Life-sized fairy garden

lavender_lass(4b)February 13, 2010

Fairy gardens seem to mean miniature gardens to most people. While they're very cute, I'm looking for something more life-sized. I have several little nieces (under 10) that like to visit in the spring and summer. They love dressing up as fairies and all things fairy seems to be very popular with them right now.

I have a garden on the east side of the house, half shade and half sun, with a grass path separating them. The shade garden is about 30' long and 4' deep and is against the house...then the grass path (about 5' wide) and then the sun garden is about 30' long and 6' deep. The sun garden has a 6' wide grass path that bisects the middle, resulting in 2 beds about 12' x 6' each. I have them planted almost as a mirror reverse, with butterfly bushes, coneflowers, gallica roses, and a bird bath on one end, by a metal archway. The gallica roses change color (Belle de Crecy) and I also have a few fairy roses. The shady plants are mostly a few ferns, some columbine, forget-me-knots and violas.

I'd like to add some accessories and more plants to make it feel like a fairy garden...with the girls being the fairies. I want to stick with safe plants to have around children, so violets are good, lily of the valley is out. Not everything has to be edible, but no highly toxic plants, like foxglove. The kitchen garden is nearby, and the side closest to the fairy garden is the kids side of the garden, so some ideas can transition over. For example, I'm putting a hopscotch in the veggie garden and an allee with climbing beans and cherry tomatoes. Also have a small "Peter Rabbit" garden with mini-veggies. I'd like to have a little seating area with a "stump" table and "toad stools" for the girls to use...(saw this idea on another forum.) This could go in either area, but there's probably more space in the kitchen garden. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated. The girls like butterflies, dragonflies, ladybugs, flowers of all kinds, and of course, anything pink and purple :)

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socalgal_gw Zone USDA 10b Sunset 24

When I was a little girl I used to enjoy playing with the fuchsias in my grandparents garden - if you take a flower and add a twig for arms it makes a little "fairy" in a pretty skirt, and they come in pink and purple.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2010 at 6:54PM
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catkim(San Diego 10/24)

Plants with oversize parts will make the girls feel tiny -- giant sunflowers, for example, or hollyhocks. Can you grow Gunnera? The gigantic leaves are fascinating. Maybe you could grow Solandra maxima indoors, take it outside for spring and summer? The huge cupped gold flowers are the stuff of fairy tales. : )

This Gunnera leaf is about 3 ft. in diameter:

Large flower of Solandra maxima, maybe 8 - 9 inches diameter:

    Bookmark   February 14, 2010 at 2:28PM
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isabella__MA(z5_MA)

Hi Catkim,

That looks like a fascinating plant... I've been looking for a focal point plant for my garden turnabout next to my retaning wall that won't yearly garden allotment a full-size weeping evergreen and one that can outgrow Jap. Knotweed! I think this one is a contender!!

    Bookmark   February 14, 2010 at 4:40PM
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linda_schreiber(z5/6 MI)

Giant-scale plants are a great idea! They will indeed make the girls feel tiny. I have two more suggestions:

First, is there a way to create a "secret place"? Doesn't need to be big. Just enough for the girls to slip into single file, and sit down. What I'm picturing is small stepping stones *not* in any direct line, but sort of wandering.... ("You can only get there if you know the secret fairy path" sort-of-thing.) Maybe ending in the shade garden up against the house? Or the retaining wall you mentioned? Or trim out a 'cave' under a large drooping shrub?

Second, in addition to the large-scale stuff, keep in mind the "tiny treasures".... Scattered here and there, things like clusters of quartz crystals, small stone toads, small metal dragonflies on stakes. Maybe really small 'wind chime' effects.

This is great fun! My aunts used to give us lemonade and cookies, and that was pretty good. But I would have loved having you for an aunt, long long ago (grins).

    Bookmark   February 15, 2010 at 6:31PM
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lavender_lass(4b)

Fuchsias are a great idea!

Giant plants would be great, but I don't know if I have the room. Hollyhocks would be wonderful and sunflowers are already going in the veggie garden :)

Linda- Thanks :)

Stepping stones are always fun and my mom found a cute book that shows how to paint flowers and butterflies/ladybugs on round stepping stones. I have some metal ladybugs and small wind chimes are a fun idea too.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2010 at 6:48PM
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bonsai_audge

Maybe this is the romantic idealist in me speaking, but I do believe that the most convincing, memorable fairy garden for children would be one that they are free to use and re-imagine or re-interpret on their own right. I have faith in the power of a child's imagination, one that cannot be matched by the effects of literal accessories.

