How to Plant and Grow Fairy Gardens

Whether you're a beginner or an experienced green thumb, you'll find a book to help you craft a magical landscape for the fairies in your garden.
Fairy Homes and Gardens cover

Fairy Homes and Gardens cover

Photo by: Photo by Sally J. Smith/Greenspirit Arts, courtesy Schiffer Publishing, Ltd.

Photo by Sally J. Smith/Greenspirit Arts, courtesy Schiffer Publishing, Ltd.

Fairy Homes and Gardens features the imaginative work of 3D designers from around the world.

Tiny doors tucked into tree trunks, soft beds made from fresh-cut flowers, and moss-covered roofs are popping up everywhere. More and more of us are making fairy gardens, miniature homes and landscapes designed for elves, sprites, and other enchanted folk. 

Fairy gardens have become trendy in recent years, but they’re thought to have originated with bonsai dish gardens displayed in the Japanese pavilion at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. Fairies themselves, of course, have been around forever. They’re the stuff of bedtime stories, folklore and more than one Disney movie. 

If you’re a beginner, or you want to whip up a fun, whimsical landscape with a child, you’ll find Fairy Gardening 101: How to Design, Plant, Grow, and Create Over 25 Miniature Gardens, by Fiona McDonald (Skyhorse Publishing), offers easy-to-follow instructions for basic gardens. 

The book features colorful photographs to help you design a Mexican Fairy Garden with cacti, a Succulent Garden, a Ferny Dell and a charming Wild Flower Garden, among others.

If you’re short on actual fairies (and who isn’t?), McDonald provides a chapter on knitting or sewing your own, and explains how to create fairies from wooden beads, chenille sticks, and the wings of artificial butterflies purchased from craft stores. 

A section on garden furnishings tells you how to turn mini Popsicle sticks into gates and fences. My favorite accessories are tiny chairs McDonald makes from the wire “cages” that hold corks onto champagne bottles. With a few twists from needle-nosed pliers, a little hot glue, and some lichen and beads, she turns them into enchanting seats for fairy folk. 

McDonald doesn’t limit her gardens to a corner of the yard or a secret spot in the woods; she also describes how to plant a fairy bower in a container, hanging basket, old suitcase, rusty wheelbarrow, or tree stump. 

If you’re a gardener whose thumb isn’t as green as you’d like, or you’re looking for something fun to do outdoors with kids, Fairy Gardening 101 will get you off to a good start. Chances are, it’ll also whet your appetite and imagination for bigger and more ambitious planting projects. 

You’ll find plenty of ideas for those projects in Fairy Homes & Gardens, by Barbara Purchia and E. Ashley Rooney, with an introduction by David D.J. Rau (Schiffer Publishing Ltd.). 

This beautifully photographed book is packed with fairy architecture that ranges from the fabulous to the fantastic. Most designs are quite elaborate and detailed, and some will be too intimidating for backyard hobbyists. But they’ll make you want to whip up your own fairytale dwellings, even if you can’t duplicate their castle-like towers, stained glass windows, or LED lighting.

Some designs are easy enough to imitate, like a miniature outdoor tub made from a pearly shell, a tent pieced together with the blooms of purple irises, or a moveable fairy garden planted in the bed of a toy pickup truck. 

Other photographs will inspire you to adapt the gardens to your skill level. You may decide to plant a “fairy forest” of dark purple, ornamental cabbages, fashion small ladders for multi-story dwellings out of twigs, or trim a tiny house with bits of bark and acorns.

If Fairy Gardening 101 is for beginners, Fairy Homes & Gardens is at the other end of the gardening spectrum. Since it doesn’t include step-by-step directions, it’s best suited for experienced gardeners or readers who enjoy browsing lovely images and using them as a springboard for their own creations. 

Either book might just leave you believing in fairies—or at least the magical gardens they’re said to inhabit.

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