What the Fairy Best are Wearing This Season

Designing fun fairy fashions out of botanical materials can light up the imagination and unleash wonder in the garden.


| April/May 2006



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Since Cicely Mary Barker first created her flower fairies in 1923, fairy enthusiasts have been under a misconception. Because Barker drew her fairies in their work uniforms—for example, the Holly Fairy wearing holly leaves—people began to believe that these “uniforms” were the only thing these fairies wore day after day.

This belief has made the fairy faithful overlook a huge aspect of their favorite sprites’ culture—fairy haute couture, according to longtime enthusiast and fairy-garden manager Nancy Quinn-Simon. To correct this oversight, Quinn-Simon has created a line of fairy fashions so we humans can participate in this charming aspect of the pixies’ daily lives, and add to our gardens’ magical appeal.

Finding Fairy Fashion

A member of the Herb Society of America, author and 30-year elementary-school teacher, Quinn-Simon retired from teaching about five years ago. She and her husband operate Carlyle Farm, an educational herb farm in Massillon, Ohio. Soon after retiring, she learned about her first fairy garden when she volunteered to help maintain the Hoover Historical Herb Society garden in nearby Canton, Ohio, in addition to her own herb farm. “The first garden they assigned me was the fairy garden,” she says. A good friend mentored her, and introduced her to the many miniature plants that could make up a fairy garden. (For information on planting a fairy garden, please see “Gardening with Fairies,” March 2005.)

“A year or so later I got on the committee for the new children’s garden in our town, modeled after the children’s garden at Michigan State [University],” she says. “I wanted a fairy garden and asked to help plan and design that garden.”

Between the two fairy gardens, Quinn-Simon was becoming quite a fairy aficionado, but she didn’t start thinking about fairy fashions until one day—about two years later—when she was leading a group of children on a fairy garden tour. She was telling them about fairy lifestyles as they walked around searching for “evidence” of fairy activity, such as moisture canopies that are left after a fairy party. “We were looking for the fairies,” she says. “The kids start going around looking for moisture canopies, saying ‘Wow! There were a lot of parties here last night.’ They want to believe, they really do.”

It was during this particular tour that Quinn-Simon had an unusual thought. When explaining to the children how to attract fairies, she mentioned that a reflection pond or gazing ball is essential, because legends say that fairies are notoriously vain. She suddenly realized that it didn’t make sense that these vain fairies would wear their day-to-day work outfits to their many social events, such as the harvest ball.





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