If you build it, they will come; Fairy Gardens
(Editor's Note: this article was originally published on June 28, 2009.)
Fairies, like any other creatures, know where they are wanted. If there is any possibility of a fairy visit to my garden, I want to be ready for it. To that end, when I built my fairy garden, I first installed a fairy door. It is about 6 inches tall and allows the fairies to move between their world and ours at their convenience. My fairy garden is populated with several fairy statues (see the 'Lily-of-the-Valley'™ fairy  in the opening thumbnail) to help them feel at home. The 'Fairy Crossing' stepping stone is just something fun that I added. I am positive that fairies have a sense of humor.
Now imagine what other creatures the fairies might enjoy and you may come to the same conclusion I have: butterflies and hummingbirds. They are all small, dainty creatures with delicate wings. The next step was to plant flowers that attract hummers and flutterbyes. There are many places  you can find lists of such plants. Hummingbirds are generally attracted to tubular-shaped, nectar-rich flowers in shades of red, often with little scent. In my garden, which is about 25 by 15 feet, some of these are bee balm, salvia, trumpet creeper, foxglove, cypress vine, lilac and hosta, although some do not have all of the listed characteristics. On the other hand, butterflies need both nectar plants, to feed the adults, and host plants for the caterpillars to feed on. Host plants are often very specific to a species, so check for host plants that accommodate butterfly species that are native to your area. Butterflies are drawn to some of the same plants as hummingbirds, such as bee balm and hollyhock, but they also like blossoms where they can perch. I've included coneflower, shasta daisy, phlox, aster, black-eyed susan and sedum, among others. Avoid pesticides for all these creatures' sake, including fairies.
Fairies need a space of their own for celebrations and festivals. There is a central area in my garden planted with 'Elfin' thyme and mulched, kept open so the fairies can dance. Behind it there are a series of boulders in a semi-circle to help protect their privacy. Their door is nearby in case they need to leave quickly. I have planted flowers that I think may be useful to the fairies; coneflowers for hats, hibiscus with large petals for clothing, lamb's ear for soft bedding, lavender for fragrance, digitalis for pitchers to hold cool drinks. There are many plants that are edible or can be used for medicines. The fairy lore that has been passed down through the ages has left them with the wisdom to know which plants are healing and which can make a soothing tea. They may be the same ones we human beings make use of ... who knows?
|Coneflower 'Ruby Giant'||Hibiscus(unknown)||Lamb's Ear 'Helen von Stein'||Lavender (white) 'Lacy Frills'||Purple foxglove|
This is just my concept of a fairy garden. There are many ways to welcome fairies to your garden. Some folks build miniature villages with tiny furnishings sized just for fairies. Here you can see a wonderful example courtesy of DG member grammyphoeb. What fairy would not feel instantly at home here? She has added small plants such as the 'Hens 'n Chicks' (Sempervivum) in the little clay pot to scale down the flora. With the tiny garden tools, now the wee folk can garden, too.
|Welcome Sign||A cozy cottage||'Tulip Fairy'™ lounging||Tiny garden tools|
Another thought is to plant a garden with species that have 'fairy-ish' names. Here are some examples, but you can probably find many more. Try searching PlantFiles (click here), the enormous PlantFiles database here at Dave's Garden. Depending on how far you want to go, you might try 'elf', 'elvin', 'dwarf', and so on.
fairy snapdragon, aka toadflax, Chaenorhinum origanifolium
fairy bells, Disporum hookeri
fairy wings, aka barrenwort, Epimedium pinnnatum subsp. colchicum
fairy lily, aka rain lily, Zephyranthes
fairy candles, aka bugbane, Actaea acerina
You may also make just a tiny scenario in a dish garden with moss and mini plants. Or for a more permanent addition to your decor, you may be inspired by the too-cute basket pictured at right. It was made by talented DG member onewish1 in a class, but one amazing fairy and a trip through your favorite craft store when the silk flowers are on sale may be all the push you need to get you started.
If you believe in fairies as I do, it's time to begin. You don't need much room. In fact, you almost have to start small. Try any one of these ideas or one of your own. And if you really want to entice the fairies, try leaving out a dab of jam for them. How do I know? Ssshhhh! A fairy told me.
Some sites you might like to visit:
Suite101.com: Fairy Garden Flowers for Faeries by Barbara M. Martin - excellent article on what flowers to plant in your fairy garden
LifeScript: 5 Tips For A Fairy Garden by Isabella Gladd - another excellent article on design and content
 The 'Lily-of-the-Valley Flower Fairy™' is one of many that are based on the illustrations of Cecily Mary Barker in her series of Flower Fairy™ books
Miniature village photos courtesy grammyphoeb; basket garden photo courtesy onewish1; used with permission, all rights reserved.