Fairy Gardens: A Small Trend in Interiorscaping?

I’m horrible at remembering specific dates so I’m guessing this particular garage sale was about four years ago. The downside of being artistic is my tendency to collect too many items that I have to force myself to purge every so often with a yard sale.

Right away, I spotted a woman who probably has the same issues as myself. She started getting very excited at all the miniature architect and figurines I was pretty much giving away. I didn’t even have to ask before her and her husband where explaining to me their fairy garden hobby. Several months ago, they turned a small section of their yard into a tiny fairy land and ever since, they’ve expanded their fairy world by hunting for pieces at yard sales, consignment shops or flea markets. Their hobby had even turned into meeting other like-minded folks and getting together for tea parties or cook-outs so everyone gets to enjoy different visions of a fairy’s lair.

At that very moment, it seemed a little different the way they were describing it. Different, but also intriguing. I flashed back to a large glass container that rested on a white wrought iron stand inside my grandmother’s sitting room. As a child, every time I came to her home, I had to gaze at the miniature garden growing inside that glass jug to see if the fern was now touching the top and if the pebble stepping stones were still visible from the violets. Her creativity and ingenuity fascinated my child’s mind. That’s when I realized fairy gardens are probably just as transfixing as the still popular terrariums were for me back then.

Although I’m sure we aren’t the first generation to think of creating these unique gardens, it seemed not long after that garage sale that I began to notice fairy gardens popping up everywhere. But these fairy gardens weren’t like my grandmother’s terrarium. Some of them looked like something out of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings. The detail and authenticity these artistic gardeners achieved gave me a new appreciation for the tabletop-sized garden.

One of the most ingenious ideas about these gardens is that someone thought to create them using broken terracotta pots, recycled items and sustainable natural products. The insight to take a broken container and create a tiered dish garden using soil, moss and the broken scrap terracotta pieces as a staircase makes me think I wasn’t saving enough items. I can’t tell you how many times I stood above the garbage can, pissed off because my beautiful container was broken and there was nothing else that could be done with it besides throw it in the trash. For one quick instance before tossing, I would believe these ceramic pieces still had value and yet, I would let go every time. Apparently, I should have held on and thought much longer. Props to the people that discovered this.

With that said, I also realize people are taking perfectly good terracotta or ceramic containers and purposely smashing the sides. Sure. Smashing a perfectly good container that you just paid ten dollars for can be exhilarating. But wouldn’t it be more gratifying to re-purpose something that costs you nothing? Besides getting a big enough hole with enough usable pieces using a hammer is not an exactly easy. So if anyone has figured that out, feel free to email me the secret.

Besides some of these miniature gardens worthy of their own local gallery showing, it’s the mixture of creativity I love. The ability to re-purpose landfill bound material and bring different objects together to create a piece of art with nature is just one of the reasons I enjoy being involved with horticulture. We should all strive to be globally responsible when appealing to our visual needs.  While providing our bodies with nourishment is first and foremost, the visual power plants and nature have on us has been proven to influence our health, our happiness and our overall productivity. Maybe adding fairy gardens to the workplace is more than an aesthetic decision?

When her husband wasn’t around, the woman from the garage sale confessed to me she had learned a year ago that she wouldn’t be able to bear any children. Extremely depressed and thinking about divorce, she started creating this fairy land in her backyard. This simple hobby brought her and her husband back together and rejuvenated her happiness. That was all the real life proof I needed.

Sherry has been part of the interiorscape industry for over fifteen years, starting at an entry level job at North Florida's largest greenhouse and currently owning two horticulture companies. At UMaine, Sherry majored in English where she worked part-time writing scripts for a local college TV studio.

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  • the Ficus Wrangler

    I loved your discussion of fairy gardens – both your memories and your speculations. I think they could definitely have a place in modern interiors, for which one should be able to charge a premium price. My first design featured a bonsai in the owner’s office – that design never came to fruition, but I still think it was a good idea. Hope some people will pick up the idea and run with it.

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