Fairy Gardens & Writing: how they relate

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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.

Here’s why:

I escape into the mini world I am planting. Just like I escape into the worlds I create while writing.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

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Here are some of my Instagram photos. You’re welcome to follow me for other planting, art, or writing tips.

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Thanks for stopping by!

  • Tara

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Gardening and Writing – how they relate.

I love to garden. I’ve always kept my fingernails as stubs because the feel of dirt between my fingers, invigorates me.

I’ve posted how teaching guitar and writing relate HERE.
I’ve posted how skiing and writing relate HERE.

Now I want to make the connection with writing and gardening.

I’ve worked on and off in garden centers for over fifteen years. I’ve narrowed it down to five stages of being successful in a garden and how it relates to writing.

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*Planning your garden:
Is it North facing? – re-think. How is the soil? – enrichment is key. What plants do you want to see in the fall? Think ahead. Envision your garden in its bounteous splendor! Envision what that homemade salsa is going to taste like. Can you taste it? “Hmm… maybe another plant of cilantro is needed.”

Envision your full grown garden.

*Planning your novel:
Basic bones here. Is it sci-fi, fantasy, romance, children’s, young adult?
Some authors are outliners. Some authors are pantsers. I am a hybrid between the two. I am too spontaneous to completely stick to an outline. When a scene strikes, I have to write it right then, on a napkin if I have to, just to get it out.
But, I am also a loose outliner. I have the outline to my novels hanging as butcher paper on my bedroom walls. Read more about that process HERE.
Also, when I write a scene, I have an outline below my cursor so I know where the story is going. If a word, or phrase, or dialogue strikes me and I am not in that part of the story yet, I put it in my bottom notes that just moves along with my writing.

Envision your story.

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*Planting your garden:

These little seedlings look so small and helpless. They need good soil, fertilizer, sunlight, water, and some need staking. It is a lot of hot, dirty work. (the part I love)

Set your baby plants up for success!

*Planting your novel:
We all start out uneducated and naive. We need to do the work and learn the craft. So go to conferences, join a critique group (or three, like me), build relationships in the writing world. It is a lot of work, and sometimes this stunts the creative flow, but your writing will get better.

Set your novel up for success!

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*Caring for your garden:
Sometimes the plants just need to grow. Make sure they are taken care of, then leave them alone to do their thing. You can love plants to death. In fact, I saw that more often, then with the neglected plants. Root rot is the cause of many a poor plants death.

Step away for a time!

*Caring for your novel:
After you have finished the novel, or the scene, or whatever you feel is done – leave it alone. Work on something else, go to classes, learn, get second opinions. Come back and look at it with new eyes. You will notice things that were not there before. This is so important to me. I often get so wrapped up in the details and the thrill of putting words on paper, that I don’t see the overall problems.

Step away for a time!

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*Harvesting your garden:
This is the time to enjoy the fruits of your labor! You can see what plants did well and what struggled. Take notes for next year. You can share your bounty. (I mean who has ever had zucchini growing out of their ears!)

Share your talent and hard work!

*Harvesting your novel:
You have accomplished something that 81% of people say they will do, but 2% of people actually pull through! That is a huge accomplishment! Don’t focus on other people. Be happy with what you have accomplished. It took many seasons, rainstorms, weeds, bugs, whatever, to get to the end result.

Now share your talent and hard work!

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*Canning your harvest: (this is bonus)
Once you’ve harvested your garden, toiled endlessly over it, now is the time to package it into pretty canning jars.

This is for the future.

*Canning your novel:
No matter how you go about publishing, whether it be with a big or small publisher, self-publish, or just print a few copies for your family or generations to come. You have packaged it, preserved it in a timepiece.

This is for the future.

I love this quote:

‘I shall live beyond death, and I shall sing in your ears
Even after the vast sea-wave carries me back
To the vast sea-depth.
I shall sit at your board though without a body,
And I shall go with you to your fields, a spirit invisible.
I shall come to you at your fireside, a guest unseen.
Death changes nothing but the mask that covers our faces.
The woodsman shall be still a woodsman,
The ploughman, a ploughman,
And he who sang his song to the wind shall sing it also to the moving spheres.’

– Kahlil Gibran

Happy planting!
Tara