Gardening with Fairies

Will these tiny, sprightly landscapes actually attract fairies? To find out, follow these guidelines, and keep your eyes open for magic.

| February/March 2005

  • Apple-scented geranium
  • Thymus 'Annie Hall'

You don’t need to believe in fairies to have a fairy garden on your deck or patio — although it couldn’t hurt. Children and adults alike will delight in planting and caring for these miniature gardens brimming with charm and intrigue.

Start with Herbs

Begin by choosing low-growing herbs. The scale of plant material in your fairy garden container is important because the plants create the miniature landscape and make it manageable. Easily kept small by trimming, the plants listed on Page 18 do well in small spaces. Many of these plants grow slowly and easily can be maintained by trimming them back. Remember that plants in containers grow slower than if they were planted in the garden.

Not only is the fragrance of these herbs captivating, the flowers are quite striking as well. Oreganos feature many different flower colors and varied leaves. With its small leaves, minor thyme (Thymus praecox ‘Minor’) is suitable as a groundcover and only grows about 1/4 inch tall. Curly chives (Allium senescens ‘Glaucum’) have a blue-green twisted leaf and form a hedge and gray-leaved Greek sage (Salvia fruticosa) gives contrast to the common, green-leaved plants. To soften the edges, Irene rosemary cascades wonderfully down the side of the container.

My other favorites for the fairy garden include: variegated or green myrtle, which makes a small standard when pruned; dwarf pink autumn sage, for its small, compact green leaves and beautiful pink summer flowers; lemon-scented geraniums, which serve as small upright trees with their 1/2- to 3/4-inch crinkled, dark-green leaves; and creeping savory, which is easy to shape into a small bush.

Choose a Container

No matter which container you select, make sure it offers sufficient drainage from the bottom to allow water to serve the roots and escape rather than keeping roots constantly wet. Durable hypertufa troughs and pots will withstand many different kinds of weather conditions and won’t blow over. Available in many shapes and sizes, they fit nicely into the landscape and small plants don’t get lost in a mob of other plants on the ground. Troughs can be made or purchased and are constructed of a mixture of Portland cement with peat moss and perlite. (View instructions for making your own hypertufa pot or trough on The Herb Companion’s website at .)

Terra cotta pots and window boxes also are useful because they drain well and are available in a vast array of sizes and shapes. The saucers of the larger-sized pots can make charming gardens for fairies, too (provided you offer some opportunity for drainage). My favorite containers are old, weathered clay pots because the discoloration on the sides gives so much character and interest. If you choose a wooden window box, which will nicely accent a deck or patio, choose sturdy, long-lasting redwood or cedar. These boxes will need adequate drainage holes like any other container. 

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