Fairies are mysterious creatures; sometimes elusive, but always present. They are not glitter and wings. I think that a fairy garden should reflect that.

- Audric

    Bookmark   February 17, 2010 at 10:47PM
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lavender_lass(4b)

Audric- Interesting idea, but what romantic idealist details would you suggest?

I don't have fairy statues, glitter, fairy houses or gnomes, because I do want to have the kids use their imagination. Do you have any specific flowers, garden features or accessories that you would recommend :)

    Bookmark   February 18, 2010 at 12:30AM
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sergeantcuff

I would focus on plants and "found" objects/features. My sons always marveled over plants that changed form rapidly, into something even more interesting. Fairies at work?

Seed pods - Lunaria (can be used as money), nigella (love in a mist, baptista, etc.

Plants with varying opening times - four-o'clocks, moonflowers, morning glories, nicotiana, poppies (overnight) etc.

Anything unusual - sensitive plant (mimosa pudica), emerging fern fronds, anything with giant leaves.

I love the "secret hiding place" idea and the mini-veggies. I would suggest peas, as my sons eat so many of them in the garden that I have few to serve at dinner. Honestly they preferred sticks over anything, especially those sharpened with pocket knives.

Plants that attract butterflies. I put in alot of milkweed last year and was disappointed to see fewer butterflies than usual. My sons were astounded to find tons of monarch caterpillars everywhere. Now that's magic! (and these kids are now in middle school, and not easily impressed.

Good luck with your project.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2010 at 12:34PM
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lavender_lass(4b)

Thank you for the great ideas. Plants that change color or form are always fun. I am thinking about changing the shady area just a bit. It's hard to find plants that will work with my cold winters and horse pasture..which leaves out rhododendrons, azaleas, bleeding heart and a few other great shade plants, which are toxic to horses.

I have a small seating area in the middle of the shady garden, against the house. I'm thinking of making this space a little larger, and adding an arbor to go over the seating area, which will have a tea table and two chairs, with room to add a few more if needed. I'm hoping to plant Zephirine Drouhin roses on the arbor...no thorns and shade tolerant...and the color would look great with the gallicas and other flowers. The shade garden gets morning sun, but is shady in the afternoon. This would also give me a great place to hang a couple of fuchsias. (Thanks socalgal.)

    Bookmark   February 18, 2010 at 4:30PM
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bonsai_audge

I always think of the infamous Cottingley fairies when I think of fairies. There's something dark and mysterious to the nature of fairies. Here is a quote from a favourite book, Les Miserables:

"This garden was no longer a garden, it was a colossal thicket, that is to say, something as impenetrable as a forest, as peopled as a city, quivering like a nest, sombre like a cathedral, fragrant like a bouquet, solitary as a tomb, living as a throng."

(You can read the rest of the chapter here)

I really have no suggestions for any specific details. My suggestion is to limit contrived accessories if possible. The notion of a fairy garden doesn't equate to a flower garden in my mind - it is more so a place where human influences have relinquished control to larger, more spontaneous forces (i.e. nature).

- Audric

    Bookmark   February 18, 2010 at 9:51PM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

Have you considered using willow to create living dens? The children would learn about taking cuttings as well as being able to create their own hideouts. Primary schools do it quite a lot over here. The link has several ideas.

Here is a link that might be useful: willow structures

    Bookmark   February 19, 2010 at 7:00AM
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lavender_lass(4b)

Flora- That's a great idea, but I don't have any willows.

When I was young, we had a huge willow tree in the front yard. My brother and I loved playing under that tree for hours. I've been thinking of adding a willow, but want to decide where my gardens are going first.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2010 at 10:28PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

I've never seen any life-sized fairies in my garden, so I guess I don't have one. I do know someone who claims to have captured something along those lines on camera, in their garden.

Looked like smoke to me.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2010 at 2:41PM
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inkognito

audric: exactamundo. I have nothing to add to what you said above other than that fairies only exist in the imagination and they certainly won't be enticed to make an appearance under the watchful eye of a grown up.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2010 at 4:35PM
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lavender_lass(4b)

I really appreciate all the creative suggestions for the garden. So many of you have great ideas and I think it will really help as I'm designing the space for the little nieces.

I don't know why some of you think I'm trying to attract "real" fairies to the garden, but maybe that's something you would like to do in your gardens :)

Any other ideas for a children's garden with a fairy theme would be greatly appreciated. Thanks again!

