A fairy garden is a special kind of miniature garden, which is simply a garden created in miniature with plants and elements that are all in scale with each other. Miniature gardening is a niche hobby increasingly beloved around the world, with gardeners creating tiny vignettes with bonsai trees, plants and accessories. You’ll sometimes also hear them described as dish gardens, teacup gardens, gnome gardens or windowsill gardens.
So what sets a fairy garden apart from a standard miniature garden? Well, all miniature garden arrangements are inevitably cute, but they are transformed into bona fide fairy gardens by the addition of enchanting and magical elements that suggest little woodland creatures are living beside you in your landscape.
Whether you are building yourself a magical space for your own amusement, or to bewitch children, or as a conversation piece, it doesn’t actually have to resemble a traditional garden. Some fairy gardeners create worlds with mountains and deserts, undersea vignettes or farm life scenes. Some enthusiasts even go as far as to create entire villages. And that’s why I’ve put all of the fairy garden ideas in the one spot for you.
One thing I’ve noticed is that a fairy garden does not have to be exclusively feminine in style. There are plenty of examples of miniature ‘fairy’ gardens which have a masculine appeal. What about creating a tiny man-cave for your elves? Perhaps a surfer-elf BBQ scene (this would look perfect contained in an old Weber)? Or, maybe as a gift for your wine aficionado friend, a little Dionyesian vignette complete with cheeky little creatures having drunken shenanigans? The choice is yours, so let your imagination run free! You’re certainly not limited to making a cute home for Tinkerbell.
Here, we’ve compiled 35 suggestions for creating an adorable, realistic fairy garden which will be so much more rewarding than simply nailing a mass-produced plastic ‘fairy door’ to a regular-sized tree in your garden.
1. Planning your fairy garden
Wondering where to start? It’s easy. Simply pick the container you want to use. Decide on the perfect location. Sketch the layout of your garden on paper, noting where you will be planting your trees and shrubs. Choose a focal point for your garden, add your low-growing plants (creeping groundcovers, easy to care for succulents or potted colour), then add your characters and accessories.
When creating your fairy garden, you can start small and gradually build it up over time, so don’t be afraid to just dive in!
2. Design around the ‘bones’
Life-size gardeners begin with what they call the anchor points or bones of a garden, namely the trees and shrubs that remain in place all year when your perennials are dormant and annuals have finished their run. And gardening in miniature still follows the rules of regular-sized gardening: design the whole garden around the bones—the trees and shrubs.
3. Develop a realistic miniature
To really give your garden a fairy atmosphere, it’s best if you develop as realistic a miniature as possible. This means incorporating true miniature or dwarf trees when you are planning the bones of your garden.
4. Choose the perfect location
You can make a fairy garden anywhere – inside or outside, in sun or shade, on a windowsill, in an office corner, in part of a flower bed, under a tree, potted on the patio. Consider a position near the base of a blossoming tree –and you’ll get to enjoy your fairy garden being covered in pink ‘snow’ when in season. An elevated container is a great idea too, to ensure that your fairy garden can be seen amongst the other garden plants.
You might already have an idea about the ideal spot in your garden, but if you’re unsure, think about creating your fairy garden in a portable container.
5. Decide on your container
You can create your fairy garden in any kind of container. There are tailor-made fairy garden structures which can be as elaborate as fancy dolls houses, or terrariums and vivariums you can purchase. Or you can repurpose items such as an old wheelbarrow, wooden crate or even a BBQ. The more unusual the container, the more character your fairy garden will have.
Repurpose an old BBQ
A portable fairy garden
A vintage suitcase
Traditional ‘teacup’ gardening
A spot in your garden
Such as at the roots of a tree, or in an old tree stump.
In a planter
A stack of flowerpots
In a gourd or pinecone
6. Choose a focal point
Fairy landscapes need a focal point, whether it’s a tiny tree, a fairy house or a little vintage caravan. If you decide to have a tree as a focal point, choose an authentic mini or dwarf tree to plant which really looks the part—something that creates a canopy is perfect to give a forest look; for example, the Verdoni Dwarf Hinoki Cypress. Flowering topiaries also make perfect fairy-like trees.
