When Angie Wall wanted to pass on her love of gardening to her grandchildren, she recruited some allies. Fairies.
Well, not actual fairies, but the next best thing — fairy gardens.
Fairy gardens — tiny gardens that include miniature items like buildings, chairs, vehicles, people and, of course, fairies — have been around for a long time, but they have enjoyed a surge in popularity over the past two or three years, says Susan Altares, manager of the Louisiana Nursery Showplace store on Perkins Road.
“We don’t call them fairy gardens. We prefer to call them miniature gardens,” Altares says. “It’s not all about the fairies.”
It is, however, all about creating small scenes that depict fantasy or reality, a pastime limited only by the imagination.
Wall and Kitty Bull, both of Baton Rouge, lead sessions for the Louisiana Master Gardeners showing people how to set up fairy gardens. Bull has three such gardens tucked into her lushly landscaped Old Goodwood-area backyard. Wall, a terrarium enthusiast, has fairy gardens inside and on the patio of her University Club home.
In both cases, grandchildren played a role in at least some of the gardens.
“They’ve had vegetable boxes, and now we’re into the fairy gardens, and just when you think you’ve lost the 12-year-old to bigger and technological things, she started to take it over like it was her little project,” Wall says. “It’s been a nice way to connect with my grandchildren, and you’d be surprised how many adults have become interested in it, too.”
Based on the customers she has, Altares isn’t surprised.
“I tease the women coming in here that it’s just like playing dolls again,” Altares says.
Done right, fairy gardens seem realistic when small plants are of the right proportion to resemble trees or larger shrubbery next to the accessories. Nurseries sell such plants for fairy gardens and terrariums. Or, in Wall’s case, both. She has nearly a half-dozen fairy terrariums in her home, some covered so they don’t need watering, but all requiring little maintenance.
Many nurseries sell the accessories, and all manner of curios can be used.
“I find them everywhere,” Wall says. “You can go very expensively, or you can go very economically. Kitty and I went to the (Rotary) Inner Wheel big sale they have over at Cortana once a year and we racked up — little figurines, little items that may have been on a curio shelf. We scooped up everything we could put our hands on that day and came home with some nice prizes. Kitty has done one in a little red wagon that is moveable.”
That wagon is the first fairy garden a visitor finds when walking the winding paths through Bull’s backyard. Irish moss, reindeer moss, small ferns and miniature aloe vera plants provide the foliage for a fantasy scene with several fairies. Bull says she uses trial and error to develop her fairy garden themes.
“If it doesn’t look good, I just try something different,” she says.
Bull’s 9-year-old granddaughter, Julia Shaffer, helped arrange another of the backyard fairy gardens. That, Wall said, is in keeping with the history of this avocation. Two of her grandchildren — Cullen Curole, 6, and Avery Curole, 4 — helped design several of the fairy gardens, including one that features small dinosaurs, which is Cullen’s current interest.
“In the early 1900s, it was more of a focus in people’s gardens,” she says. “You find those little nooks and crannies in a garden and make it a home for a fairy. That was for the interest of the children in the family.
“It’s surprising to me that adults find it intriguing, too.”