    Bookmark   February 20, 2010 at 10:40PM
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puffie(6)

I found this picture, and it looks like a fairy garden if I ever saw one!

http://emilyflippinmaruna.files.wordpress.com/2009/05/kathryn-fairy-garden.jpg

The dappled shade makes it feel so secluded.

This plant is a great moss subsitute:
http://gurneys.com/product.asp_Q_pn_E_76121

You could try trout lily, toad lily, and muscari to add color in shady places. Hosta "Sum and Substance" is an awesome hosta--absolutely enormous. A dwarf viburnum would be good, also Honeyberry is edible and hardy in your zone, but you'll have to squeeze two in if you want fruit:

http://www.parkseed.com/gardening/PD/47637/

And I drew a picture :P I can't do anything without a visual! Each square is 9" by 9", so the place with the table is 6ft wide, and the "secret path" is 18 inches wide. Perfect for fairy sneaking!

http://yfrog.com/eufairygardenj

    Bookmark   February 21, 2010 at 1:19PM
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inkognito

"It's a Snark!" was the sound that first came to their ears,
And seemed almost too good to be true.
Then followed a torrent of laughter and cheers:
Then the ominous words "It's a Boo-"

Then, silence. Some fancied they heard in the air
A weary and wandering sigh
Then sounded like "-jum!" but the others declare
It was only a breeze that went by.

They hunted till darkness came on, but they found
Not a button, or feather, or mark,
By which they could tell that they stood on the ground
Where the Baker had met with the Snark.

In the midst of the word he was trying to say,
In the midst of his laughter and glee,
He had softly and suddenly vanished away---
For the Snark *was* a Boojum, you see.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2010 at 1:33PM
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duluthinbloomz4

Ah, "The Hunting of the Snark".

Back in simpler times, we had a fairy garden - but it was the big patch of woods at the end of the neighborhood. All of us kids knew about it... all the parents too as we discovered when the wisdom of age started to creep in. It didn't have anything contrived, no scattering of fairy dolls in pastel tulle perched on cement toadstools.

It was magical, nonetheless. We learned about trees and leaves, ferns, fungi on rotting logs, puffballs you could step on to release a cloud of spores, wild violets, lupines and roses which we all seemed to enjoy in place rather than wanting to pick; when to start looking for the big fuzzy pussy willows; where the hazlenuts were that you might get to before the usual forest creatures did, where the best low hanging branches for sitting could be found, where acorn caps just might be hats for elves. Something buzzing past your ear could be a fairy, but more than likely a bug or moth.

None of us had any desire to put something unknown into our mouths - probably something inbred from our prehistoric ancestors who could only register surprise at ingesting a fistfull of Aminita. Somebody always has to be a first and then it becomes a part of lore.

Times are different now; we grew up when there wasn't something dangerous lurking behind every shrub. Our own yards were sanctuaries only if we wanted them to be. There was a big 1950's world beyond our yards.

But I digress...

    Bookmark   February 21, 2010 at 4:03PM
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mjsee(Zone 7b, NC)

There's a book by Gene Stratton Porter that talks about building a garden for a life-sized fairy princess...

Laddie: A True Blue Story:

Laddie hadn't done a thing but make an exact copy of my playhouse under the biggest maiden's-blush in our orchard. He used the immense beech for one corner, where I had the apple tree. His Magic Carpet was woolly-dog moss, and all the magic about it, was that on the damp woods floor, in the deep shade, the moss had taken root and was growing as if it always had been there. He had been able to cut and stick much larger willow sprouts for his walls than I could, and in the wet black mould they didn't look as if they ever had wilted. They were so fresh and green, no doubt they had taken root and were growing. Where I had a low bench under my tree, he had used a log; but he had hewed the top flat, and made a moss cover. In each corner he had set a fern as high as my head. On either side of the entrance he had planted a cluster of cardinal flower that was in full bloom, and around the walls in a few places thrifty bunches of Oswego tea and foxfire, that I would have walked miles to secure for my wild garden under the Bartlett pear tree. It was so beautiful it took my breath away.

"If the Queen's daughter doesn't like this," I said softly, "she'll have to go to Heaven before she finds anything better, for there can't be another place on earth so pretty."

Perhaps the above will give you some ideas?

    Bookmark   February 21, 2010 at 4:58PM
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inkognito

duluth I'll see your digression and raise you an anecdote. I knew an old garden that practically enveloped the tiny house and the two old ladies that lived there. There were rhododendrons that reached the second floor windows and the path to the veggie garden was beaten through overhanging vegetation it was impossible to distinguish. There was a majestic beech tree and a pine tree with ladder like branches that just went up and up.

