Monday, June 23, 2014

What's Blooming In June

So many beautiful plants in bloom this month! Here are a few lovelies from my yard here in central NH. 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Hosting a Fairy Garden Party!

Each year in June, I find myself looking forward to a very special activity....creating fairy gardens!! I have made them with small groups like my daughter's 4H, as a birthday / shower party activity, for wedding centerpieces, housewarming/wedding gifts, and for many years as teacher gifts at the end of the school year.  

This is a magical activity that seems to appeal to all ages! One thing I love so much about these little gardens is that no matter how many of them I see, each is unique.

Last week, I introduced the activity to my local Tower Garden group and a returning 4H group with success. After sharing my photos from the day on Facebook, I had many people comment with questions on how to make the gardens, where to find the materials to put in them, and how to share the activity with a group. are a few notes for a successful fairy garden building event!

First, I will talk a little about collecting the trinkets and ornaments for decorating the garden. This is the last step in making the gardens, but is actually the most time consuming step to prepare for. I treasure hunt for these little decorations all year! Craft shops such as Michaels or Joanne Fabrics, garden centers, WalMart, and the dollar store are where I make my usual rounds. This year (2014), I found that both Michaels and Joanne's had fairy garden sections! There I found benches, toadstools, archways and more. I have also made ornaments and have seen others selling handmade miniature items on Etsy.
When presenting the project in a group setting, I try to have the following available for each participant:
  • 2-3 creatures (birds, butterflies, frogs, ladybugs...)
  • 1 fence (wooden fence packages, I paint with acrylic paint ahead of time)
  • at least 2-3 additional trinkets. (This year I had the tiny toadstools from Michaels, small glass watering bulbs from Walmart, tiny terra cotta pots from Michaels, plastic fairies/dragons that came in a tube, and rocks with words like "grow" and "wish" on them.
Next, have an assortment of floral marbles, rocks, or small shells that can be used as decorations and pathways. I usually put out a basket of bigger shells and let each attendee choose a couple.
The last step in putting together the embellishments is the moss. If you have a source for local reindeer moss, you can collect some ahead of time. I have done this before, but many times purchase two different types of moss at Michaels. If you plan ahead, you can use a 40% off coupon from the paper or online newsletter to buy these as they are currently 6.99 per bag. 1 of the smaller bags of moss will be good for 3-4 gardens.
Next up, you'll want to find your pots, have soil ready, and purchase your plants. I like to use a pot that is not that deep and wide across the top. The pots you see in the photos were hanging planters found at the dollar store. I cut the strings off ahead of time. Of course, you can use any type of creative! I have made them several times in my bird bath (which the birds did NOT enjoy), or large urns, and my mother has made them in many unusual containers such as antique tin picnic baskets and a small toy wooden boat.
For your soil, a lightweight, quality mix is best. You don't want the pots to be to heavy. I mix a quality potting soil with equal parts peat moss and wet it down a bit ahead of time.
For plants, you need to think in varying heights. To create the miniature landscape look, it's nice to have a plant or two that will reach 12" or so in height (geranium/marigold height), a couple medium 6-9", 1 or 2 low plants that grow just and inch or two (I like to use alyssum), and lastly, vine type plants that will hang over the edge such as ivy or vinca.
When shopping, you can check plant labels to see how tall they will grow. I like to choose plants that take sun/partial sun so that the gardens can sit out on patios and decks.
So, you've got all your materials, your guests have arrived...let the gardening begin! I'll use bullets to give you an idea of each step.
  • The first thing I like to do is have each participant line up with their pots in hand, and fill with soil. I keep the soil in a tin pail (sold for holding bird seed). Any large container with scoop will do! Be sure the soil is good and moist ahead of time
  • I then have everyone find a spot on the lawn or at a picnic table, depending on where we are.
  • I explain that we are going to create a landscape with different levels, just like in the natural world. We start by adding the tall plants. I show everyone how to carefully remove a plant from the packaging without damaging it. I usually have an assistant to hand out the plants while I demonstrate with my own pot. I love using 1 flower and 1 tall spikey/grassy green plant. Ask the guests to think about where they will put the garden. If it will be in the center of a table, the tall plants should be in the center so that no matter where someone sits at the table, they will have a good view of the smaller plants and ornaments. If it will be sitting up against a wall, the tall plants can go in the back.
  • After everyone has added in the tall plants, tell them that they will now envision where a path will be placed. Use fingers to draw in the soil where the pathway will be. Usually from one edge of the pot to another edge (not necessarily straight across. It could be a "U" shape, "S" shape, or line. It can go almost to the other side, as though the pathway leads to an end spot.
  • Once the path is drawn, continue adding plants. Next a couple of medium sized ones.
  • Now add the short plants, these look particularly nice near edges.
  • Lastly, tuck some hanging vine plants in at the edges. I like to do 3 when I can, but if there are not enough, 2 work, one on either edge.
  • After the plants are all in, we pour on the pathway! This is one of the favorite steps. I don't give to many choices...usually 2-3 bowls of different path material. Fish tank gravel is nice, tiny shells, floral glass marbles, or small rocks. The path should be covered fairly well and not to narrow or when watered, the soil will come through. Fill in the path along the lines drawn earlier.
  • Next up we finish covering all showing dirt. We use different types of moss and some of the larger sized rocks, tumbled glass, shells, etc. '
  • Lastly, we add the ornaments!! This is where the magic happens. I usually have everyone imagine that if a friend were to look at their creations, they would want to see an enchanted spot from any angle they view the garden. Spin it around and create small areas of interest. Don't forget to think in levels...clip a butterfly to a vine, put a bird on a pick and stick in for height.
  • For a finishing touch that always brings a smile, pull out a small vile of "fairy dust". One small bottle of white iridescent glitter will go a long way! Walk around to each garden and sprinkle fairy dust on the leaves, creatures, path, and flowers to show that a fairy has visited the garden!
Don't forget to take pictures! I love to do a group shot of the gardens and another with the participants holding their gardens.
Before guests go home, I like to bring out a favor basket. Some of the things I've given: fancy cookies from a bakery or homemade (you may be able to find or make theme cookies like flowers or butterflies), gardening gloves (these can be given upon arrival and used during the event), sparkly pencils, and seed packets.
Make sure all guest know that the garden will need to be watered regularly and should be kept in partial sun.
I hope you have enjoyed this little peek into one of my families favorite annual activities! I'd love to hear about your fairy garden experiences and would be thrilled to see photos :) 
I would be honored to see you on my Facebook fan page: Tiger Lily Towers 
Happy growing!