Walking with her sister in Victoria recently, Vicki Ordano came upon something most peculiar on a boulevard.
“It was a side street with older houses,” she recalled. “There was a sidewalk and then there was grass and then there was the street and in the grassy area there were old trees that had been there for years.”
Around the bases of three or four trees going around the corner were little fairy gardens.
Teeny tiny pixie palaces inconspicuously nestled in what was actually a pretty conspicuous place.
“It was really cool,” Ordano said. “It was like you suddenly encountered something special just walking down the street.”
Because she’s not cold-blooded, the discovery made her smile.
Because she is actually a fairy garden enthusiast, she couldn’t just leave it be.
“We actually went back the next day and added to it,” Ordano admitted.
“We went home and I made a little chair, I’m the crafty one, and we took it back the next day and put it in the garden.”
While the practice dates back more than 100 years, the fairy garden hobby has really taken off over the last few years.
And everyone wants a piece of the magic.
Fairy garden kits are popping up at farm markets, big box stores and in general, wherever plants are sold.
Rumour has it fairies live in the orchard at Merridale Ciderworks in Cobble Hill. Little elf doors can be spotted all along the trails up Mt. Erskine on Saltspring Island. Gnome homes dot Neck Point Park in Nanaimo, too. Milner Gardens and Woodland in Qualicum Beach even has a weeklong exhibit each summer, this year June 22-25, in celebration of International Fairy Day. (Who even knew that was a thing?)
“I don’t think it’s new but it’s definitely fun,” Ordano said of the trend. “It’s a fun thing, if you’re going to do it with your children or your grandchildren. Kids like to believe in fairies and they have imaginations so they can imagine all this fun stuff and they can build a little garden for a tiny little fairy.”
There’s something meditative too, about gathering and assembling the materials.
“I find that a lot of fun,” she said. “I just go out in nature and pick up bits of dried moss and driftwood and pretty rocks, anything like that. And the dollar store is your best friend.”
From tiny doors and chairs, to intricate pebble work and signs — the possibilities only end at the limits of one’s imagination.
That, and it’s practical.
“I don’t have a large yard, I have an apartment,” Ordano, a Lake Cowichan resident, said. “So mine are done in pots. For me, I can go out there and make the garden that I want, that I wish I had the room for, but just in little pots.”
Ordano recently taught a community class in Lake Cowichan and young children and adults alike attended.
“They had a blast. Especially the little kids. We did them in a teacup,” she said. “I like to do them in small sizes. It was a lot of fun. I love to do it with kids because they’re amazing and the looks on their faces when they know they’re making a little garden are fantastic.”
Roger Brunt is known on Saltspring Island and thanks to the internet, beyond, as the Fairy Door Man. He started making tiny thresholds a few years ago and learned he had a knack for it. He sells his wares online and at the local market.
“When I first came to Saltspring Island there were fairy doors in the woods on Mt. Erskine and I thought they were just the most wonderful things I’d ever seen,” he related. “Just enchanting. And everybody else seems to feel the same way. People just love the idea of fairies and elves: magic.”
But the magic has to start somewhere and it isn’t typically conjured up in a special forest grove surrounded by butterflies and songbirds.
“It’s Pinterest,” Ordano said with a chuckle. “There is so much on there about fairy garden stuff that you couldn’t not make a fairy garden after looking at it.”
Google is also a good way to get ideas, she said.
“Google fairy gardens and look. Just look at some of the pictures and believe me, your mind will just take off.”