7. Choose your plants and flowers wisely
When adding living plants, make sure you consider their care requirements. If indoors in low light, choose plants that thrive in those conditions, and the same goes for positions of bright light and sun. Ensure containers have good drainage.
You’ll want to incorporate plants whose growth can be restricted, whether that’s because they have a natural dwarf growth habit (such as Irish or Scotch Moss) or because you have kept a mini plant in its pot and sunk it in the surrounding ground, thereby restricting its growth. Succulents and alpine plants are popular for fairy gardens as they are compact and can be very cute.
Plants such as Sempervivum, Stonecrop or Miniature African Violet, or herbs like Corsican Mint, are ideal. When choosing flowering plants, pick those which have flowers to match your chosen colour scheme, and which are easy maintenance (for example, Kalanchoe or Miniature Cyclamen). Trailing plants and flowering vines are also a great choice as they can be trained over a trellis and create magical arbors for your woodland creatures to wander underneath. You can also create a tiny lawn with a slow-growing perennial groundcover featuring dainty flowers.
8. But…don’t overwhelm with plants
Make sure to include open, negative space which enables the imagination to ‘fill in’ the gaps. If you use too much colour in such a small space, it can appear too busy and cluttered, so instead choose several complementary colours (for example, purple flowers contrasting with chartreuse foliage).
9. Decide on your scale
You’ll want to keep the same scale throughout your fairy garden or things will just look odd. You can decide on the scale you like for yourself, but you’ll be more limited if purchasing pre-made fairy garden items and accessories. Because the fairy garden trend started in America, the imperial measure 1:12 (one inch to one foot) has become somewhat standardised, but you’ll have much more freedom if handmaking items yourself.
10. Add your characters
To look genuinely inhabited by small folk, you obviously need characters and their belongings as well as a cute landscape. Elves, gnomes, nymphs, faeries—choose your favourite style of woodland creature, whether you buy little characters you love, or if you are crafty, make your small folk out of polymer clay or putty.
11. A fairy house, or simply fairy doors and windows
You may have a full fairy house in your setting, or you may just wish to add a few elements like gorgeous handmade fairy doors and windows.
12. A mailbox to receive fairy mail
This is an especially cute feature if children will be playing with the fairy garden, so they can leave letters for the fairies.
13. Water feature fairy garden ideas
Just as a regular-sized water feature adds to the charm of your normal-sized garden landscape, so too does a fairy-sized water feature such as a wee little pond. If you use real water, you can add a drop of bleach to freshen it and help keep mosquitoes and algae away. If you aren’t keen on a real water feature you can simulate the appearance of real water with a small mirror or even a piece of blue-glazed ceramic.
Shells make perfect paddling pools for fairies when turned upside down and filled with water and some little blooms.
14. Create a miniature bridge
You can also create a bridge over any water feature you install. A bridge couldn’t be easier to construct from twigs and flowers, such as this gorgeous creation.
15. Give them a wishing well
Fairies believe in magic, too, so let them have a place to make their own wishes.
16. Create a path or stepping stones
Use pebbles or marbles to create a path, but note that you don’t want to overdo the “tinyness” by making absolutely everything miniature. Your landscape will benefit from some contrast between regular-size and fairy-size elements. Juxtapose tiny fairy items with real-life size items, such as a huge path of normal-sized flagstones leading to a tiny fairy garden gate. This reinforces the cuteness of the tiny landscape within the larger one.
17. A picket fence
Picket fences and gates are easy to create with coffee stir-sticks or icy pole sticks. You can also use icy pole sticks to make furniture for your creatures.
