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News: Fairy Gardens: The World in Miniature


November 14, 2018

From the GCA Collection at the Archives of American Gardens

Garden trends are forever changing. Many come and go, however there are some that stand the test of time. For example, Penjing, or the art of depicting landscapes in miniature, is an ancient pastime that developed in China and is still practiced today using bonsai plants. Another well known and popular trend that has emerged from the art of Penjing is fairy gardens. Though gardens reflect many things, including style and taste, they can also serve a real function such as creating a special project for children and grandchildren.

The Fairy Garden at Lemon Hill located in Gulf Stream, Florida, is a perfect example. It takes its name from the many Meyer lemon trees that grow in the area. The owner created the fairyland with all of her girls in mind. Her daughter helped build the structure of the garden and together they implemented suggestions from the siblings as well as 13 granddaughters.

Measuring ten feet by thirty feet, Lemon Hill’s fairy garden is comprised of a variety of young plants, diminutive trees, bonsai, and mosses situated perfectly  amongst miniature castles and houses, fountains, stone walls, gates, and fairy figurines. Thanks to the overhanging palms that provide shade, Florida’s harsh sun is kept at bay. The design of Lemon Hill was inspired by the owner’s extensive collection of books highlighting Irish fairy legends. Today the garden is a special gathering place for many school and scout groups.

Building a fairy garden is a project that can be enjoyed by all. It nurtures the imaginations of children while allowing them to simply dig in the dirt! These miniature whimsies can be planted in any number of small spaces such as bird baths, pots, or large plant saucers.

From the GCA Collection at the Archives of American Gardens features monthly topics of educational and historical interests for gardeners across the country. Content is provided by the Archives of American Gardens at the Smithsonian. In celebration of The Garden Club of America’s 75th anniversary in 1987, the GCA gifted its historic slide collection to the Smithsonian Institution. It included 3,000 glass lantern slides from the 1920’s and 1930’s and 22,000 35 mm slides of more contemporary gardens. This collection formed the nucleus of the Archives of American Gardens at the Smithsonian.

With Jessica Short, Archives of American Gardens Intern, September 2012.

Images from The Garden Club of America Collection at the Archives of American Gardens. Patricia Lowry, photog. 2011.


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