Faerie Tales

Next time you’re in the garden, close your eyes, breathe deeply and recall your first encounter with fairies. I have my mother to thank for explaining to me, when I was five, that rainbows caused by sunlight shining through prisms indicate the presence of fairies.  Smart woman.

Since then, I’ve looked for fairies, and occasionally find one—though luck does play a part. It’s like hunting four-leaf clovers. You have to be observant and know the signs. These eucalyptus flowers, for example, are clearly the components of a couture outfit. Fairy fashion.

An angel’s trumpet tree? Yes, but also a ballgown bush.

There are celebrity fairies, like Tinkerbell. Her closet is full of pink satin flowers like these.

You’ve heard of fairy shrimp?

Osteospermums are a mundane name for the fairy version of Disneyland’s spinning teacups.

Fairies are difficult to photograph. They’re skittish and move quickly, like dragonflies and hummingbirds. But they’re also intelligent, and when they sense a kinship with you, they may pose.

This one watched me for quite a while before briefly alighting. Then, just as quickly, she was gone.

This sign at Heart’s Ease garden shop in Cambria, CA, sums up the fairy philosophy where humans are concerned. Have I had fairies grant wishes? Actually, no. They’re rather vain and self-absorbed. Should you find an unselfish fairy, you’re fortunate indeed.

I spotted this fairy on a garden tour. Dozens of people had walked right past her. She smiled shyly, and when I waved back, she let me take her picture.

I found this fairy, amazingly, at a busy shopping center. The occasion was South Coast Plaza’s Spring Garden Show in Orange County. The fairy and her Frog Prince were at the M & M Nursery booth. Not surprisingly, one of M & M’s specialties is fairy gardens.

A playhouse and Magical Garden that my neighbor, Cindy Payne, created for her daughter, Bella, was made fairy-friendly by Bella’s aunt, professional artist Julia C.R. Gray. Look at the lower right.

Julia does stunning paintings of frogs. No wonder fairies are keen to have her paint their likenesses; they have a fondness for amphibians.

This fairy attractant is in the garden of Santa Barbara landscape architect Sydnie Baumgartner. I didn’t see any fairies while I was there, but I suspect flocks of them show up when the light is right. All those prisms.

About Debra Lee Baldwin

Debra Lee Baldwin gardens on "an inhospitable half acre" in Escondido, CA, near San Diego. She is an award-winning photojournalist and artist with hundreds of articles and columns to her credit. Debra's books are Designing with Succulents, Succulent Container Gardens and Succulents Simplified. www.debraleebaldwin.com.

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19 Responses to Faerie Tales

  1. Lisa at Greenbow July 21, 2010 at 1:31 pm #

    What a delightful post. No wonder you get fairies to pose for you. You are so understanding of them.
    I am also a believer.

    Thanks, Lisa. I come from a long line of fairy whisperers. Debra

  2. Darla July 21, 2010 at 1:45 pm #

    I have just started a fairy garden. I have been admiring them on blogs for quite a while. Nice post.

    Hi, Darla — Actually, your garden already is. Most gardens, and many uncultivated spaces, are fairy habitats. Debra

  3. Robur July 21, 2010 at 2:04 pm #

    The RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show was held a couple of weeks ago. The main page of their website for the show had a photo of a fairy statue (the page has since disappeared).

    You can still see that fairy, among the flowers on the right of a photo here. Click on ‘Gallery’:

    A report on the show by a gardening editor of Country Living magazine, picked out 4 photos. One was a fairy. Her report said ‘fairies seem to be obligatory’:

    I actually spotted one in my own garden too:

    Robur, the fairy in your garden is so gorgeous, it must attract more by the droves. Thanks so much for the links–here’s more of that great quote: “Fairies seem to be obligatory – thankfully there didn’t seem to be any goblins this year (I loathe those pokey-fingered pointy-eared critters) and I was actually quite charmed by the fairy in the clump of heartsease in the Midsummer Night’s Dream Garden…” — Debra

  4. Mr. McGregor's Daughter July 21, 2010 at 2:33 pm #

    I love your way of seeing the garden through fairy eyes. I picked up some metal items for the start of a fairy garden when I was in Buffalo. Haven’t found the right container for them yet, and the weather’s been too brutal plant any tiny plants now.

    Hm. Metal items? You’ve got me curious. Please blog about it when you do. Debra

  5. Laura July 21, 2010 at 3:08 pm #

    I like the way your mom explained prisms, rainbows and fairies. I think I’ll have to add some sparkle to my garden. My daughter would get a kick out of that!

    I tossed glass florists’ marbles in my gravel pathway to make it more interesting. Everyone exclaims when they see them, from toddlers to telephone repairmen. Debra

  6. healingmagichands July 21, 2010 at 3:19 pm #

    I was pretty sure there were fairies in my garden, glad to know that other people see them too. I have often looked at the flowers and seen them as “haute couture” for fairies. . .

