published Saturday, October 1st, 2011

Fairy gardens bring whimsy, imagination to landscape

A gnome sits among fairy houses at Signal Mountain Nursery.
A gnome sits among fairy houses at Signal Mountain Nursery.
Photo by Angela Lewis.

Some gardens are designed to attract bees. Others, hummingbirds. And still others are made to draw in butterflies.

But it takes a certain bit of magic to create a garden that's attractive to fairies.

"It's like Tinkerbell," said Kim Bonastia, co-owner of Signal Mountain Nursery. "Fairies make the seasons and fairy dust, and they paint butterfly wings."

Indeed, it was J.M. Barrie, author of "Peter Pan" and creator of Tinkerbell, one of the best known fairies, who wrote: "When the first baby laughed for the first time, its laugh broke into a thousand pieces, and they all went skipping about, and that was the beginning of fairies."

Fantastical fairy gardens add an element of whimsy and mysticism to a yard, transforming it from a mere outdoor space to a storied oasis. Miniatures, including small houses, are an essential part of any fairy garden.

"Many people," said Bonastia, "gravitate toward the miniatures."

According to gardenfairy.com, a website for fairy enthusiasts, fairy-attracting flowers include sunflowers, honeysuckle, yarrow, rosemary and rose.

Small fairy and gnome figurines may be placed among the flora, or floated in bird baths or small ponds.

Fruit trees, as well as oak, are also said to draw in the tiny winged creatures. Small doors can be placed at the base of a tree trunk to indicate the entry way to a hollow tree, which can provide shelter for fairies or for their gnome friends.

Another option, said Bonastia and colleague Chris Lyle, is to create a miniature landscape, built to scale, which can be established in the corner of a garden or in a planter.

Tiny furniture, similar to that which would be found in a dollhouse though perhaps a bit more rugged, might be placed among small-scale plants including hosta, mouse ears and praying hands. Irish moss and small conifers will stay green all year, Bonastia said.

"Fairies are really big right now," said Bonastia, adding that many of her customers will add fairy elements to their gardens for children and grandchildren. One customer, she recounted, said she would leave out small trinkets in her garden for her grandchildren to find and tell them the gifts had been left by fairies.

A fairy garden can incite the imagination and trigger a sense of nostalgia.

"It brings back a lot of childhood memories," Lyle said.

about Holly Leber ...

Holly Leber is a reporter and columnist for the Life section. She has worked at the Times Free Press since March 2008. Holly covers “everything but the kitchen sink" when it comes to features: the arts, young adults, classical music, art, fitness, home, gardening and food. She writes the popular and sometimes-controversial column Love and Other Indoor Sports. Holly calls both New York City and Saratoga Springs, NY home. She earned a bachelor of arts ...

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