It started simply with an enchanting idea meant to engage children in the Pitney Meadows community gardens.
Why not a fairy garden, an outdoor dollhouse of sorts where buildings were made of materials found in nature such as acorns and shells, with flowering plants that needed tending, and where one’s imagination – and joy in gardening – could take root.
Fortunately, Jess Clauser, a Girl Scout troop leader at Dorothy Nolan school and a PM community gardener, agreed and created a fairy garden in one of the garden’s raised beds, an 8×4 plot, that exceeded all expectations. Her 10-year-old daughter, Charlotte, a creative force in and of herself, helped her mother in dozens of ways.
Fairy gardens are not a new idea. They have been around since the 1890s and became popular during the Chicago World’s Fair when bonsai dish gardens were introduced and the idea of magical residents captured people’s imaginations.
Jess, however, carried it to new heights and made it art.
To create her spellbinding space, Clauser brought in logs with mushrooms attached, slices of branches and cultivated little landscapes. She created delightful dwellings, alluring houses, and magical elements like reindeer moss, which, according to fairy lore, can grant wishes. There is a clothesline where the fairies hung their outfits to dry, mini terra cotta pots filled with succulents, swing sets, bridges and tiny lounge chairs, where butterflies have stopped to rest. These accessories made the space looked lived in.
Needless to say, the plot drew (and continues to draw) visitors and gardeners every day as they looked for signs of what the fairies are up to. Clauser, an artist, maintains she has nothing to do with the daily changes. “It’s the fairies,” she says with a wink and a smile.
And apparently, there might be some truth to that as occasionally “gifts” are found and little notes are left that read “from your fairy godmother.” The gifts are little trinkets, including a birdbath sized for the fairies, sparkling glass candy, a bowl of colorful ornaments and a tiny cooking pot.
If you haven’t come to see the fairy garden, please do. And, stop to see the larger fairy village located in the flower border on the northern edge of the community gardens where the wide pathway ends and the field begins. The border measures 30 feet by 6 feet and has a flourishing row of colorful zinnias, cosmos, bachelor buttons, poppies, sunflowers and more.
It was big enough for a fairy village of about 20 houses the Girl Scouts decorated with natural materials: twigs, acorns, shells, moss and pebbles. The 7 to 10-year-olds worked steadily to make the areas around their houses “fairy friendly” with little patios, mini gardens of their own and in one case, a firepit and tiny Adirondack chairs.
According to legend, fairies have the power to bring happiness. Considering all the smiles I’ve seen on the faces of adults and children as they explore what is in this little village, I think the legend’s true.
The fairy garden will be on exhibit weekends until October 8th, which is the Pitney Meadows Community Farm’s Family Fun Day from 1 to 5 p.m.
And bring a camera, children or your own sense of wonder. You won’t want to miss this.