Whether you call it a fairy garden, a railroad garden, or simply a miniature garden, these little worlds in a dish are a lot of fun to create and to have around, inside or out.
The Seneca County Master Gardeners are offering a fairy garden workshop June 18, with registration open through Wednesday, at the Extension Office on SR 100. The hours will be 10 a.m. to noon, and the cost is $15. Those attending will take home a completed dish garden with several plants, a pathway, flowered trellis, tiny bird bath, gazing ball, and its own fairy in residence.
I will be giving a short introductory talk. Then, Master Gardener Jean Preston will lead
participants through the planting and decorating process. Last year's workshop was filled, and so we decided to offer one again this summer.
Hundreds of years ago, Japanese landscapers created miniatures to advertise their skills in garden design, and during Victorian times in England they were popular.
When we were children, my sister and I used twigs and pebbles to build homes for the fairies among the bluebells under the trees at the end of our garden, and the magic of those little dwellings has stayed with me.
I made my first fairy garden six years ago in a clay saucer, then moved on to a copper tub, to an aluminum feed trough outside, and then to its current site - which originally was a rock garden around an old cistern.
In the winter, I bring the tender perennials inside and divide the small trees and plants into several containers with the houses, fairies and animals I have collected over the years.
There are many small plants perfect for these projects.
Sedum probably is the most popular and comes in many forms and colors. Mulberry Creek Herb Farm in Huron carries 13 varieties, including tiny urchin, frosted blue, coral carpet and angeline garden. Who could resist them?
Most cultivars of thyme have tiny leaves in the right proportion, and are hardy, perennial plants, coming back every year. I have woolly thyme, lemon thyme and creeping thyme in my garden. They have a lovely scent, pink or white flowers and attract butterflies.
Moss is lovely, but sometimes hard to grow. Irish moss and Scotch moss, which are not really mosses at all but sagina subulata, are great substitutes. They are readily available at local garden centers, and mine really are enjoying this continually wet weather (I am glad something is).
If you want flowers, dig up some of those tiny violets that pop up in the lawn, or you can find small versions of dianthus, hostas, alyssum, ice plant and lobelia. Hens and chicks fit in well, and spread in a most satisfying manner, giving you many new plants in the spring. And trees can be shaped from jade plant and other types of crassula, as well as rosemary and other upright slow-growing herbs.
You can also buy dwarf versions of ficus, privet, cedar, cypress and juniper.
Children love fairy gardens. My great-grandsons keep an eye on mine, and comment on additions. Owen was showing his friend, Christopher, all the hidden fairies and animals this morning, carefully explaining which one lived in each of the little houses.
A miniature garden makes a great gift for a shut-in friend who no longer is able to look after the full-sized version. Once planted, they need very little care, just watering, and little of that since you do not want to encourage much growth.
If you are interested in the workshop, register by calling (419) 447-9722, ext. 10.