By Jill Morgan
You’re never too old to bring some fairy garden ideas into your patch. From creating tiny, magical worlds in containers, adding intriguing doorways and windows to trees or making a secret clearing, you can keep family members – young and old – happy, creative and outdoors whatever the time of year.
The perfect way to bring character to your garden and keep children connected with nature, they can explore their imagination, develop fine motor skills and enjoy showing off the results. What’s more you don’t need endless space or expensive resources either. The most stunning results can be made from items already lying around the garden. Shallow containers can become gardens or reflective pools, pebbles can be painted, and logs can be transformed into fairy houses and villages with paint, marker pens or strong wood glue and scavenged treasures.
So if you're always on the lookout for new garden activities for kids to keep them occupied outdoors, creating some magical garden experiences is an easy way to get them outside, whatever the weather.
Try these quirky fairy garden ideas to up the fun factor in your plot
If you're looking for ways to keep the kids entertained outdoors during the holidays, our fairy garden ideas are just the ticket to inspire them to have some fun outside.
1. Develop a fairy village
Want the fairyfolk to take up residence? Then why not build them a village to live in. The perfect project for families, siblings and groups of friends – you can continue adding houses, shops, path and rivers for as long as you want or as far as space allows.
Hunting out logs, wood offcuts, sticks and bark to form the buildings for your fairy garden ideas is great fun, and the knobblier, more misshapen or cracked and peeling bark the better.
Roofs can be added using hammer and panel pins (under adult supervision of course) or glued in place with wood glue. Shells, tiny pebbles, buttons, nuts and seedheads all make interesting details, such as windows, doorknobs and chimneys while swings and ladders can be crafted from twigs, string and lolly sticks.
Dedicate an area – it could be under a tree, shrub or next to a pond - to layout out the buildings. Gravel, slate chippings or sections of slate are all fabulous materials for mini garden path ideas, while coloured aquarium gravel is fun for making rivers, ponds and streams. You could even plant the odd miniature fern, alpine or patch of flowering bulbs for extra color and charm.
2. Bring trees alive with fairy windows
Stop little ones in their tracks and get their imagination whirring by adding tiny fairy windows to garden walls and trees. The more gnarled and craggier the tree bark or brickwork the better, as it will help blend the new features in and add to the intrigue. Choose an area that’s visible but not an obvious focal point, as this all adds to the unexpected charm. A tree you pass under while walking down the garden or a side wall of a shed, overhanging with climbers, are ideal spots.
You can buy tiny wood and pre-cast resin windows online or you can make your own. These can be a simple as a frame of twigs tied with cotton or wood lolly sticks glued together to make windows and shutters. Think about using different shapes and sizes and work out how many you will need for your chosen area. Less generally works better, as it retains the element of surprise, but be sure to space them so your eye leads from one to another rather than scattering them completely.
3. Make an enchanting entrance
You can’t ignore any garden sign – especially one that announces the presence of fairies. Add some charm and excitement to your family garden ideas by encouraging all who enter to imagine and believe. A gorgeous notice such as this one could be the gateway to a complete fairy filled village or simply lead on to a peaceful sitting area with sturdy wood bench and leafy surroundings.
Add to the magic by thinking carefully about where you place your sign. Resting nonchalantly on a tree stump oozes woodland charm, while suspended by rope from a twisty branch or even nailed at angle to a painted wooden post will make a spellbinding impression.
4. Grow magical plants
It could be the thought of Jack planting his sky-soaring beans, Sleeping Beauty being covered by rambling roses or the irresistible rose in the Beauty and The Beast that captivates us, but no fairy garden ideas are complete without a scrambling and entwining climber.
There are a huge number of the best climbing plants to choose from for your fairy garden ideas, including tough and glossy leaved evergreens – such as Clematis armandii and the spectacular passion flower – to rambling roses such as Malvern Hills and Kew Rambler. Other favourite fairytale climbers are Clematis 'Freckles' with its speckled bell-shape flowers and chocolate vine with its unusual purple-brown flowers and bright green foliage.
For something truly intriguing why not grow laser-etched magic beans from seed? The motifs on the seed casing appear on the leaves as well and get bigger as they grow. It's a really simple way to add a fun touch to your small vegetable garden ideas too.
