Planting fairy gardens is one of my favorite things to do every spring. I do this for one of my jobs and on occasion, I teach how-to’s.
I’ve planted countless container pots over the seventeen years I’ve been doing this, but planting fairy gardens feels completely different and is always exciting to me.
I escape into the mini world I am planting. Just like I escape into the worlds I create while writing.
The writing and planting connection didn’t come to me until recently, while teaching a customer how to plant a desert landscape fairy garden.
“That’s the fairies’ winter home,” I said to her. “They go there when the frost covers their forests.”
The woman looked up at me with big eyes. “Ohmygosh. Yes! I didn’t think of that, but yes!”
I twirled over to another customer. “Oooo,” I said. “I like how those stepping stones trail off beneath that maiden hair fern. Where is it leading to?”
The girl looked up at me and showed her toothy grin. “A waterfall.”
And that’s when years and years of why I love planting mini landscapes, clicked.
It all stems from creating a believable SETTING!
Now, there are rules to planting fairy gardens, just like there are rules to writing.
1- Scale: Nothing bugs me more than having a huge fairy, or dog, or bird bath right beside an iddy-biddy fairy house the same size. You need to have stepping stones in relation to the fairy house or have people bigger than animals. So, look for trinkets and decor that are to scale.
Scale in writing: This is called world-building. What are the rules, the magic system, the laws? Keep it consistent, and tight, and to scale. Don’t make the reader confused with things that don’t make sense.
2- Plants: To set your fairy garden up for success, the plants all need to be able to survive in one pot together. Don’t plant outdoor with indoor. Or succulents and cacti with ferns. Or sun plants with shade plants. I know this seems like common knowledge, but this is the #1 issue I’ve seen. People buy plants just because they are pretty and then wonder why the beautiful flowers aren’t blooming inside in a dark room.
Plants with writing: I could go on, and on, and on about setting. In fact I have, many times on this blog. Here’s an award winning article I wrote about setting, if interested. I am extremely picky of the plants I see in novels. If the author names a real plant, in my mind, it better be able to grow in that realistic setting. If it’s fantasy, well, go crazy.
3- Layers and texture: A woman I helped the other day was creating an herb fairy garden. She had rosemary, lavender, and curry all grouped together. She asked why it wasn’t working. I moved a few things around and added parsley, basil, and thyme between them. “It’s because all those plants have the same, slender leaves. See how they stand out now that they are next to other, cohesive plants with different texture?” I said. Think how a real forest grows with tall trees, shrubs, then ground cover. Add layers.
Layers and texture in writing: Resonance. Hints. Metaphor. What are you trying to say to the reader? What is the underlying theme? That’s the layers. – Voice. Substance. Emotion. How do you want it to make the reader feel? That’s your texture.
Now, the fun part about fairy gardens is the play time. It’s the escapism. I made this one of The Shire. The whole time I was planting it, I thought about how much I love Tolkien and the vibrant way he creates setting. A customer came in and bought it right as I put it on the table to sell. She was a huge Tolkien fan like me. We were kindred spirits right away and it was because of the playful, whimsical thing that I’d created. It was cool.
As authors, writing should be fun. Creating things are fun. You have the power to create a world that others can escape into. I watch kids, and adults, play with the gardens I create, just like people can read the books I create.
And giving people that escapism to another world, is pretty cool.
Here are some of my Instagram photos. You’re welcome to follow me for other planting, art, or writing tips.
Thanks for stopping by!