Photo: David Gonzales, pexels.com
Creative Landscaping to Get Children Involved in the Garden
A guest blog by Lucy Henderson
Children are playing outside less than previous generations, with a recent report from Statistics Canada showing that young people spend around three hours with their screens a day, mostly indoors. This is a concern for many parents, and looking for creative ways to encourage children to spend time outside is a priority for many.
Creative gardening is a great way to involve children in outdoor projects, capture their imaginations with nature, and encourage them to spend time in the garden. And what better way to get young children involved in gardening than with a fairy garden?
What Is a Fairy Garden?
A fairy garden is made up of tiny structures, fairy accessories and diminutive plants, and forms a fairy landscape in a quiet part of the garden or a secluded planter. They create a sense of a magical land in the garden, and are a wonderful project to share with children or grandchildren. Plants are chosen to be on the same scale as accessories, which, much like doll’s house furniture, can be bought from specialist stores or created yourself from pebbles, acorns or bits of wood.
As with the rest of the garden, plants should be selected according to the needs of the site: a shady area will need plants that flourish with little light, while areas that get a lot of sun will need plants that thrive in these conditions.
Plants should be small and slow-growing. Popular choices to create miniature lawns are elfin thyme (Thymus serpyllum ‘Elfin’) and mosses, while miniature ivy (Hedera helix cvs) and creeping fig (Ficus pumila) are often chosen to climb fairy arbors. Whimsical flowers included heron’s bill (Erodium spp.), Mexican heather (Cuphea hyssopifolia) and miniature daisies (Bellium minutum).
Involve Children From the Outset
They key to keeping children engaged and involved in the creation and maintenance of a fairy garden is to get them involved from the beginning. Design the garden with them before you begin, talk through ideas together, and select a secluded spot. Children can draw their vision for the garden and the accessories they’d like to include, and you can plan together where the plants will go. Younger children will also enjoy drawing creatures they imagine visiting the garden, including fairies, elves and talking animals. Take them to the garden center and include them in choosing the plants, thinking carefully about the sizes appropriate to the garden and the sorts of plants a fairy might want to be surrounded by.
Creating the Garden
While children should be involved throughout the process, there are a few grown-up matters to consider in the creation of a fairy garden, including soil selection and drainage if you’re using a container. Composted soil rich in organic matter and tiny pieces of bark will make the garden look alive.
Containers must have a drainage hole which you can cover with a piece of newspaper or paper towel to keep the soil in place while allowing excess moisture to drip out. Contrary to popular belief, a drainage layer of pebbles is not useful nor is added charcoal.
Once the container is filled with soil, children can help you create the lawn using your chosen lawn plant, and can help make paths for the fairies out of pebbles or gravel.
When you’re planting, be careful not to overcrowd the area so that you have plenty of room for fairy accessories, but plant low-growing plants close together to create hiding spots for fairies. You can use plants like rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) and ferns to make tiny trees, which the children can help you prune. Creating accessories for the garden can be an ongoing rainy day project, and children will love thinking of exciting ways to furnish the fairy garden.
Creating a fairy haven in a secluded spot in the garden is a great way to get children outside and nurture a love of gardening, capturing their imaginations and creativity. Involve them in the project from beginning to end, and take the opportunity to teach them about plants and growing conditions. Once you get started, you’ll find the possibilities are endless.