Metro-East Living

Fairy gardens: ‘Imagine being only a couple inches tall’

Linda Sulentic places a fairy in a miniature garden nestled in a pot of Gerber daisies.
Linda Sulentic places a fairy in a miniature garden nestled in a pot of Gerber daisies. News-Democrat

A fairy garden sprang up last week in Swansea’s Centennial Park.

Linda Sulentic made it happen.

The Belleville woman, her long, loose braid about to come undone, carried baskets of moss, small plants, smooth rocks, sweet-faced fairy figurines, battery-powered lights and more. She found just the right spot for her fairy world, a lush green setting a few feet from a park path.

“I have always liked miniatures things,” said Linda, 52, placing a round-topped door at the base of a towering maple tree. “And I love to garden. I am a nature girl through and through. Nature is my serenity. One thing led to another. I put those two things together. I have always been intrigued by little creatures of the woods, where they might live and what they might do. I like the fairies. What little girl doesn’t like fairies?”

She laid a carpet of soft green moss in front of the door. “You can’t have a fairy garden without some moss.”

Then she put a pot on one side; the tiniest rake on the other. A rock path. A miniature house to the left, and is that a fairy out front?

Time flew as the day warmed. Linda was in her element.

“The key thing is your imagination,” she tells garden classes she teaches. “Close your eyes. Imagine being only a couple inches tall. If you were that size, where would you want to live? In your garden, it’s the perfect way to find a perfect spot.

“Fairy gardening is a fun project to do with kids. It teaches them gardening, creativity and means they will be outside playing and using their imagination. ... I love to watch a kid’s face when they first see a fairy garden.

“True fairy gardening is taking your landscape and creating that little whimsical woods to make you take another look in. You might be walking past a tree. To most, it’s a tree. Look down and you’ll see a fairy door in the nooks and crannies. That might make you look further.”

That’s just what happened with 3-year-old Carter Green. He and his mom, Courtney Morrison, were walking their dog Rocky along the path. Carter stopped to watch Linda work. He wanted the door in the tree to be bigger so he could go in. Linda gave him the lowdown on how this fairy business works.

“It’s not big enough for you, but it’s big enough for fairies,” she said. “I am going to make stones for them to step on.”

Next thing she knew, Carter was at her side, placing a tiny wishing well in the midst of the fairyscape.

“We haven’t come across a fairy garden before,” said Courtney. “How cool is that?”

Gathering the goods

Linda furnishes fairy gardens with finds from gardening shops, such as Sandy’s Back Porch in Belleville. Other things come from dollar stores, craft stores, secondhand shops and nature.

“This little yellow fairy, I found at a flea market,” said Linda, who has been making the gardens for about six years. “Dollhouse furniture are great pieces to use. It’s all trial and error.”

And a lot of imagination.

For a fairy garden gazebo, she put a wooden coaster inside a metal tea light frame. For a natural-looking roof, she took apart a pine cone and used its pieces, along with twigs to make a design on top.

“Keep your eyes peeled,” she said. “I’m a repurposer. I look at twigs and leaves in a whole different way. This is a hunk of wood to must people. To me, it was a pathway ... pinecones, acorn caps, walnuts, seeds that looks fun and different. Use your imagination and turn them into something else.”

A bottlecap becomes a lid to a pot made from an acorn hollowed out by a squirrel. Several bright-colored caps become a fairy’s steppingstone path.

“It’s a big job to make a little fairy garden,” she said.

Linda’s fairy gardens also grow in pots, wheelbarrows and wooden boxes. She suggests small container gardens to folks who don’t have a yard or who want something small on the patio.

As an example, she brought along a pot of Gerber daisies with a fairy landscape beneath. A bench, wheelbarrow, watering can and gazing balls filled a cozy spot shaded by a wall of thick leaves. A fairy perched on the pot’s edge.

A bluebeard bush, also know as blue mist shrub or blue spirea, grew in another of Linda’s fairy gardens. A pathway and bridge wound beneath the bush that filled an 18-inch wide, shallow pot. A strand of tiny lights, powered by batteries, lined the walkway. “The baby lights are used in wedding vases,” Linda said. “These are a type that can get wet.”

The fairies that live there will delight in the bush’s fragrant, powder blue flowers that bloom in late summer and early fall. And they shouldn’t be surprised if butterflies and bees come calling.

Growing up

Linda lived in Coulterville until second grade.

“My grandparents were the gardeners. It was always a fun time. As kids, we would pick our own cherry tomatoes. Whatever we picked, we could eat. That was exciting. ... I played with a toy that looked like the inside of a tree where mice would live. I was a huge fan of Beatrix Potter. I was intrigued by little creatures and where they lived.”

The first plant she grew was baby’s breath.

“I am a crafter and used baby’s breath in a lot of things. It’s one of my first flowering plants that I got to grow.”

Now, she’s partial to herbs.

“They look cute in a fairy garden and I can enjoy their taste, too. I love creeping thyme with its little purple flowers, and it smells wonderful. Most herbs like the sun. Keep in mind where you are doing fairy gardening if it’s going to get sun. ... Stepable ground cover is wonderful for fairy gardening.”

Linda Sulentic,of Belleville, creates a fairy garden in Swansea's Centennial Park.

When Linda is not tending to fairy gardens, she works at Toot’s Decorating and Baking Supplies in Belleville.

“That’s my other world,” said Linda, who also makes decorative chocolates. “I teach a candy class occasionally, too.”

She passed along her interest in nature to son Miles, 18.

“We have a section of my yard considred his portion of the garden. Who gardens? I do. He helps pick things out (to grow). He is a bird watcher. He’s got a little bit of me in his blood.”

That day’s fairy garden in the park was mostly in shade. Dappled sunlight occasionally exposed a tiny weathered house or fairy-size stone path.

“Hello, little spider” Linda said as she worked, and “Watch out for stinging nettle. The stem is like little needles.”

She tucked parrot’s fern, a wispy, feathery plant, alongside a small tree-trunk door. And added a little compass to the landscape.

“In the fairy world, they use lost things,” she said.

What about that tiny bucket of shiny stuff?

“You have to come to this house for the fairy dust. This is actually called disco dust.”

The dust is sparkly glitter, often used on display cakes.

“In my world, it’s fairy dust,” she said.

If you would like help with creating a fairy garden or are interested in a fairy garden class, call Linda at 550-8108.