Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Creating Whimsical Fairy Gardens with Children

Creating a fairy or gnome garden is a relatively easy task.  The Penn State Extension master gardeners teamed up with a local garden center at their request and offered classes over the weekend for the children.  What I found that is so superb about a project like this, is the limitless possibilities!  At the workshop, we learned how to create a trellis out of light gauge wire.  There was also a demonstration on how to make a picket fence with twigs and light guage wire.  We saw how they crafted a fairy bench with a piece of bark, twigs and hot glue.  I've outlined the supplies and directions.  This should get you started creating a magical fairy garden with your little one at home!  A fairy or gnome garden would be a super idea for a woodland-themed birthday party and a great activity that the kids can take home after the celebration.

Container, Pot or Dish of some type that will hold soil and give you space to plant and create.
Potting Soil (Cactus Soil works and drains well) and Scoop to fill your container with the soil
Flat Stones for a fairy/gnome pathway
Gravel or Crushed Stone to line the pathway
Light-gauge wire or floral wire
Twigs, Sticks, Acorns
Moss (we used sphagnum and what was readily available in our back yard)
Polymer Clay to make mushrooms, gnomes, etc.
Hot Glue Gun and Glue Sticks if making furniture (adult supervision is essential!)
To complete the acorn birdhouse:
Small Drill Bit, Drill, Clamp, Twigs.  You may have to re-glue the cap onto the acorn to make it stay permanently.

1.We started by adding a layer of stone at the bottom of the container   This helps tremendously with drainage for your plants.  If you have a container and no hole, you can drill one or just be mindful to not over-water your plants.  
2. Next, fill the container nearly full with soil.  
3. Pick out a few plants and plant them in your container.  Our favorites are succulents.  These are carefree varaties of plants that you find at the greenhouse or local garden center.  The nice part is they are usually cold hardy to your zone, don't need a lot of attention or care.  They are in the cactus family if that give you a better frame of reference for their care.  Too much watering will make them turn to mush, just like a cactus would.  Make sure you check the plant recommendations on the tag because some varieties won't tolerate temperatures below 40 degrees.  One example is Echeveria.  "It is a large genus of flowering plants in the Crassulaceae family, native to semi-desert areas of central America, from Mexico to northwestern South America." Wikipedia 
4.  Make your fairy or gnome path if you so desire.  We used a crushed rock to mark out the path and then added flat "stepping" stones over top.
5.  You can add moss around the plants to cover the soil in your dish garden.
6.  Add your accessories.  We made gnomes and mushrooms with polymer baking clay.  They are not too hard to do and there are a lot of videos on YouTube that will give you some great ideas.  I highly recommend checking out Lemon Zest's blog entry that illustrates how easy it can be to make a gnome and mushrooms.  Click here to visit Lemon Zest to learn how to make a polymer clay gnome and mushroom.  We used Sculpey brand clay, which you bake according to the package directions once your creation is complete.  This will make them fragile, like ceramics, but they will hold up well if you have your garden outside in the summertime.  If you watch the store ads, you can get a block polymer clay for 88 cents at Michaels, which is a really good deal.  Here's another tutorial on how to make "puffy" frogs: http://www.sculpey.com/projects/pluffy-frogs-lily-pad.  I'm sure snails would be super-easy too!  See what I mean when I said you can get lost in the ideas for your garden?

Note the trees in the back of the dish garden (pictured to the right) created by Kathy Martin of Martin's Landscape Service and Garden Center.  They are made of bailing twine unraveled and attached to twigs with hot glue.  There is also a fairy fence made with twigs and floral wire that separates the plants from the path to the trees.  A good Google search to try: "How to make fairy furniture with twigs."  That should inspire you and keep you busy for quite some time!
The fairy bird house is an acorn with a tiny twig inserted near the lower part of the acorn, then a circle above that with a black Sharpie marker.  This will require the use of a small drill bit and drill.  A clamp or adjustable wrench of some sort would be helpful to hold the acorn in place while you drill.  You can drill the hole for the fairy bird instead of use the Sharpie and make a small circle above the twig perch.  Another longer twig is inserted in the bottom of the acorn so it can be placed in the garden.  There is a pretty good photograph of one here. Here is another link to make your own fairy tea set at Twig and Toadstool's blog.

A fun snack idea that is super-easy for your gardening party and looks like cute mushrooms. 
"Mushroom" Snack Directions:
Take one apple, wash and dry.  I used Gala, but any in season apple will do the trick!
Cut the apple close to the core on each side so you get a mushroom top shape.  
Add a marshmallow below and add a toothpick to hold it all together.  There are larger, party-sized toothpicks that work best and you can stick them into a box wrapped with green tissue to make it look as they are growing out of the grass.  You'll have to pre-poke some holes through the cardboard to get the toothpicks to go in easily.  It looks like they used a Styrofoam tray and used contact paper to decorate for this example:  I found this recipe idea at the Mucky Mac Book's blog.  Scroll down, the picture of the snack is about halfway down the page.

All photo credits: Kathy Martin of Martin's Landscape Service and Garden Center

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