How to Create a Backyard Fairy Garden

Interior designer Marie Bishop takes us on a tour of the backyard fairy garden she created to delight her grandchildren.

Fairies… enchanted, mystical, magical creatures. With a history dating back to the 13th century it’s no wonder we still revere their presence in the garden.

Whether you have young children, grandchildren or want to revisit your own childhood, opening the door to your imagination will give the fairies permission to lead you into their world. Their magic is hiding in the trees, under mushrooms and down in the moss. You just have to be still, listen, open your eyes and mind, and it will find you.

A few years ago, I bought myself a chainsaw and decided to cut a trail in the wooded area next to our house. What I discovered was a quiet, peaceful place with rock outcroppings; beautiful fir, spruce, birch, dogberry and maple trees; along with an array of alders, ferns, mushrooms and mosses. It was magical, and not just for me. Everyone who wandered through there felt the same energy, the grandchildren in particular. We knew right away it was where the fairies lived.

It became obvious that the only thing missing in this magical place were fairy doors, entryways into the enchanted underworld of the tree roots. I was given two beautiful, stained, wooden fairy doors by a friend, which of course, inspired me to make more. They make a very easy DIY project, and a great pastime over the long winter months.

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These sweet little pieces of art can be as simple or intricate as you like. You can use Sculpey clay (found at Michael’s, Wal-Mart and Amazon), hardwood floor samples, cedar shingles, scraps of plywood – anything that will survive the elements. Cedar shakes or shingles are best (they don’t need to be top quality). They’re very durable and inexpensive, and you can find them in the lumber department of any building supply store.

The average fairy door is approximately 4”-5” high x 3”-3.5” wide. But I’ve made some as big as 7” high x 4” wide. Keep in mind they look best if they’re tucked into a tree root or a space between rocks that can be chinked up with moss. Once you have your material, simply cut the shape – which could be a rectangle, a rounded or pointed gothic style, or a completely circular Hobbit style. Painting and decorating them is the fun part. I’ve used stain, paint and a combination of both to create a number of different effects. The small jars of acrylic paint from the dollar store are fine, but I’ve also used cans of spray paint and wood stain. For embellishment you, could use old pieces of jewelry, odd earrings, small feathers and all sorts of dollar store finds. Remember, fairies love shiny things and they are very proud of their spaces. So if you do a good job on the doors, they will become permanent residents of your garden.

I decided to add a few woodland features to the garden, such as rabbits, mushrooms, butterflies, dragonflies – and fairies, of course. You could also hang a few Chinese lanterns and some wind chimes, and add a few potted plants for more colour and interest. Even if your garden isn’t very big, a few whimsical accents and a fairy door or two will create an invitation to sit and dream.

My fairy garden became such a hit, it inspired me to host a Fairy Garden Party last summer. Our extended family has produced a brood of little ones over the past few years, and there’s no escaping their excitement and wonder when they walk among the fairies. We set up a dining tent, prepared a table full of treats and loot bags, and handed out fairy wings to all who came – children and adults alike wore them for the entire afternoon. I’m hoping it will become an annual event.

What I didn’t realize at the beginning of my garden project was just how much my grandchildren would love it, and this is the best year yet. They become the characters they see; they pretend to be the fairies. Their laughter, squeals of delight and light-footed chases through the trees fill the woods with magic.

It’s been such a gift for me to witness the innocence, joy and vivid imaginations of all the children who wander through. I’m hoping the gift for them is the smile it will bring when they recall the memories of Nan’s Fairy Garden.

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Downhome Magazine

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