Garden centers have several theories about why miniature or fairy gardening is so popular.
Kerry Kelley of Homestead Gardens in Davidsonville, Md., thinks women and men are drawn to the hobby for different reasons. For women, the small scale calls to something instinctual. “It’s related to the biological instinct women have to care for anything small — like babies! The same fascination we have with a baby and all the tiny fingers and toes — it really goes back to that, in my mind,” she says. “I think with men it’s more the fascination with the building and design end of things — that’s why they tend to like the train garden side of it.”
Gethsemane Gardens’ Victoria Anderson sees the appeal stemming from a childlike creative energy and way for non plants people to connect with nature.
A connection to nature is what personally attracts Anderson. “My biggest inspiration is when I’m walking in nature. Being a city person, there’s a lot of concrete around. After you begin creating fairy gardens, you look at nature differently. I was in a cemetery, and I saw a beautiful hollow branch with holes that must have been created by woodpeckers. I bring along plastic bags with me on my walks, pick up sand, shells and stones for my fairy gardens. That’s something I hope to pass on to my customers. They come back and say they see things they hadn’t noticed, too.”
Children are attracted to the fairies themselves. Anderson creates a magical reality by sharing what she has learned about fairy lore.
“The more you read about real fairies, they are attracted to natural things. No plastic, no metal (they’re afraid of it). Anything natural attracts fairies. I tell them they’re so finely connected to nature, you have to be connected yourself to attract them.”
Kelley also sees nostalgia playing a role. “I think it brings us back our childhood, being able to do the same thing but in a new way. When I was a kid, the girls all had doll houses, but no doll house gardens. Man, that would have been cool,” she says. “And it’s a great way to experience growing something with your kids. It doesn’t take much space, and if you don’t have a big budget you can have fun figuring out ways to make the accessories out of things you have around the house and get some moss out of the yard or the woods. It’s really accessible to everyone.”
Natural Art Garden Center’s Lynne Phillips says you need to pay attention to how customers view the trend. “We don’t call it fairy gardening. We call it miniature gardening. We don’t want to exclude anyone,” she says.
Whatever the cause, the trend enjoys great popularity. “Our terrarium and fairy garden workshops are always full,” says Kelley. “Mostly women and girls are doing the fairy gardens, but men do railroad gardens that use the hardy outdoor plants for those. It’s a natural extension of doll houses and miniature collecting. There’s a group in Baltimore devoted to doll house miniatures, and they have regular workshops creating miniatures.”