5. Add fairy doorways to trees and shrubs
Spark little imaginations and have fun making fairy front doors from wooden offcuts. Use a jigsaw to cut the doors to size, going for a range of shapes and sizes. Try circular Hobbit-style doors to more elfin-inspired arched doorways.
Get the children involved in the painting (you can find the best exterior wood paint in our guide) and use odds and ends – such as nuts and bolts, eyelets and dome headed screws for door furniture. Pop the finished doors at the base of favourite trees, nestled amongst the roots and undergrowth or where a substantial branch meets the trunk – ready for visitors to discover.
'For best results you should try and create a natural looking habitat by using natural plants, moss and small coloured stones,' says Jennifer at The Fairy Garden. 'Position your fairy house in secluded and shady areas and go foraging in the woods for acorns, conkers and teasel heads and have fun getting creative.'
Surrounding the base of your tree with shade loving plants such as hostas or ferns will further add to the intrigue.
6. Nestle pebble treasures in garden borders
Garden decor with stones can be simple yet effective addition to your fairy garden ideas. Spying an inscribed or painted pebble is a magical touch, especially if they are tucked amongst the roots of trees or hidden in a rocky nook. Beautiful, engraved designs can be found online and personal messages can also be commissioned for a super special keepsake.
Hand painted pebbles are just as special and speedy to turn around too. Keep the children busy with smooth rounded cobbles and some acrylic paint and encourage them to paint their best fairy inspired motifs or practise their letter writing. Although the paint is showerproof, seal the design fully with a coat of watered down PVA glue. Leave to dry fully before placing the stones outside.
7. Create a secret corner
There’s something special about discovering a secret part of any garden, especially for children. Imagine rounding a tall hedge to find a grassy area with a fairy ring of toadstools or hidden seat surrounded by fragrant roses or a fruit laden tree.
So if you're thinking about how to design a child friendly garden, take a close look at your plot and see if there’s an underused area that can be transformed with a sculpture, water feature or simple bench. A gently trickling, self-contained, water feature such as glazed globe or babbling boulder will introduce movement and sound while a curious ring of standing stones or carved, wooden mushrooms will encourage closer investigation and cast shadows as the sun moves round.
Natural looking garden arch ideas will set the scene by creating a secluded entrance to your secret glade. A woven arch, living willow tunnel or timber pergola will all lend a sense of excitement and curiosity, while dense hedging, tall screens or climbers trained up trellis panels create seclusion.
8. Make a log pile fairy home
Lucky enough to have a hollowed-out log in the garden? Well, why not turn it into a teeny tiny home as the centrepiece for your fairy garden ideas.
Pick up blank wooden fairy doors (try Amazon) or make your own from plywood and using a jigsaw, hinges and wedge the piece of ply into the log opening. Glue on twigs, pinecones and small pieces of conifer to hide any gaps and then let your imagination fly.
Accessorize with home crafted extras or those ready-made for dolls' houses. Door mats, doorknobs and knockers, wellies and house signs all help personalize your fairy home and add to the overall effect. Place the log in a significant spot – perhaps where it can double as a bench alongside a mud kitchen or within a log pile for added wonder.
9. Create a fairy garden up in the trees
Bring a sense of wonder to the branches of a favorite tree with a miniature garden. Fit for fairies and tree elves, use a sturdy section of log as a base and set about making tiny houses out of knarled roots and timber offcuts. Drill a series of holes into the base and slot in twigs, and link with string or wire to create tiny fences and gateways. Add in seedheads, sections of moss and lichen to resemble garden borders.
Once happy with your miniature garden, place it up on branch where it can be admired. You may be able to firmly wedge it in place, but if worried a couple of wood screws will keep it secure. For added sparkle, hang battery-powered or solar fairy lights amongst the branches above.
10. Plant up a container fairy garden
Bring your container gardening ideas to life with paint, moss and some delicate plants. Making miniature gardens that are fit for fairies is a mindful pastime perfect for young and old. Using a paint brush or spray can spruce up a ceramic or plastic garden planter with a fresh coat of paint. Any color works – but light pastel shades take on a magical feel especially at dusk or in the moonlight.
