and planters set upon with miniature mixes of plants and teensy furnishings. They’ve also invaded the perennially august Chelsea Flower Show in London. People win prizes for their tableaux. People pay money to see them.
They also pay money for the materials to create them. A lot of money.
Homestead Gardens in Davidsonville, Maryland, offers several courses each year, mostly in the spring (by the fall you have to spend your time getting ready for Santa Claus). “Build an oasis for your garden fairies with miniature plants and accessories that are just their size!” reads the copy for one such. The $49.95 tab includes your choice of wine, beer or water, though I can’t imagine a beer-swigging fairy.
That’s just for the course, mind you. All of the bits and baubles that comprise your little scene are extra—and Homestead, like many of our garden centers, devotes a large section to these twee accessories.
The word “fun” is sprinkled like glitter through copy. “Fun Fairy Gardens Go Anywhere,” is one blog entry. “ . . . add some fun fairy furniture,” they order. “We’re told that fairies prefer furniture made from natural materials, like bark and twigs, but a tired fairy will sit down anywhere. Naturally, they appreciate having their own fairy cottage, too. . . . More fun items that add to the charm include pebbles, smooth glass, and fairies. Miniature fencing can be constructed out of twigs or popsicle sticks.”
The Internet is, of course, an endless resource of how-tos and where-to-buys.
Etsy has a everything from $2.95 Adirondack chair to a $100,000 fairy tree house, I kid you not. On Amazon you can pick up a three-piece tea set made of acorns for $9.94 (how did they arrive at that price?) and the “world’s smallest aloe plant” for $40 (plus $2.99 shipping). $40 seems to be the going rate for itty-bitty plants.
Myfairygardens.com features an endless assortment of impish crap, including Freya the Fairy and her purple plastic hobbit house. I’d have “fun” drowning her in her little plastic well. Most items are in the $10 range, but you need so many of them. They do offer free shipping with your $50 purchase.
You can see how this hobby gets expensive really fast, and yet remains entirely tasteless.
I am about to attempt to demonstrate some sensitivity here, perhaps because I’ve been employing odds and ends of this and that along with fake flowers and plants in my garden and window boxes since I began gardening. There are days, sometimes weeks, when I just don’t care to tend to things and then these things turn brown and shrivel and die, see. In such instances, spray paint can be your friend.
So where do I come off making fun of these atrocious fairylands? Plots that I imagine being tended by lovely women in lovely Laura Ashley dresses and large straw bonnets with ribbons, frosted pink toenails peeping out of pastel Kate Spade sandals, cooing to the (miniature) ants, as they prune their little plantings with nail clippers.
My younger sister (not by much) thinks they’re adorable. She also likes kittens. If you like them, I’m sure you’re a very sweet person too.
That said, what is it about these innocent little gardens that make me feel like I’m chewing on tin foil?
LittleBird “Stephanie Gardens,” a/k/a/ Stephanie Cavanaugh, writes about the peculiar habits of urban gardeners, including herself. To read earlier columns, such as those that outright advocate the use of fake flowers in your window boxes, type Green Acre in the Search box at the top of the page.