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How to Create a Fairy Garden

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How to Create a Fairy Garden

Spring of 2014 is on its way and the gardening urge is upon us.  However, “Mother Nature” is probably not as eager as we, and the weather may not yet be consistent enough for all of our tender plants to go outside. There is a type of gardening that will help to satisfy some of our gardening needs, though: why not try putting together a "fairy garden?"

The term should not set you back; there are no fairies needed.  A “fairy garden” is just a miniature garden or landscape in a container, including some hardscape items such as stone paths or dry creek bed or some sort of miniature objects to give one the perception of a garden in miniature.  The use of many types of small leaved plants with an assortment of leaf colors and textures along with a combination of growth habits and plant structures can give the illusion of a true garden in miniature.

To begin, find a container that is shallow, maybe from 2 to 4 inches deep and 12 to 20 inches wide.  This size would make a suitable miniature landscape but size is pretty much up to one’s imagination. 

Normally, a container that is porous and with a drainage hole is recommended, however, when a shallow container with such wide proportions is used, the water can evaporate much more quickly and more oxygen is available to the shallow root system, allowing healthy root growth without much of a risk of rotting.  If the container is much deeper, the addition of a drainage hole would be desirable. 

When a drainage hole is not present, place a layer of horticultural charcoal in the bottom of the container then top with potting soil mixed with calcined clay (a baked clay product which holds moisture but keeps it available to the plants).  Because of the large surface area of the container, the plants also have the risk of drying out too quickly.  This moisture balance can be aided by the use of moist, long fiber sphagnum moss, sometimes referred to as orchid moss, to mulch the top of the soil layer.

We have put together a sample miniature landscape here at the Kemper Center for Home Gardening.  We hope that you will come and take a look and maybe get a few ideas from what we have put together, to use in an indoor landscape of your own.  This can be an enjoyable and satisfying form of gardening for children as well as adults.

Many garden centers are now featuring a large assortment of miniature plants that are well suited for miniature landscape gardens along with the miniature objects that give the garden character.  It would also be fun to make some garden objects out of things around the house.  With a good imagination, the possibilities are endless.

 Some possible plant selections would be low growing sedums, little leaved ivies,  Muehlenbeckia (wire vine), Hypoestes (poka-dot plant), Fittonia (mosaic plant), Columnea (goldfish plant), Selaginella (club moss), Peperomia, Ficus pumila (creeping fig),  even jewel orchids grown for their foliage instead of for their flowers.   Tiny succulents would also be good to consider when choosing plants for your landscape.

Look up possible plant selections and answers to other gardening questions on our website: Gardening Help.

We can help answer your gardening questions. By phone, call the Horticulture Answer Service (M-F from 9-Noon @ 314-577-5143) or visit the “doctors” at the Plant Doctor Desk (Monday-Saturday from 10-3.) in the Center for Home Gardening.

Jane Roth
Horticulture Assistant Kemper Center for Home Gardening

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