Springtime gardens conjure up thoughts of magical creatures that might dance beneath the blossoms. Do leprechauns, gnomes, sprites and fairies tiptoe through the tulips just outside your gaze? Maybe… Laura Iarocci, award-winning floral designer and founder of Faith Flowers in Virginia-Highland, has spotted them all, building fantasy playgrounds that beckon pixies to frolic from dusk until dawn. Today, Laura shares her secrets for connecting with this mystical realm.

Laura:

Do you believe in fairies? Welcome to the world of Fairy Gardens — miniature gardens carving out little spots in our world for fairies to visit from theirs. Our studio specializes in the floral arrangements, terrariums and miniature gardens needed for enchanted habitats, incorporating natural elements such as moss, branches and leaves. Faith Flowers School presents workshops that help people learn to create their own fairy gardens. People of all ages attend our classes, as well as our private workshops, presentations for garden clubs, birthday parties or even “Girls Night Out” gatherings.

I have been fascinated with fairy gardens since my girls were little. Together, we searched for fairies on the coast of Ireland, bringing their magic back home with us. Then we designed fairy gardens for them, some on playgrounds and many in our own backyard. Drawing inspiration and materials from my mother’s collection of miniature antique dolls and furniture, we constructed a variety of landscapes and settings ready to host whoever might float in with the dandelion fuzz or slide down the next rainbow. Fairy gardens can emerge from a corner of your garden, a window box, a tree stump, a terrarium, a broken ceramic container — there’s no limit to the boundaries of magic or imagination. Our Faith Flower School students have brought in everything ranging from old crates to red Radio Flyer wagons, developing them into hidden havens.

A seasonal fairy garden stays parked outside the store in a vintage Radio Flyer wagon.

A seasonal fairy garden stays parked outside the store in a vintage Radio Flyer wagon.

This spring, our fairy wagon has two ponds, a bridge, a picnic spot...

This spring, our fairy wagon has two ponds, a bridge, a picnic spot…

... and its own tree with a tire swing.

… and its own tree with a tire swing.

Found Treasures

I regularly stop to pick up amazing branches from the side of the road. Sometimes people bring interesting finds into our studio, such as branches with lichen, different kinds of wood remnants or peculiar logs. Recently, a tree company brought us a stump that seemed ideal for our gnomes and trolls.

All it takes is a stump with interesting nooks to transform into a gnome home.

All it takes is a stump with interesting nooks to transform into a gnome home.

A handcrafted door for the entrance, a ladder of red dogwood and a tree swing of wood bits.

A handcrafted door for the entrance, a ladder of red dogwood and a tree swing of wood bits.

Leftover packing material and a bit of gold wire twists into a fine nest, while silver brunia and craspedia plants blossom around the mailbox. Looks as though someone has outgoing post!

Leftover packing material and a bit of gold wire twists into a fine nest, while silver brunia and craspedia plants blossom around the mailbox. Looks as though someone has outgoing post!

Silly trolls burrow into the moss and lichens.

Silly trolls burrow into the moss and lichens.

Seeing Is Believing

Interest in fairy gardening has grown dramatically in recent years. Growers and nurseries now cultivate miniature plants specifically for this type of project. Our team fell under the spell as we swooned over the new array of miniature garden pieces on the market. Our store stocks a huge variety of miniature items for use in fairy gardens and containers, and we also love crafting custom curiosities from organic materials.

Our newest pond scene with a lily pad fountain.

Our newest pond scene with a lily pad fountain.

Have a seat in these charming chairs with ranunculus cushions, and enjoy a glass of elderberry wine next to miniature roses.

Have a seat in these charming chairs with ranunculus cushions, and enjoy a glass of elderberry wine next to miniature roses.

A fairy hides under maiden hair fern, guarding her fairy dust.

A fairy hides under maiden hair fern, guarding her fairy dust.

A Vintage View

Vintage pieces and broken furniture can provide excellent structures for fairy gardens. Here, an ice cream parlor chair, past its prime, finds joy of a different sort. Re-envision rusted, cracked, peeled and dilapidated items that seem bound for a junk pile. Perhaps all they need is a little pixie dust.

Take a second glance at vintage pieces and find the magic lurking within.

Take a second glance at vintage pieces and find the magic lurking within.

A variety of textures makes design even more interesting -- cascading baby tears, soft moss and round leaves.

A variety of textures makes design even more interesting — cascading baby tears, soft moss and round leaves.

Mood moss, muscari bulbs, white iron chairs and a little red cardinal ready to take a dip in his bird bath.

Mood moss, muscari bulbs, white iron chairs and a little red cardinal ready to take a dip in his bird bath.

On Proud Display

Woodland walks and vacation adventures often generate full pockets for observant children, eager to hold onto their discoveries. Encourage the use of those trinkets and treasures to stage a unique vignette. Create a memory box from your beach excursion, displaying the shells collected, adding playful accessories and whimsical plantings. These proud displays keep the memories alive in a colorful way.

Create a memory box from your beach vacation, displaying the shells collected by the children. Perhaps the sprites will try to build their own sandcastle.

Perhaps the sprites will try to build their own sandcastle.

Set the scene with cactus, tillandsia and beach chairs, then place your rocks and shells.

Set the scene with cactus, tillandsia and beach chairs, then place your rocks and shells.

The window box outside our shop is a favorite fairy gathering spot after closing time.

The window box outside our shop is a favorite fairy gathering spot after closing time.

We've left cupcakes and iced tea for their refreshment. Hope they'll be comfortable on the viola seat pads and enjoy dancing on the pink glass and mixed-rock patio.

We’ve left cupcakes and iced tea for their refreshment. Hope they’ll be comfortable on the viola seat pads and enjoy dancing on the pink glass and mixed-rock patio.

Tips for Care and Keeping

  • Small garden plants: Water, water, water! The plants and roots are tiny and need lots of water in the beginning. Set a schedule. In our studio we water on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
  • Succulents: Need generous sunlight and very little water. Water only every other week.
  • Moss: Be sure to water and mist a couple of times per week. If moss turns brown, it can be revived by submersing in very hot water.
  • Tillandsia: It’s a misconception that air plants don’t need attention. Soak them in water once a week for one hour.

Take inspiration from our studio creations and conjure up a bit of your own special magic. Come, build a fairy garden with us!

Faith Flowers 1183 Virginia Ave, NE Atlanta

Thank you so much, Laura, for bringing us into your fairyland paradise. Faith Flowers truly shines as a gem in the Virginia-Highland shopping area. Learn more about Faith Flowers at their website: www.faithflowersatlanta.com.

Special thanks to Michelle Marshall for capturing these delightful images with her lens. Visit MG Marshall Photography at www.mgmarshallphotography.smugmug.com to view more of Michelle’s work.