Fairy gardens are miniature gardens developed with small plants and accessories. They can be located outside or in. Outside, they are located in nocks and crannies; inside, in a large shallow container.
To make an inside fairy garden, start with a large shallow container that has drainage holes on the bottom. If there is fear of soil escaping from the holes, cover them with a mesh screen.
The soil should contain peat moss, vermiculite or perlite, and some soil or compost. The ideal soil will soak up some moisture while draining the excess away. If the soil holds too much moisture, the roots of plants tend to rot.
All plants in the container are going to have the same growing environment so choose plants accordingly. Do not mix plants that need full sun with ones that prefer filtered light. Likewise, check to see if the plants like to be wet, moist or have dry periods. Optimum conditions for all plants will mean a great dish garden.
Many garden centres will have plants labelled for fairy gardens. Varieties will vary between establishments but don’t limit the garden to only these plants as others will also work well.
Look for plants that are either small, slow growing or easily contained by pinching back new growth. Varieties of the genus pilea and peperpmia are used for smaller indoor gardens. Polka dot plant and babies tears are two more easy to find and easy to grow tropicals. The latter two will need to be pinched or cut back regularly.
Small succulents and cacti also work well as they come in many shapes, colours, textures and grow slowly. It is best not to mix succulents and or cacti with tropical plants.
As with any garden, choose plants of a variety of shape, size and colour as it will add interest to the garden.
Knowing how many plants to place in a container can always be an issue. Too many will result in it looking overgrown. Too few will leave it bare. An eight-inch round container will hold two to three plants depending on how much ornamentation is being added.
Start building the fairy garden by filling the container with moist soil. It is much easier to start with moist soil as opposed to trying to wet it once it is in the container.
Place the plants on top of the soil along with ornamentation to get an idea of how many will fit and the design. If desired, contour the soil to form small hills and valleys.
Once satisfied, dig the holes for the plants. Take the plants, one at a time out of the pot and examine the roots. If the root ball is completely white, cut an X across the bottom of the roots to encourage it to spread outwards into surrounding soil.
Roots balls with less root showing can be placed immediately into the hole and covered with soil. Press the soil down around the plant to eliminate extra air pockets that can dry out the roots.
At this point, ornamentation can be added. Size of the container, imagination and pocket book is the limit. Twigs, rocks and sand, plain or coloured, can be used to define paths and streams.
Gift shops, dollar stores, garden centres, florists and craft stores have a multitude of miniature items that will fit into the fairy garden. It’s best to pick one theme and choose items with that in mind.
The ornaments need not stay forever. They are quick to change, making it a great seasonal display.
Indoor fairy gardens are cared for the same as all house plants. Check the moisture level in a couple of spots before watering. Fertilize regularly when the plants are actively growing, less during their dormant season. If one plant becomes unsightly, remove it and replace it with another. If plants get too big, they can be removed and a new one added.
Fairy gardens are meant to be fun and they catch the eye of many children.
Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist who lives near Rocky Mountain House. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.