    What a charming post. It would almost make me establish a “fairy garden” if my whole garden was not dedicated to being habitat for them. But the idea of a corner dedicated to miniatures. . . charming.

    I think those osteospermums are amazing, really.

    Well, there you go. And people think I make this stuff up, lol. Debra

  7. Gardening Jones July 21, 2010 at 3:20 pm #

    Lovely and delightful to read, you made my day…thanks!

    You’re welcome ;+) Debra

  8. Kathy July 21, 2010 at 3:21 pm #

    I have longed to invite fairys into my garden, but am not sure they care for cats, though I know the cats would probably think the fairys very interesting indeed !

    Oh, I don’t think you need to worry. Fairies are no more at risk where cats are concerned than are hummingbirds or dragonflies. Fortunately! Debra

  9. Shellene July 21, 2010 at 3:42 pm #

    Woman after my own heart! I can rember as a child taking drives through valley center on the way to Julian and the cottonwoods would be blooming and the white seeds would be drifting through the old majestic oaks and I would imagine that the fairys would be riding them, it was wonderful.
    I Believe!

    Hi, Shellene — I grew up near there. I remember them, too, backlit by the sun, drifting slowly and spinning. Beautiful. Debra

  10. Helen Yoest @ Gardening With Confidence July 21, 2010 at 4:44 pm #

    Hey y’all

    I just wanted you to know I added your blog to the soon to be launched North Carolina Nursery and Landscape Association blog roll for NC Blogs!


    I also wanted to make sure you received my new link for Gardening With Confidence’s blog



    I hope you are doing well!

    Thanks, Helen! Debra

  11. Jeanette July 21, 2010 at 6:02 pm #

    Great post. My daughter loves fairy’s.

    Hi, Jeanette, and fairies sort of embody everything we love about little girls, don’t they? — Debra

  12. Sharon Corrigan July 21, 2010 at 10:16 pm #

    this is absolutely darling! very clever

    Hi, Sharon, thank you! I was fun to research. Debra

  13. Rick Brown July 22, 2010 at 6:41 am #


    Hey, Rick, and so are you! Debra

  14. Janit July 22, 2010 at 1:40 pm #

    Hi Debra!

    Many thanks for spreading your joy of the fairy gardening! I love the dresses you’ve picked out… ;o)


    I suspect fairies must visit you all the time, Janit. They love to shop for furniture and accessories for their outdoor living spaces. Debra

  15. rebecca sweet July 22, 2010 at 11:58 pm #

    This has GOT to be the sweetest post I’ve read in a long, long time. And it features my very favorite garden shop of all time – Heart’s Ease! Though I knew it when Sharon Lovejoy was there….(it’s where I first realized I wanted to be a garden designer!). Gorgeous photos, as usual, Debra. Thanks for bringing a smile to my night!

    Hi, Rebecca — Indeed, Sharon Lovejoy has never lost that childlike sense of wonder that we all cherish, and she has a delightful imagination as well. I highly recommend her books on how to introduce children to gardening, such as “Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots.” Thanks for the reminder! — Debra (P.S. Did I tell you I saw a fairy in your own garden when I visited? A shy one. Check the drops of water on the blue echeverias near the chicken coop.)

  16. Cindy July 23, 2010 at 3:27 am #

    That was wonderful, Debra! Thank you for capturing Bella’s garden in it’s finest and sister Julia’s painting so pure. Your enchanted photography and eloquent words makes this post magically believable…We Believe!!

    Cindy & Bella

    Hi, Sweet Cindy — Bella is lucky to have a mom and aunt who capture the magic of the garden, both seen and unseen! And I’m lucky to have you for a neighbor ;+) Debra

  17. Julia July 23, 2010 at 11:29 am #

    Hi Debra, your article on faeries in the garden is delightful. I love your writing, always enjoyable and informative. Faeries must love you; you understand their fashion sense and are very creative. I have been seeing faeries all my life, usually out of the corner of my eye; it helps in painting their portraits. Thank you for sharing Bella’s magical garden and my site.

    Hi, Julia — I love your work and admire your talent—the way you portray everything from amphibians to high-heeled shoes. Fairies must love you, too! Fondly, Debra

  18. Cheryl in Austin July 24, 2010 at 8:08 am #

    That was a precious tour! I believe! I believe!

  19. Kathryn Clayton August 12, 2010 at 3:10 pm #

    What a wonderful post! I was so happy that you included my faerie garden sign at my store Heart’s Ease!
    Just wanted to clarify that the faerie gardens ( we have two) and signs (which is my attempt to rhyme) weren’t there when Sharon Lovejoy owned the shop which is going on 14 years ago. Keep believing! It makes the world a better place!

    Hi, Kathryn — Thanks for clarifying. I enjoy your charming shop whenever I’m in Cambria (about once a year). I wish more gift shops had gardens! Debra