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Converted from paper version of the Broad Ripple Gazette (v14n15)
Right in my Own Backyard - Let Out Your Inner Child - by Brandt Carter
posted: Jul. 21, 2017

Right in my Own Backyard header

Let Out Your Inner Child
It's fairy garden time. I will be planting and imagining what the fairies will desire in my yard this year. Do you know that fairies and elves can be bad and impish or fanciful and kind? That is why I offer an enticing garden for these unseen creatures. I want to have only the kind ones visit my yard on a dark, warm, starlit night.
I am adding to my fairy garden this year. It is nestled under my big sugar maple so shade plants and moss are my only plantings. I do expand each year by adding more structures, lights, and festoons. My corner tree is perfect for all the children of the neighbor to visit the "big" fairy garden and climb the tree to see the garden from a different perspective. It is the highlight of summer walks whether during the day or late evening.
The big maple tree has a wooden owl face affixed to the trunk so that the tree shares its wisdom while overlooking the fairy houses. This stern owl will hopefully remind visitors to treat the garden with respect. Mulch, moss, and stones line the area that is surrounded by an embellished white wire fence (fairy height of course). If you want to enter the garden, you have to be small enough to walk through the twig archway made from the fallen limbs found in the yard. There is another small twig structure with a thinking seat in it for six-year olds and younger to disappear into. Small garden lights start shining at dusk for the late night visitors.
In the garden village you will see fairy-sized houses, businesses like fairy dust and fairy wing shops, a band shell, churches, and troll huts. There is a special welcome-fairy door that provides an opening in the tree so the fairies and elves can enter from the nether land. Hanging banners and suspended fairy dwelling are in overhead branches. One little cabin has a place for pieces of paper so a visitor can write a note and wait for a fairy to answer. On magical nights, fairies visit and sometime leave trinkets in the box for curious children.
I have been making fairy gardens for the past decade. I encourage you to try adding one to your yard. Once you have made a fairy garden, it is difficult to stop with just one. My yard has at least six ranging from the under tree garden to one made in a small pot. Smaller gardens can be assembled in any kind of a container, small or large: leaky birdbath tops, Weber grill lids, an old wheelbarrow, a large pot, or even wheel hubs. The container is secondary to what you put in it. From homemade or collected objects to store bought, and/or elegant fairy paraphernalia, anything goes in this kind of garden. Begin with a base of sand, rocks, or plastic packing peanuts for drainage. Add good potting soil. You can either landscape the area first or put in your houses, birdbaths, rocks, tables/chairs, figurines, and then finally add miniature plants.
The fairy landscape doesn't require many plants. I use some from my yard like miniature hostas, mosses, violets, and ground cover. A small rosemary plant makes a perfect scale tree, and different thymes are just the right touch. Local nurseries usually have wonderful selections of small flowers to add delight. Watering and pruning is required for the maintenance of your garden, and it can be done in a matter of minutes! Be sure to provide some shade so that the plants will not perish in the hot sun. My gardens are in fairly heavy shade. What's also fun as a fairy garden landlord is collecting items for the garden all summer long. Encourage your visitors to donate special items. You will be amazed at how jammed it can get! The garden can continue to change for the seasons. Add paths of stone or gems, a flag, a pond, a pumpkin, or a scarecrow.
Summer is the high season for fairies. Your garden will work like a charm as a conversation starter for visitors, and you will want to invite passersby to stop and admire your handiwork. And the best part about a fairy garden is that sometimes, if you are lucky, you just might catch a glimpse of a fairy visiting.

Brandt Carter, artist, herbalist, and naturalist, owns Backyard Birds at 2374 E. 54th Street. Visit her web site Email your bird questions to
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