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How Cute the Gnomes

My first experience with fairy gardens came with children’s fairy garden author Tracy Kane. I met her one summer when she participated in the Master Gardeners’ annual garden fest in Brentwood, New Hampshire. Her work with the children that day amazed me.  The kids were mesmerized as Kane helped them build fairy houses under trees and shrubs.

Garden writer and photographer Betty Earl has taken me miles further in her book Fairy Gardens: A Guide to Growing an Enchanted Miniature World.  Here she first gives a cultural history of fairy mythology. The reader even meets fairyologist Jonathan Wright from Ann Arbor, Michigan.  

When I read these words that appear early in the book, “The basic idea of fairy gardens is gardening in miniature, creating the illusion that tiny fairy creatures have taken up residence in your garden,” I was ready for the book’s journey.

What impressed me about this book was how clearly Earl lays out the design of a fairy garden, either indoors or as part of the outdoor landscape, along with the plants and hardscape a gardener might use.  Such suggestions appear throughout the book.

The number of photos of plants and tiny garden accessories help the reader experience fairy gardens here, simply by turning the page.

Earl’s suggestions for plants, whether the popular Stepables or the Jeepers Creepers series or even perennials like the lily of the valley, they help the reader see that only small, manageable plants fit a fairy garden.

If you want a fairy garden for yourself or you think your children might like to build one, this book is the place to start. It is easy to read and full of advice on every page.

Today the idea of a ‘gnome’ in the garden is quite common. We see them often.

Childen especially like the small figurines, the plants sherred to a small figure to fit in, and even the housing provided in the garden for the gnome.

The History of Gnomes

But when did they first appear in the garden?

For one answer we only have to look as far as Todd Logstaffe-Gowan’s book English Garden Eccentrics.

He attributes the beginning of the appearaqnce of gnomes in English gardens to Sir Charles Isham at Lamport Hall in1847.

Logstaffe-Gowan writes, “Sir Charles pioneered the idea of deploying phsyical models of them [gnomes] in British gardens.”

Sir Charles saw a therapeutic value in the small figures.

More recently Abbey Bender wrote the article “The Weird, Whimsical and Wonderful History of Garden Gnomes – and why you need one.”

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