Death came knocking and the inheritors sold the property just like that. The new owners called me and asked for my advice, they had three children and another on the way. It was an easy one for me and I suggested leaving it as it was: trees to climb and swing in, places to hide, a fairy on every toad stool...I didn't get the job! They called me again, maybe 18 months later, they must have liked the cut of my jib. In the interim they had removed the trees, in fact they had removed everything flattened everything and there was sod, wall to wall. Lawn from hedge to hedge. They wanted a design from me that would have a sand box, a climbing frame, a slope to exercise the kids legs etc. all within sight of the house. From kids paradise to worried mums prison. I didn't get that job either, what is a "jib" anyway?

    Bookmark   February 21, 2010 at 5:36PM
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mjsee(Zone 7b, NC)

Oh, ink...that makes me sad.

I'd have left it as it was. From 3rd grade on my kids ran wild in the woods...they also knew what time dinner was every night, and that they'd best be home.

When they were little we lived in a house with a fenced in backyard and I turned 'em out there every day. They loved their sandbox but they loved the mud more. We had to do a LOT of mulching when we put that house on the market.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2010 at 6:55PM
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lavender_lass(4b)

Thank you Puffie and mjsee for the great ideas.

As for the other comments, I think one of you made an excellent point...it's not the 1950s anymore. Good or bad, kids don't usually get to run free in the woods anymore, so yards are their last, if not best, sanctuary. It's not even always safe to go to the parks anymore, which we got to do as kids.

One reason I want to make the yard more "kid-friendly" is for the kids to have something to do when they visit. However, since they're not here all the time, I don't want it cutesy-kids zone, either. The idea of hiding some things in the flower garden is more for them to have something to discover, but not have it staring me in the face, when they're not here.

I have horses, so running free in the pasture is not an option for the little ones. The creek is inside the horse pasture, so that's another area that's off limits. Before everyone tells me it won't hurt them to run with the horses, one family member saw his cousin killed when a horse kicked her. They were both little kids and were allowed in with the horses. Any horse can kick at anytime, often not to be mean, but because they don't know what's behind them.

Now, if you have any ideas for making the flower garden more fun, please let me know. If it makes you happier, think magical/fairy garden or shade garden/butterfly garden with small seating area.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2010 at 11:05AM
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mjsee(Zone 7b, NC)

I have horses, so running free in the pasture is not an option for the little ones. The creek is inside the horse pasture, so that's another area that's off limits. Before everyone tells me it won't hurt them to run with the horses, one family member saw his cousin killed when a horse kicked her.

Horses can be dangerous. I, too, have seen the damage they can do...though no one died.

There are a number of really cool "gardening with kids" books out there...one idea that stuck in my mind was the Runner Bean Teepee. Went online and found instructions for you:
Bean Teepee

Materials

* Packet of pole bean seeds
* Long stakes or bamboo

Directions

  1. Prepare an area of soil about six feet square.
  2. Arrange the stakes in a teepee shape, placing them in the ground six inches from the edge of the soil area and meeting in the middle overhead.
  3. Secure the tops of the stakes together with string.
  4. Soak the bean seeds overnight.
  5. Plant the seeds according to the packet directions around the base of the teepee on the outside.
  6. Water generously.
  7. As the beans begin to grow tall, tie the stems carefully to the stakes.
  8. In six to eight weeks, the bean plants will cover the stakes and you can play inside the teepee.
  9. The beans can be eaten fresh or harvested and cooked.

Note: Scarlet runner beans are a good choice. They have bright red flowers and tasty, flat green pods. Other pole bean varieties work just as well.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2010 at 12:09PM
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lavender_lass(4b)

Mjsee- Thank you, that is a wonderful idea :)

That would be fun for the nieces and nephews, so I really appreciate such a great suggestion!

    Bookmark   February 22, 2010 at 1:59PM
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mjjones453

How about using the plant gaura? it has pretty dainty flowers, and they look like butterflies blowing in the wind! It is a sun perennial.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2010 at 10:25AM
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lavender_lass(4b)

Gaura is a great idea! They do look like butterflies blowing in the wind.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2010 at 1:33PM
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lavender_lass(4b)

Puffie- Meant to say, thanks for the picture and the links. Some great ideas for the fairy garden! I love the secret path :)

    Bookmark   February 24, 2010 at 1:56PM
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