Fairies gardens provide joy Downriver during pandemic

Adeline Power sits near the fairy garden she and her mother Ryann created in their Wyandotte neighborhood

Val Dutton

Who believes in fairies? 

Many Downriver neighbors do and they are creating fairy gardens to lure the diminutive creatures to their yards and bring with them a little joy and magic. Perhaps not such a bad idea during a pandemic.

Ryann Power’s fairy garden is at the base of a tree in her front yard in Wyandotte, near a sidewalk for strolling neighbors to easily view; those neighbors have responded by leaving gifts of their own to the tiny winged creatures, including a miniature penguin and a tiny basket of apples.

“We watch people walk by and smile. It’s happy,” Power said.

The English discovered the magic that fairies can bring in dark times, during war-torn England in 1917, portrayed in the movie FairyTale: A True Story. Two little girls claim that fairies live in their village garden and take a picture, “proving” the fairies’ existence. 

Author of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, Arthur Conan Doyle, proclaimed himself a “believer.” Many others became believers, too, although the story was actually a well-intentioned hoax. But for months, everyone’s mood was lightened. Power saw the movie when she was younger and has a believer in her own household, her 5-year-old daughter, Adeline.

Adeline wished to create a fairy garden for the fairy she calls “Clementine,” after she saw several fairy gardens in a Trenton neighborhood. 

Rachel Mill of Wyandotte poses near the fairy garden she maintains for the neighborhood children.

In June, Power and her daughter created their garden using items purchased in dollar stores and from Hobby Lobby. A tiny cat patrols the fairy garden yard, although Adeline said she isn’t sure what Clementine has named her cat.

Rachel Mills’ children helped her create a fairy garden at their Wyandotte home about three years ago. They had originally set it up in the backyard but were forced to remove it, because it was repeatedly getting destroyed.

Perhaps by jealous garden gnomes?

“The squirrels kind of tore things up,” Mills said, laughing.

She re-homed the fairies to the side yard, at the base of a large maple tree. And, although her own children have perhaps grown out of their initial enchantment with the garden, Mills keeps it in place for the children who pass on their way to classes at Jefferson Elementary School.

“I have the regulars who stop by,” she said. “One says that her son has to stop by every day to see what’s going on with the fairies.”

Her fairies have also received gifts from passing strangers; a bracelet that appeared as an offering became a charming wreath on the door of their fairy house. 

They can expect some Halloween fun, too. Mills puts a big blow-up spider in front of her own home for the holiday, which attracts neighbors as a fun photo op, and she won’t short-change the fairies’ house decorations. 

“I have a fence with ghosts, pumpkins and scarecrows,” she said, adding that she planned to visit a “fairy store,” The Enchanted Forest, that she recently heard about in Frankenmuth, for more items. “I’m always on the look-out.”

Hood’s Hardware Store has provided a fairy garden or “gypsy garden” section in their store for the past six years, offering a collection of brightly-colored miniature products through Evergreen Enterprise, Inc. that range in size between one-and-three inches. Fairy size.

“It’s colorful and fun,” said Lisa Rodgers, who works in the gift department at Hood’s. “Whimsical. Some are solar and glow in the dark. There’s a butterfly house, a slide, a birdbath. Some items are for the holidays, like Easter and Christmas, and can be put inside planter boxes with real plants for inside gardens.”

Fairy gardens are usually a hit with grandparents, she said.

“Grandma and grandpa want to make their grandchild happy when they come to visit and this is something they can do together in the backyard,” Rodgers said. “Some will come in and spend a hundred dollars.”

A fairy garden may be in the future for Jeff Imhoff of Wyandotte. Imhoff has long considered creating a fairy garden and he and his wife, Gloria, became new grandparents to baby Adeline about six months ago.

“That is a great idea to do with my granddaughter,” he said. “I have always thought it would be fun to create a little world. Especially one where the more you look at it, the more you discover little hidden gems that you might not see the first go around.”

However, the fairy garden creation may have to wait until next summer. “This summer,” he said, “we are still working on rolling over and perfecting her bouncy chair.”

Forget the pandemic for a moment and become a believer. 

Stroll around Downriver neighborhoods and look for fairies peeking from tangles of ivy or sitting on toadstools sipping tea from flower-petal cups and enjoy the magic. 

Be sure to say to Clementine.

How to set up a Fairy garden

Fairy gardens aren’t just for the benefit of our tiny, winged friends. They can help us larger creatures forget current difficulties, like a pandemic. 

Set up a garden, either outside or inside, and simply enjoy the aesthetics of a garden done in miniature, or go deeper for a more interactive experience, like encouraging the children in your life to “exchange” poems, notes and small gifts with the fairies living there.

No matter your choice, be prepared to get absorbed in the magic, as Beverly Potvin has.

The former Wyandotte resident, who still attends Wyandotte Garden Club meetings, has created fairy gardens for about 15 years, after a visit in Ann Arbor where she sighted a whimsical fairy door, one of several found throughout the city as “installation art.”

“It was just so cute,” she said.

Potvin went home and ordered a “gnome” door for her own garden and “built a fairy garden from there.”

Outdoor garden

An outdoor garden simply requires a space in the yard, Potvin said, like under a tree. Or find a container, even something repurposed, like a wood crate, a planter box, a galvanized tub, a well-scrubbed bird bath or a discarded wheelbarrow.

“The container should have drainage,” Potvin said, “or, after a rain, it will become a big ole puddle otherwise.”

Fill the container about three-quarters deep with potting soil and start planting with moss, small succulents and even live herbs, like mint or chives; aim to keep things in proportion, to about 1:12 scale. “Nurseries set out tinier plants (for that use) during the warmer season,” Potvin said.

Now focus on furnishings, found in dollar stores, fairy-garden sections in nurseries and in Wyandotte’s own Hood’s Hardware, in specialty stores like The Enchanted Forest in Frankenmuth and the Unicorn Feed and Supply Store in Ypsilanti or ordered online. 

Embellish the garden further, perhaps with old marbles or Petoskey stones found in the back of a junk drawer!

Indoor garden

Now that cooler weather is approaching, consider bringing your garden indoors to protect fairy wings against frostbite. Or simply begin your fairy-garden experience with an indoor garden. 

Use a planter, a tray usually used under plant pots, a terrarium, or even a vintage-style suitcase; selecting a container is easy because drainage isn’t an issue. “You can control the amount of water used,” Potvin said.

Then follow the same procedures as with the outdoor garden containers. 

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