For some time now, I have admired my friend Shailey Murphy’s adorable fairy garden she’s created outside her home. I’ve seen a few other (online) friends create fairy gardens, but it wasn’t something I was super familiar with and I love hers so much I just wanted to learn more about it. I asked if she’d be willing to share a little tour of her garden and answer a few questions. Here is our conversation:
Why did you start your fairy garden?
“I didn’t really get into the whole fairy garden thing until a couple years ago when my daughter (who is now 4) got to the age where she could enjoy them. I hadn’t seen many, but when we moved into this neighborhood, I really started to notice several around on our walks. What I admired about many of the fairy gardens in our 100-year-old neighborhood was the fact that many of the objects were found or made, not just purchased at the store. They weren’t “bed in a bag” fairy gardens, where people just went to a big box craft store on a Saturday and bought one of everything. That made the whole idea more endearing to me and what finally got us started!”
How have you accumulated all the pieces? Like, how much have you bought vs. what things do you make?
“Our fairy garden started with a couple fairy houses and fairies we found at the store (yes … a craft store) and then my mom and mother-in-law got my daughter, Opal, a couple more. Once we had a base of 2-3 houses and a few fairies, I started collecting and making from there. Opal and I found one of the houses at a garage sale for $2 that had previously been a part of an indoor Christmas village or something and is made out of porcelain. It had little ducks, which are her favorite, so that made it a really special find. I found another little glass church at a thrift store, as well as fun old candy dishes that act as little pools and fill up when it rains.
I also had luck finding little ’70s boy and girl figurines at a thrift store for 50 cents each that are some of my favorites! I love it when I find something that will work and is free or really cheap and I get to bring it home and surprise her. We’ve spent more money on other items when they have meaning, like two of the gnomes were gifts we brought them from a trip to Iceland. We’ve also found moss and bark around the yard to use for decoration as well. When we are feeling fancy, we add fresh flowers. Opal and I painted the little wooden birdhouses and built the twig ladders going up to them. Our neighbor kids and Opal painted the rocks one day to create the colorful “mountain range” inspired by Salvation Mountain. Another neighbor actually gifted us the first ladder because we were admiring it on a walk, and then we started making our own! The ladders might be my favorite part.
As far as selecting a location, we chose the biggest tree in our front yard that was out right by the sidewalk. It had the best root gaps and mossy areas to make the most charming nooks for the village. It was a great teaching conversation to say we put our fairy village garden right by the sidewalk for everyone to enjoy. You aren’t going to get mad when other kids play with it while walking by. If we wanted to keep it all to ourselves we would have put it in the backyard, but we built this to share. Opal has really done a great job learning to share it and not be upset when things get moved or broken. Having some good super glue on hand is a must because it’s not IF things are broken it’s WHEN. I think the sleeping fairy with no feet, no wings and no hands is one of my favorites. She’s been around since the beginning and is so well loved.”
Do your kids enjoy the garden? How do they interact with it?
“Both of my kids really enjoy playing in the fairy garden! Moses is only 1, so we call him “baby-zilla” because he stomps around destroying it and throwing things more than playing, but he has a blast. Opal is 4 so she spends hours out there with the neighbor kids playing and playing. It’s the best. I also love it when friends and neighbors stop by to look at it and let their kids play a few minutes while on a walk.”
Since Springfield, Missouri has all four seasons, do you do anything different with the garden seasonally? Like, bring pieces inside for winter or anything like that?
“Our fairy garden is going on two years now. We really have all four seasons and it goes from 100 degrees in the summer to well below freezing in the winter. I don’t actually take anything inside for the winter. In fact, seeing the fairy village in the snow is one of the best things about it! Everything basically freezes in place and it’s so cozy. About two times per year we do “fairy landscaping” and Opal and I take each house, stone, fairy and set everything out in our yard in groups to clean out leaves or grass and add more mulch. It’s strangely very satisfying. I would say the whole cleaning out and re-landscaping takes about 30-60 minutes and is a really fun activity. If you are thinking about making a fairy garden, start small and just go for it! You can add as you find fun little items as you go, so there is no pressure. Ours has evolved over time for sure.”
Thank you for sharing your fairy garden with us, Shailey! I’d love to hear if anyone reading has a fairy garden as well, or grew up with one that maybe their parents or grandparents had? It’s not something I grew up with so it’s always fun to hear and learn more. -Emma