Location, location, location!
Welcome to Part 5 of our blog series on how we made a lovely fairy garden at Ferny Hill Retreat. In this post we’ll be exploring the types of plants that are suitable for mini gardens, both real and artificial.
First, here’s a quick recap of a couple of important points:
- In Part 2: Planning we mentioned that many varieties of plants that work in Fairy Gardens prefer to be out of direct sunlight and like damp soil. They’re dwarf plants so they don’t thrive if it’s too sunny, hot, dry or windy.
- In Part 3: Preparing the land, we showed you the sloping plot we chose for our Fairy Village. It was not idyllic to begin with, so we improved the soil to give our plants the best chance possible.
Okay, time to explore plant selection.
Many of the real plants we’re featuring in this post are pretty hardy, although most tend to do best in shady, sheltered spot. Some of the more delicate varieties will struggle in winter or cold climates.
The artificial plants we cover are far less fussy 🙂
A. Real plants for enchanted spaces
We found it challenging to find small plants that resemble trees until we came across the parlor palm and sacred bamboo. These hardy plants make great fairy garden trees. We bought ours while they were still very small. They can be shaped and trimmed to keep them low, but will eventually need to be replaced when they become too large.
Dwarf conifers are another good choice as fairy garden trees. They are tough little plants and very slow growing. Like the other plants we’re suggesting as trees, these need to be replaced over time, so we bought them as small as we could to begin with.
Baby Tears is a quaint plant that resembles a carpet of tiny green leaves as it spreads. It’s very low growing and can be easily trimmed to keep it where you want it to be. It will also spill over edges so it’s quite versatile.
Golden Club Moss has a low, mounding habit with creeping stems that spread across the soil. These form a mat of foliage. Its lime green colour adds a bright pop in the garden.
Alyssum is most often seen in white but you can also find deep purple and pink varieties. This small plant blooms for up to 5 months of the year making it perfect for Fairy Gardens and can be easily grown from seed. Not suitable for a deeply shaded position as it does best with some sunlight. We have edged our fairy garden with pink, white and purple Alyssum.
Another little stunner is the Forget-Me-Not plant. These prefer a shady, wooded area with damp soil. They die back in winter but return in spring. They can self-seed but unwanted plants are easily removed and can be transplanted elsewhere in the garden.
Bottle Babies (terrarium plants) come in a wide variety of shapes and colours. They are all small but can be quite delicate, so they’re not for every location. But if you have a well sheltered, shady spot in a temperate or tropical climate, and you water regularly, these tiny plants just ooze enchantment.
Friendship Plants have beautiful, deep green leaves with red veins. They can grow tallish but keeping them trimmed is easy peasy.
Mini Ferns, often used in terrariums, are another option. Their deep green foliage is perfect for an enchanted forest theme. Ferns need shade and a good water supply but tend to be delicate.
I took some photos of our fairy village plot to show nursery assistants. I visited two or three local nurseries because we’re in the Dandenong Ranges and they understand our unique climate. It was easier for the nurseries to advise me on the types of ferns (and other plants) that would do best in our area when they could see where and how they were going to be used.
Most succulents have a base muted green colour and they come in a variety of sizes and shapes. Luckily for Fairy Gardeners many are small. They do best in bright but indirect sun and, contrary to popular belief, can suffer if exposed to direct sunlight for long periods. Succulents need less water than many plants but are not desert plants, so water them when the soil is dry. These little beauties are great fillers in Fairy Gardens and you can find types that flower too!
Interestingly, I found artificial succulents quite pricey online so we stuck with the real ones. They proved to be quite tough, easy to grow and you can even propagate them from cuttings.
Real plants in our fairy garden
Left: Sacred Bamboo Right: Forget-Me-Nots
B. Artificial plants for enchanted spaces
I gave in and I’m glad I did!
It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that I needed to add some fake flora to my fairy garden. There were a number of challenging spots where nothing would grow, like under a tree in root-bound soil. I felt guilty even thinking about plastic plants in my magical space. Ugh!
In the end I reluctantly ordered a few artificial ferns online. When they arrived I was astounded at how realistic they appeared. Better still, I just poked the stem into the ground, tweaked the fronds a bit and tadaa! Only a close inspection revealed their fakeness.
No need to water, trim, sculpt or whimper if they die. I’m now an artificial plant convert!
A recent delivery of artificial flowers and moss rocks
Where to buy artificial plants
After much online surfing, I found that Alli Express (a bit like China’s Ebay) seemed to have the largest range of artificial plants that are suitable for fairy gardens – and they’re cheap!
Click the following link to see what shows up when using the search term ‘artificial plastic flowers‘ on the Alli Express website. Not only can you find flowers, they also have vines, ferns, succulents, moss rocks, ground cover and many other forms of artificial greenery. The delivery is usually free if you can wait, but if you need the plants sooner you have the option to choose a speedier delivery service for a fee.
Ebay also has a good selection, but the Australian site is a tad expensive. I am not sure if the same can be said for other countries.
I’ve also come across some fine fake specimens in local discount stores.
- I’ve been known to order artificial plants online that turn out to be way too big when they arrive. Check sizes before purchasing online.
- Also check they are made of plastic. Silk or any other type of cloth is not suitable for outdoor use. Yep, I made this mistake too!
We hope this fairy garden plant information has been useful.
From Part 6: the Carnival onwards we’ll be featuring one section of our Fairy Village at a time.
Each Village precinct (shopping centre, residential area, farm, etc) has its own special look and feel, along with its own design challenges. We’ll outline any hints and tips that we come up with as we progress.
Until then, happy Fairy Gardening one and all!