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Dig In: Miniature gardens have wide range of possibilities

Dig In video series: Build mini gardens for fairies, dinosaurs and zombies

Making a mini garden is fun for people of all ages. In this 10th installment of the Statesman's Dig In garden video series, Debbie Courson Smith and 11-year-old helper Owen Stitt show us how it's done. (Video by Katy Moeller)
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Making a mini garden is fun for people of all ages. In this 10th installment of the Statesman's Dig In garden video series, Debbie Courson Smith and 11-year-old helper Owen Stitt show us how it's done. (Video by Katy Moeller)

This week, “m” is for miniature ... and magical.

Have you ever made a fairy garden before? I haven’t. But now that I’ve seen how it’s done, I just might.

Fairy gardens are really just mini gardens filled with small plants, rocks, seas shells, teeny houses, furniture and/or figurines. It’s a way to build your own whimsical world — and fairies are not a mandatory.

“You can make a dinosaur garden, Lego garden, zombie garden, mouse garden, Winnie the Pooh garden — any theme you can dream up,” said Advanced Master Gardener Debbie Courson Smith, who estimates that she’s made 10 fairy gardens.

Dinosaurs? Now you’re talking.

Debbie is such a believer in the magic of these little gardens that she teaches classes to people of all ages, from kids in 4H to retirees.

“It’s a great way to garden when you don’t have much space,” she said. “I usually plant an herb or two, so it’s useful to me for cooking. Fairy gardens are also a fabulous way to introduce gardening to children of all ages. Plant care is part of the lesson.”

Owen Stitt, an 11-year-old Boisean who planted his fairy garden last spring, shows off his creation in this week’s Dig In video. His garden features a small bird house that he painted (it’s for the fairies, he said), pine cones, a sunflower that he planted (over a foot tall now), lemon thyme and sea shells.

“I put in some shells ... so that it gives the same effect that it was one time a lake,” Owen said.

These little gardens are sometimes assembled around the base of a tree but most often they’re created in containers of some sort. Debbie recommends keeping them outside.

Plants need good drainage, so you’ll need to put a hole in the bottom of whatever container you choose. If you use potting soil that contains fertilizer, you won’t have to add anything to the soil for about a year.

Pro tip: Succulents, sedum, thyme and air plants are good plants for mini gardens. Water them only when the soil is dry — a spray bottle is a gentle way to do that — and be careful not to overwater. Start your mini garden by selecting and planting a few of these, and then add the other accoutrement.

Craft stores and nurseries have all sorts of tiny figurines that you can buy for your fairy garden. You can make an inexpensive mini garden by looking for these items at other places, including Craigslist and dollar stores.

“I enjoy finding treasures for my gardens in thrift stores, yard sales and nature,” Debbie said. “Old toys, figurines, tea light holders, interesting rocks, seashells and pine cones are examples of ‘found’ items that can be used in fairy gardens.”

Some tools and other items that can enhance the garden-building process include: a spoon (to dig the soil without disrupting everything), scissors, a gluegun, popsicle sticks to affix things to (like glow-in-the-dark stars).

As we were finishing up the video on fairy gardens, Owen grabbed a bottle of what looked like glitter and sprinkled it over his latest creation.

What is that? I asked.

“Magical fairy dust,” he said.

Katy Moeller: 208-377-6413, @KatyMoeller

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