Fairy Gardens: Whimsical Craze Hits Garden Market

Think you're seeing things? Those are just fairy gardens peaking out of flower beds and bird baths.

During a recent stop at Countryside Flower Shop, Nursery and Garden Center in Crystal Lake, I noticed some quaint garden decorations sitting on a shelf.

There were several tiny items: miniature bird baths, tiny bicycles, lanterns, park benches, patio tables, gazing balls, arches and arbors, not to mention small water fountains. They were similar to doll house decorations, but why, I wondered, would a garden store sell doll house supplies?

But as I turned around to scan the rest of the shop, at 5301 E. Terra Cotta in Crystal Lake, there it was: The first fairy garden I have ever seen. It had a tiny cobblestone path, toadstool hut, mushrooms hidden beneath moss and other stepable plants, wicker chairs with pillows and a croquet set!

The salesperson explained the fairy garden accessories were new to the store just this year, all part of a new craze, she said. I noticed the Countryside flier where it listed a Fairy Garden workshop on June 5.

So, with a wave of my wand, err pen, and camera in hand, away I went to find out exactly what folks were buying into this fairy garden craze. Answer: Gardeners!

At the workshop on Tuesday night, about 30 people arrived, some pulling wagons, others toting baskets, and even one woman had stocked a storage container full of fairy garden accessories.

Countryside’s Anastasia Sitter, a horticulturalist who normally spends her days in the greenhouse, served as the Fairy Queen for the workshop. Sitter said she started making the gardens when the supplies began arriving at Countryside this past February.

“Our (Countryside) buyers went to the merchandise shows around Christmastime, and they started seeing the fairy gardens everywhere,” Sitter said. “When the items started arriving, I said, ‘What are these? They are so cute!’ I was ecstatic.”

Sitter began creating miniature fairy gardens in everything she could lay her hands on: an old suitcase she found at the resale store, a broken wheelbarrow garbage-picked from the side of the road, a whicker basket someone thrown out with the trash.

“I started making them in March before our busy season started,” Sitter said. “Then Mother’s Day came, and I couldn’t keep on them on the shelves. Now I can’t keep up with the demand. As soon as I make them, they’re gone. I can’t make them fast enough!”

The preassembled miniature fairy gardens range in price from $35 to $450, depending upon the container. But the Tuesday night crowd was there to learn how to build their own.

Fairy Garden Workshop

During the workshop, Sitter gave her students tips on making and maintaining the baskets. Choosing the right plants for where gardeners plant to display their garden is critical, she said. If the garden will sit in a sunny, outdoor spot, then hardy annual plants should be used. If it’s likely to be in the shade, or indoors, then small house plants work well, she said.

“The other thing I’m finding is that fairy gardens need more water than most people think they do,” Sitter said. “A lot of people make their garden and then they don’t water it.”

Sitter said the fairy garden craze is being fueled by the return of the terrariums, indoor displays popular in the 1970s. The globes, jars and aquarium-like containers were with succulents and other plants.

“The nice thing about fairy gardens is there all different,” Sitter said. “I love seeing all the designs. You can have an English garden. I made small dinosaur one for boys.

Debbie Legenza, of Johnsburg, was one of the students at the fairy garden workshop. She, too, had just seen the miniatures on the shelf during a recent shopping trip to Countryside.

“I love gardening,” Legenza said. “I saw these and I knew I wanted to make one. The back of my yard is wooded with a path leading through it. I have put faces on all the trees so it looks like an enchanted forest. I’m going to build my fairy garden on top of a bird path so when people walk through the woods, they’ll see it.”

Countryside has another workshop planned, “Fairy Gardens, Mom & Me,” for 6:30 p.m. on June 26. Sitter, who said she will dress up as a Fairy Queen for that workshop, said grandmothers, mothers and children can attend and make a fairy garden together. Attendees should call ahead to reserve their place for the free class at 815-459-8130.


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