Here’s a big botanical trend that’s tiny

‘Fairy gardens’ require low, slow-growing plants plus lots of imagination.

B.K. Earl
A gingerbread-house fairy garden.

Maybe it’s the childlike nature coming out in adult gardeners, or maybe it’s the joyful expectation of spending more quality time with children or grandchildren. Whatever the reason, so-called fairy gardens are a hot trend in the gardening community these days. 

Hidden under shrubs or stately trees in botanical landscapes and private gardens or displayed at garden centers or on tabletops in homes, fairy gardens are providing an escape into a miniature world.

Fairy gardens consist of small-scale structures, tiny accessories, and diminutive plants that offer a fun way to create little landscapes that reflect the atmosphere and charming beauty of life-size natural settings. Ideally, the minigardens are set in small, somewhat secluded parts of a garden, giving visitors the feeling that they have happened upon a magical place. 

But just as many fairy gardens are planted in containers and proudly displayed on tabletops, windowsills, patios, or porches. 

These gardens can be as large or as small as you wish, filled with fairy figurines, furniture, gazebos, bridges, food accouterments such as cupcakes or hamburgers, beach umbrellas, and more. 

Gardeners who lean toward formal gardens might create something akin to the Kensington Palace Gardens in London or the gardens at France’s Palace of Versailles. Traditionalists might choose a woodland setting; others might opt for a house surrounded by floral abundance. In truth, except for cultural requirements for plants, rules are few when it comes to designing a fairy garden. 

The popularity of fairy gardening has spawned a flourishing industry in accessories. Numerous catalogs, online sources, and garden centers offer everything from the tiniest flip-flops, cups, and saucers to arbors, gazebos, and ornate fences. You can find tiny chicken and duck figurines as well as campers, tents, and hammocks – even tiny potted plants, barbecues, and lounge chairs. Or you can make many such items yourself. Use rocks for tables and chairs; make teapots and birdhouses from acorns, or trellises and fences from twigs.

But what really makes the fairy gardens shine are the plants. Just as in any garden setting, select plants whose needs align with your intended site: shade plants for low-light areas, sun plants for areas that get plenty of daylight. Additionally, the idea is to choose plants that are on the same scale as your accessories. That means small, slow-growing plants. Here are a few good choices: baby’s tears (Soleirolia), mosses (Sagina subulata), and woolly or elfin thyme for lawns; creeping fig (Ficus pumila), miniature ivies, and red-stem pilea (Pilea glauca) to climb arbors; and miniature daisy (Bellium minutum), heron’s bill (Erodium sps.), and Mexican heather (Cuphea hyssopifolia) for a dash of colorful blooms.

You’ll also find good options among dwarf houseplants such as miniature African violets, succulents, and even slow-growing palms. Small-leafed basil, rosemary, and boxwood can be trimmed to resemble trees and shrubs, while dwarf and mini-­conifers are ideal for the outdoor gardens.

If you are eager to flex your creative horticultural muscles without the labor-intensive work of preparing and caring for a large garden, fairy gardens may be for you.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Here’s a big botanical trend that’s tiny
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today