18. Add their little things
With fairy gardens, it’s all in the details. Your fairy garden inhabitants need belongings and furniture to create a realistic scene and allow humans to be completely mesmerised by all the intricate details. Of course, you can buy fairy garden accessories in major garden centres or online these days, but there are endless DIY projects you can find which can be rustled up in an afternoon and which will give your fairy garden charming authenticity. Look for recycled and reclaimed materials to repurpose, or you can get crafty with modelling clay, matchsticks or icy pole sticks, wire or other bits and bobs.
Some fairy gardeners take the level of precision up a notch by creating realistic “smoke” to come out of a chimney, or tiny serviettes at the table, or minuscule curtains that can be sewn up in minutes.
19. Add mini gazing balls
These hark back to Medieval times when they were an actual thing for humans. Now, they can make a wonderful feature for your fairy garden, whether you use little Christmas baubles for outdoors or glass balls for indoor gardens.
20. Add some toadstools
Magic toadstools in brilliant colours will set the scene.
21. Create a fairy tent
A miniature playspace for your woodland creatures.
22. Make a flower parasol for your little beings
These parasols may not last long but they look adorable and are so easy to make.
23. Set up their kitchen and places to eat
Whether you have a fairy garden that’s big enough to contain furniture or whether you set up an alfresco dining area for your little beings, recreating a typical kitchen/dining space on a tiny scale is heaps of fun.
Make somewhere for the fairies to sit and have a goblet of mead by creating furniture out of twigs and bits of bark, and using acorns for crockery.
24. Add miniature fairy food
Make your own, or find a supplier such as @saturdaylollipop on Instagram, who creates realistic miniature foods handmade from polymer clay. She even makes mini fairy bread, which must surely be the staple diet of fairies. Go check her out—while her items are usually turned into earrings or brooches, she can also sell them as-is for your fairies to enjoy.
25. Miniature fire with toasted marshmallows
You can also make realistic “fire” from cellophane.
26. Have somewhere for fairies to sleep
A dreamy sleep space for your little creatures to rest.
27. Help them keep clean
You can create mini brooms in a jiffy, or a little fairy clothesline complete with tulle skirts fluttering in the breeze.
28. Give them workbenches to keep busy
A little workbench for your fairies can be easily constructed and decorated with useful small items.
29. When your fairies are little gardeners themselves
Make them a tiny wheelbarrow, construct some mini garden tools like spades and trowels made from recycled aluminium foil containers (you’ll find plenty of DIY instructions online). Thimbles can become little pot plant containers, and little acorn flowerpots can contain plasticine plants.
30. A mini harp
For your musical fairies.
31. Mini easels
For your artist fairies.
32. Add gorgeous tiny woodland fauna
How cute are these baby owls? You might also like to include things like mini birdbaths or mini birds’ houses or birds’ nests in your setting—these can be easily made with little branches or straw, and filled with polymer clay or putty ‘eggs’.
33. Use fairy lighting
If ever there was an appropriate use for fairy lighting, this is it. Adding solar-powered fairy lights will add that little touch of magic to your fairy garden.
Love fairy lights? Don’t we all, so that’s why we’ve put together this post about all the different fairy light ideas around the home.
34. Play with themes
If you’ve been bitten by the fairy garden bug, a simple (or even elaborate) fairy garden that remains pretty much the same all year long will probably no longer be enough and you’ll enjoy being able to decorate your mini garden throughout seasonal festivities. Perhaps that means redecorating for Christmas, creating a mini pumpkin patch in October, a Mad Hatter’s tea party for Easter; it might also mean a loved-up Valentine’s Day mini garden scene or a classically Aussie outdoors vignette to celebrate the start of summer.
35. Consider a starter kit
The best fairy gardens are personalised and customised to reflect something about their gardener, rather than being generic. This means fairy garden arrangements also make the perfect gift because you can design a bespoke fairy garden to suit your loved one that incorporates nods to their interests or elements of their lives. Some companies put together mini garden kits, which you could use as a foundation and embellish to create a really special and unique fairy garden kit as a gift.
Have you created a fairy garden yourself? Let us know in the comments!