Line the base with a few broken crocks or stones, for drainage, before topping up with container compost. Gently firm the soil before arranging and adding your plants. Dwarf ferns, cyclamen, alpines such as gentians and saxifrage work well on this small scale. Introduce moss, pebbles and patches of fine gravel for landscaping and one or two fairy figures or tiny buildings as focal points. Compact mirrors make fantastic still pools, or why not sink in jam jar lids or foil trays and fill with gravel and water.
11. Use string lights for extra sparkle
Bring the garden alive at dusk with some outdoor string light ideas. Character lights such as these cute and quirky toadstool lights add character and a playful touch of color too. String them along a low retaining wall or support them at intervals with metal lantern hooks to create a fun fairy promenade. Choose glimmering starburst designs or ring the changing seasons with autumn leaves, pumpkins or stars, snowflakes or candy canes.
For a more twinkly effect, you can weave micro fairy lights amongst foliage. Tiny wire LEDs create an almost invisible effect – handy during the daytime – and can outline intricate shapes such as planters or tiny houses or sit discreetly amongst climbing plants, shrubs and low ground cover.
'Battery lights are reliable and also super easy,' says the team at Lights4Fun. 'All our battery boxes come with a hook to hang off the ground to avoid water ingress for maximum longevity. If you’re worried about how soon you'll have to change the batteries, rechargeable batteries are a great way to ensure your garden always has a glow.'
There are plenty more outdoor lighting ideas in our guide, too.
12. Lead the way with stepping stones
A magical fairy garden needs a fairytale entrance, and what could be better than hopping along a unique pathway. For a woodland setting, keep it natural with some simple stepping stone ideas. Log slices can simply be laid in to gravel or bark chippings and easily moved around if needed.
You can also find imitation log pavers made from recycled tyres or reconstituted stone. Weave them through borders, behind shrubs or amongst a boulder strewn rockery for an informal but charming garden trail that children will love.
13. Design your own fairy garden den
There’s nothing more special than a secret garden retreat. A chance to create a truly one-off structure that nestles into the surroundings, it’s the perfect excuse to let your imagination run riot and give your fairy garden ideas an extra dimension
Whether it’s for the children to draw, mix up spells or simply read a book, the shape, size and materials can be as adventurous as your budget and resources allow. Structures could be as simple as tree branches lashed together and covered with canvas or made from old wooden pallets to spectacular cedar clad treehouse ideas.
Just as with the best climbing frame, think carefully about access, particularly with an elevated design. A rigid wooden ladder is always a reliable option, but a rope ladder or cargo net could add an extra element of excitement and intrigue.
What’s the story behind fairy gardens?
Fairies have always been linked with flowers and nature, but public interest grew with the publication in 1923 of Cicely Mary Barker’s Flower Fairies books, with their beautiful botanical illustrations. In the 1950s, engineer Anne Ashberry started making miniature gardens in London for apartment block residents, as a way of making gardening more accessible. With their tiny but elegantly crafted furniture, ponds and dwellings they gradually evolved into container fairy gardens and inspired future generations.
How to make a simple fairy garden
Making a miniature container garden is the easiest way to introduce a fairy garden to your plot. We spoke to the brilliant team at the RHS Campaign for School Gardening for their ideas.
- Fill your container with compost, soil or sand and gently pat down.
- Pop in your plants! Small plug plants or cuttings with roots are perfect and will instantly create a bit of color. Herbs such as parsley, coriander or rosemary also make great mini trees or shrubs.
- Sow grass seed or cat grass seed directly into the compost to create patches of lawn. Sieve a small layer over the top of the seeds, water well and it should start to grow in a few days.
- Add in any structures e.g. gravel paths, pebble stepping stones, lollypop stick houses, twig fences, bridges or dens. Bottles and jar lids also make great mini ponds or lakes!
- Add your finishing touches such as clay figures, toys or signs to bring your theme to life. Remember to keep your mini plants watered and keep outside in a warm place or on a bright windowsill.
And that's it – a fun finishing touch for your garden play area ideas.
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