Fairy gardens offer children a fun way to get outside and start their own gardens. What's a fairy garden? Cicely Mary Barker's Flower Fairy books popularized the whimsical notion of fairies in the garden. Foxglove, hollyhock, lily of the valley and columbine are all flowers known to attract fairies to a garden area. While these grow well in Barker's native England, none do particularly well in my North Texas climate. Luckily, with a little imagination anyone can create their own magical garden regardless of your location.
Fairy gardens take little space. Containers work well. You don't even need to call it a fairy garden either. In keeping with the sensibilities of an eight-year old boy, our family has a gnome garden - same concept - with a slightly different twist. Involving the children in the planning, planting and harvesting are keys to garden success.
Step One - decide on the space to be used for the garden. A small shady patch in a garden corner works. Containers that can be relocated during the summer heat are ideal.
Step Two - get your plants ready. The adventurous family can start their garden from seed. For guaranteed success, plan a family trip to a garden center to purchase small plants. Flowers can be tricky, lasting only a few months. Instead, try herbs. Children will enjoy picking out the plants for their garden. Point the kids towards herbs that will not dominate or outgrow their magical garden spot. Variegated sage, oregano, marjoram and summer savory are all good choices. Thyme is wonderful and often will produce tiny little flowers. Unless your space is larger, avoid dill, basil and mints.
Step Three - it's time to plant and decorate. Parents can help, but let the children do the garden design and planting. Children can decorate the garden with small ceramic fairies, gnomes and toadstools easily attainable at craft stores. Doll house furniture - benches and chairs - can be used too. Don't forget to lay a little pathway of tiny rocks for your gnomes.
Step Four - enjoy and maintain. Gardens planted in containers require frequent watering - a chore for young gardeners. If herbs were used, use kitchen shears to snip them frequently. Harvesting herbs often keeps them from overwhelming the small garden and will make for healthier plants. The kids will love using oregano from their gardens to flavor the family spaghetti!
Children will delight in watching their garden grow and in harvesting its bounty. Visits by fairies and gnomes are just an added bonus.