The Fairy Garden

I grew up in Fort Worth playing in my grandmother’s large garden and listening to her stories about fairies and other garden sprites that, according to her, shared our tranquil space. Fairy gardens was something that I started thinking about again when we were lucky enough to have my granddaughter Taylor ( 3 months old then ) come to us for day care.

Texas Fairy Gardening

I had been given several of the lovely little books written and illustrated by Cicely Mary Barker about her life long fascination with garden fairies. The books are filled with a poem about each fairy and a picture of that fairy along with the flower that it represents. In those pictures each garden fairy is dressed in clothing that looks like it has been made from its flower and each poem is about the fairy as it relates to the plant. Of course the plants in those books grew in England Taylor loved looking at the pictures and as she got older and we spent more time out in the garden-we started making up our own fairy garden stories about plants that grew in our area and talking about how those fairies would look and how they would use different plants found in our garden. I developed a Fairy Gardening Program for Young People during this time as a way to share the love of gardening with the children in our lives and at the same time teach them good gardening skills that will serve them well in a way that would make sense and be interesting to the child. ( you will find this program in it’s original form-along with a cute picture of a “Taylor” garden fairy in “The Ladies Of The Garden” book that Patricia Cowan and I co-wrote about organic gardening in this area) Organic garden centers carry this book.

Fairy Garden Plants

In my fairy garden stories each garden has one fairy per kind of plant-so no matter how many rosemary plants your garden has-the rosemary fairy takes care of all of them. In my stories the gardens are very bio-diverse with lots of different plants—that way the garden is full of fairies that have lots of friends and time to enjoy them ( not too much of one plant for that fairy to take care of) .

It is also important for every fairy garden to have the plants that would meet all of the needs of the fairies that live there. (fairies need and like the same things as human children.) They need love, friends, clothes, hats, cozy beds, night lights , places to take a bath, toothbrushes, tea party supplies, toys, musical instruments, pets, boats, and other forms of transportation, etc. ( for instance -lambs ear makes a nice blanket-it is evergreen and would be there in the winter and it feels soft—roses make good summer beds-fairies like to snuggle into them—daisies make good plates —trumpet shaped flowers make good horns) The fairies in my stories also enlist beneficial insects, lizards, toads, birds, spiders, etc. to help them– so we must think of their needs too as we plan our fairy gardens. These garden friends can get rid of unwanted visitors that could hurt the plants,- they also provide transportation and weave lovely fairy accessories.

Fairy Garden Tasks

The fairy garden tasks are shared by the fairies and the human children that live in every garden. The children tend and enjoy the gardens by day and the fairies take over at night after the children go to bed. The fairies tend their plants, harvest what they need (of course fairies always share with each other) eat, ( tea parties are very popular) chat with their friends, play, sing and dance —- and just before the children wake up —they get ready for bed by brushing their teeth and bathing. Evidence of this co-habitation can be found if you take an early morning stroll and look carefully into the daylilies or other such shaped plant—there may still be some bathwater left there or perhaps a fairy left a stick laying about that he or she was playing with during the night. ( sometimes even fairies forget to pick up their toys)
Fairies often leave presents for human children (fairies are very generous )–but the children must look for these presents with sharp eyes—Taylor and I often found such presents on our walks through her fairy garden. (pretty stones, feathers, colored leaves, acorns, sweet gum balls, pine cones etc.). Often a fairy would talk it’s plant into producing a beautiful bloom that wasn’t there the day before—just for Taylor. Taylor had a treasure box that she collected these treasures in and every once in a while when my clients came to the house they would be treated to a peek. Taylor and I left presents for the fairies too—sometimes a generous crumb from a garden tea party cake , a special piece of fairy furniture that she fashioned , plump sun flower seeds and even notes from her to the fairies. These special presents were always taken in the night which brought excited joy to us the next day.

Taylor and her students search for gifts left in the fairy garden the night before. ( Taylor started teaching children’s classes at the age of 7.) Taylor is 16 now and she and I still share our love of gardening with each other and we remember the children and adults that came to her Fairy Garden and Butterfly Garden classes at our home in Arlington.

– Lucy Harrell

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