By Liz Wood
If you’ve been on Pinterest or read a gardening magazine in the last few years, chances are you’ve heard about fairy gardens: tiny, whimsical landscapes complete with miniature ponds, pathways, ladders, furniture, even houses. The creative possibilities are limitless, and the results are just too cute.
But how did this quirky gardening sensation come to be? So far as anyone can tell, it was the Japanese who popularized the idea of gardening in miniature with an impressive exhibition at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. It caught on as a hobby for the very rich in the northeast United States but gained broader popularity throughout the early 1900s.
It’s a little less clear how and when fairies came into the picture. In Celtic lore, fairies were small, humanoid beings with magical powers, an affinity with nature, and some mischievous tendencies. The Celts would often create little habitats or resting places to welcome them, in hopes that the fairies would go play their tricks on someone else.
Adding an element of magic and mystery to the already popular miniature gardening trend opened up the hobby to a wider audience which was attracted not just to the art, but also the pure fun of it.
These days, fairy gardens have become a great way for people with busy lives to have a little fun with gardening without a big commitment. It’s also an ideal family activity with generation-spanning appeal. Just last weekend, I taught an introductory fairy gardening class at our garden shop, and among the attendees were a young child, her mother, and her grandmother. They each commented on how much fun they had doing something together that they all enjoyed.
Some have called fairy gardening a fad. The truth is that it’s been around for a long time and I, for one, hope it’s here to stay. It’s fun, easy, cute, and requires much more imagination than expertise. What’s not to love?