Goshen News, Goshen, IN

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June 24, 2013

Fairy gardens help keep business steady

NAPPANEE — There’s something about tiny things that is so appealing. Seeing everyday things represented in miniature forms can tug at one’s heartstrings. That’s likely the reason for the growing appeal and demand for fairy gardens. Fairy gardens are made up of variety of miniature plants and can be inhabited by tiny fairy figurines, animal figurines, cottages, bridges or whatever the fairy gardener desires.

A variety of containers may be used also, such as old boots, rusty wheelbarrows, wooden boxes, seashells and actual planters. A fairy garden can also be planted around a tree or in a landscape bed. A fairy garden can be aux natural, just using miniature plants in a natural environment and leaving it to the imagination whether “real” fairies will come to stay, or it can contain settings with fairy figurines or other miniature people and animals crossing bridges, having tea parties, swinging from trees, residing in miniature cottages or resting amongst the plants.

A fairy garden might have a regional theme, including a desert scene planted with cacti and set with longhorn skulls and snakes, or a coastal theme with lighthouses and fountains, or an English cottage theme with mini rosebushes, rosemary and garden gates. These are just a few examples.

A few local people, including Cheryl Yoder of L.J. Wagner’s in Nappanee, first saw fairy gardens while visiting Texas. L.J. Wagner’s recently hosted a fairy garden workshop during a Second Saturday event. Local nursery owner Esther Benedict of Benedict’s nursery presented the workshop and had several examples of plants, accessories and ready-made fairy gardens available for sale.

‘It’s cool’

Those attending the workshop seemed pretty excited to learn about fairy gardens, including Kathy Kulp who said, “I never knew so many miniatures (plants) existed.”

Yoder shared Kulp’s wonder about the variety of miniature plants, particularly rose bushes, Hostas and weeping cherry trees.

Nine-year-old Woodview Elementary student Trent Beer was collecting accessories to create a desert-themed fairy garden. He said he will put miniature cacti in it and is going to start the search for the perfect container. He plans to put his desert fairy garden in his room and said he wanted to do it because “It’s interesting and it’s cool all the stuff you can do.”

Benedict said she got into the fairy garden market by starting with miniature alpines.

“I’d been growing alpines for years and people knew I grew tiny plants and my customers started coming in asking for fairy gardens,” she said. “So it was my customers who got me started.”

Then she expanded to indoor fairy gardens and all the little accessories. She said she believes the popularity of fairy or miniature gardens has taken off in the past five years and grows more and more each year.

For her nursery business the fairy gardens have been a good thing to keep business steady throughout the summer after the spring planting rush. Benedict held a workshop at her nursery recently and invited participants to bring their own containers or they could purchase one on site.

“I was kept busy helping them choose plants accordingly, Benedict said.

Accessories

As for accessories, that’s a matter of personal preference. Benedict prefers to see the surface of a fairy garden covered completely with either moss or gravel to give it a finished look.

She said she’s always liked little things, so she was drawn to the miniature plants and then fairy gardens.

“It’s an absorbing hobby,” Benedict said. “I’m always looking for containers, like a metal colander I found at a garage sale and other items thinking, ‘Will this work for a fairy garden?’”

According to websites about fairy gardens, their history could be traced back to 1893 as Bonsai gardens. One website recommends using plants from each of these categories — ground cover, shrub-like plants that imitate bushes, flowering and tree-like plants.

One fairy garden website proclaims, “Fairies make great house guests since they’re too little to make messes and too polite to make noise. When your fairies are ready for fresh air just move them outdoors.”

Starting and maintaining a fairy garden can be a great family tradition to share between grandparents, parents and children.

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Three Goshen elementary schools — Chandler, Chamberlain and West Goshen — are providing free meals to all students during the school year as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Eligibility Provision of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Nearly 80 percent of students at Chandler, 89 percent of students at Chamberlain and 78 percent of students at West Goshen already qualify for free or reduced-price lunches based on their family income. How do you feel about the new lunch program?

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