FRANKFORT — There is a sort of magic that happens in fairy gardens, those miniature landscapes meant to inspire tiny mythical creatures to visit your yard.
Wilson Nurseries in Frankfort regularly hosts fairy-garden workshops, where the air is often abuzz with an excited fluttering to and fro, as garden revelers gather building blocks like moss, pastel pebbles and shiny ceramic mushrooms to assemble tiny masterpieces. Bright flashes of sparkling glitter, said to help welcome fairies, and sun-catching glass beads, like shimmering dew drops, add a glow. The muted hum of conversation and cheery chatter can be heard as the gardeners go about the task of creating fern- and fantasy-filled container gardens.
Even if you're skeptical about the existence of fairies, it's hard to deny the obvious joy shared by these garden makers as they are gently guided in the art and craft of assembling a small sprite habitat to take home.
Last Saturday, grandparents and parents with children, as well as longtime friends and neighbors, met for two hours under a tent inside the Wilson greenhouses where work tables and supply benches were assembled.
Wilson's organizer and instructor for these events, Teresa Abell, tells of an interesting phenomenon that happens as fairy gardens are made.
"People will start out not talking at all," she says, "yet by the time they leave, they have gotten to know each other, are having a lot of conversations and have made new friends."
They share ideas, supplies and stories about just why they have come to create a fairy garden.
Abell, who has been with Wilson Nurseries for eight years, began stocking fairy supplies about three years ago after encountering fairy culture at a wholesale market in Atlanta. The idea of holding workshops occurred to her as she was putting together a greenhouse display. It was a natural fit.
"I love gardens, and I love working with people," she says.
The idea caught on, and each of Wilson's dozen or more fairy garden events over the past year has sold out. In addition to the monthly scheduled workshops, groups of 10 to 20 people can request private events from June until March.
Each participant, "from ages 4 to over 70," Abell says, finds his or her own niche. Container gardens, which can be grown indoors as well as outside in warmer months, offer accessibility to older adults with limited mobility or to those who are living in a retirement community or nursing home.
The charm of fairy dust also has great appeal for children. Creating a special miniature garden is an easy way to begin growing a green thumb.
Abell has many participants who start out knowing nothing about gardening, but in two hours, she says, "have developed a passion for it."
Connie Hicks, who helps with the workshops, adds, "It's fun. You get to feel like a kid — along with everybody else."
The workshop's $35 fee includes a kit with a container, potting medium, three plants, mulch, pathway stones and a miniature metal archway and birdbath, as well as instruction and care. The fee is per fairy garden; it can be shared by a pair or group of participants. Collectibles — used marbles and dollhouse furniture, twigs and acorns, anything that would fit well into a miniature landscape — can also be brought from home.
One workshop participant, Susie Oder of Frankfort, brought a small stone pre-Columbian artifact from her stepfather's legacy of miniatures to set in her garden as a remembrance.
Extras like hypertufa English cottages, glazed ceramic mushrooms and an assortment of small-scale benches, tools and seasonal decorations can be purchased at Wilson.
Workshop participant Virginia Lyle, 8, of Frankfort felt the fairy power. She was intently focused on designing her second fairy garden, paving a meandering path she had created with small pebbles in pastel hues and tucking in teensy-leaved plants into her low, wide container. Virginia's mom, Lola Lyle, explained that her daughter's first fairy garden was a project shared with a friend. Virginia wanted to return to make one just to keep at her own home.
"This is a special mom-and-daughter time," Lyle says, smiling.
Linda Hopkins and Dottie Rose, whose families have grown up together in Lexington, worked side by side at another table.
"The fairy garden display here just captures you," says Hopkins, who admits she couldn't wait for the workshop and even made a couple on her own in the interim.
Craft stores Hobby Lobby and Michael's and local garden shops including Redmonds Garden, Landscape and Gift Center are a few sources for fairy garden supplies in Lexington.
Family memories have inspired many gardens. Donna Hammons said that she and her granddaughter Grace Logan, who is visiting this summer from Tupelo, Miss., "have been collecting things all summer" for the fairy garden: mirrors, fairy figurines and little mushrooms.
Susan Smith-Durisek is a master gardener and writer from Lexington. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Blog: gardening.bloginky.com.