Faerie Tales

– Posted in: Garden Adventures

Next time you’re in the garden, close your eyes, breathe deeply and recall your first encounter with fairies. I have my mother to thank for explaining to me, when I was five, that rainbows caused by sunlight shining through prisms indicate the presence of fairies.  Smart woman.

Since then, I’ve looked for fairies, and occasionally find one—though luck does play a part. It’s like hunting four-leaf clovers. You have to be observant and know the signs. These eucalyptus flowers, for example, are clearly the components of a couture outfit. Fairy fashion.

An angel’s trumpet tree? Yes, but also a ballgown bush.

There are celebrity fairies, like Tinkerbell. Her closet is full of pink satin flowers like these.

You’ve heard of fairy shrimp?

Osteospermums are a mundane name for the fairy version of Disneyland’s spinning teacups.

Fairies are difficult to photograph. They’re skittish and move quickly, like dragonflies and hummingbirds. But they’re also intelligent, and when they sense a kinship with you, they may pose.

This one watched me for quite a while before briefly alighting. Then, just as quickly, she was gone.

This sign at Heart’s Ease garden shop in Cambria, CA, sums up the fairy philosophy where humans are concerned. Have I had fairies grant wishes? Actually, no. They’re rather vain and self-absorbed. Should you find an unselfish fairy, you’re fortunate indeed.

I spotted this fairy on a garden tour. Dozens of people had walked right past her. She smiled shyly, and when I waved back, she let me take her picture.

I found this fairy, amazingly, at a busy shopping center. The occasion was South Coast Plaza’s Spring Garden Show in Orange County. The fairy and her Frog Prince were at the M & M Nursery booth. Not surprisingly, one of M & M’s specialties is fairy gardens.

A playhouse and Magical Garden that my neighbor, Cindy Payne, created for her daughter, Bella, was made fairy-friendly by Bella’s aunt, professional artist Julia C.R. Gray. Look at the lower right.

Julia does stunning paintings of frogs. No wonder fairies are keen to have her paint their likenesses; they have a fondness for amphibians.

This fairy attractant is in the garden of Santa Barbara landscape architect Sydnie Baumgartner. I didn’t see any fairies while I was there, but I suspect flocks of them show up when the light is right. All those prisms.

Debra Lee Baldwin
Award-winning garden photojournalist Debra Lee Baldwin authored Designing with Succulents, Succulent Container Gardens, and Succulents Simplified, all Timber Press bestsellers. Her goal is to enhance others' enjoyment and awareness of waterwise plants and gardens by showcasing the beauty and design potential of succulents via books, articles, newsletters, photos, videos, social media and more. Debra and husband Jeff live in the foothills north of San Diego. She grew up in Southern California on an avocado ranch, speaks conversational Spanish, and at age 18 graduated magna cum laude from USIU with a degree in English Literature. Her hobbies include thrifting, birding and watercolor painting. Debra's YouTube channel has had over 3,000,000 views.
Debra Lee Baldwin
Debra Lee Baldwin
20 comments… add one

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Lisa at Greenbow July 21, 2010, 1:31 pm

What a delightful post. No wonder you get fairies to pose for you. You are so understanding of them.
I am also a believer.

Thanks, Lisa. I come from a long line of fairy whisperers. Debra

Darla July 21, 2010, 1:45 pm

I have just started a fairy garden. I have been admiring them on blogs for quite a while. Nice post.

Hi, Darla — Actually, your garden already is. Most gardens, and many uncultivated spaces, are fairy habitats. Debra

Robur July 21, 2010, 2:04 pm

The RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show was held a couple of weeks ago. The main page of their website for the show had a photo of a fairy statue (the page has since disappeared).

You can still see that fairy, among the flowers on the right of a photo here. Click on ‘Gallery’:

A report on the show by a gardening editor of Country Living magazine, picked out 4 photos. One was a fairy. Her report said ‘fairies seem to be obligatory’:

I actually spotted one in my own garden too:

Robur, the fairy in your garden is so gorgeous, it must attract more by the droves. Thanks so much for the links–here’s more of that great quote: “Fairies seem to be obligatory – thankfully there didn’t seem to be any goblins this year (I loathe those pokey-fingered pointy-eared critters) and I was actually quite charmed by the fairy in the clump of heartsease in the Midsummer Night’s Dream Garden…” — Debra

Mr. McGregor's Daughter July 21, 2010, 2:33 pm

I love your way of seeing the garden through fairy eyes. I picked up some metal items for the start of a fairy garden when I was in Buffalo. Haven’t found the right container for them yet, and the weather’s been too brutal plant any tiny plants now.

Hm. Metal items? You’ve got me curious. Please blog about it when you do. Debra

Laura July 21, 2010, 3:08 pm

I like the way your mom explained prisms, rainbows and fairies. I think I’ll have to add some sparkle to my garden. My daughter would get a kick out of that!

I tossed glass florists’ marbles in my gravel pathway to make it more interesting. Everyone exclaims when they see them, from toddlers to telephone repairmen. Debra

healingmagichands July 21, 2010, 3:19 pm

I was pretty sure there were fairies in my garden, glad to know that other people see them too. I have often looked at the flowers and seen them as “haute couture” for fairies. . .

What a charming post. It would almost make me establish a “fairy garden” if my whole garden was not dedicated to being habitat for them. But the idea of a corner dedicated to miniatures. . . charming.

I think those osteospermums are amazing, really.

Well, there you go. And people think I make this stuff up, lol. Debra

Gardening Jones July 21, 2010, 3:20 pm

Lovely and delightful to read, you made my day…thanks!

You’re welcome ;+) Debra

Kathy July 21, 2010, 3:21 pm

I have longed to invite fairys into my garden, but am not sure they care for cats, though I know the cats would probably think the fairys very interesting indeed !

Oh, I don’t think you need to worry. Fairies are no more at risk where cats are concerned than are hummingbirds or dragonflies. Fortunately! Debra

Shellene July 21, 2010, 3:42 pm

Woman after my own heart! I can rember as a child taking drives through valley center on the way to Julian and the cottonwoods would be blooming and the white seeds would be drifting through the old majestic oaks and I would imagine that the fairys would be riding them, it was wonderful.
I Believe!

Hi, Shellene — I grew up near there. I remember them, too, backlit by the sun, drifting slowly and spinning. Beautiful. Debra

Helen Yoest @ Gardening With Confidence July 21, 2010, 4:44 pm

Hey y’all

I just wanted you to know I added your blog to the soon to be launched North Carolina Nursery and Landscape Association blog roll for NC Blogs!


I also wanted to make sure you received my new link for Gardening With Confidence’s blog



I hope you are doing well!

Thanks, Helen! Debra

Jeanette July 21, 2010, 6:02 pm

Great post. My daughter loves fairy’s.

Hi, Jeanette, and fairies sort of embody everything we love about little girls, don’t they? — Debra

Sharon Corrigan July 21, 2010, 10:16 pm

this is absolutely darling! very clever

Hi, Sharon, thank you! I was fun to research. Debra

Rick Brown July 22, 2010, 6:41 am


Hey, Rick, and so are you! Debra

Janit July 22, 2010, 1:40 pm

Hi Debra!

Many thanks for spreading your joy of the fairy gardening! I love the dresses you’ve picked out… ;o)


I suspect fairies must visit you all the time, Janit. They love to shop for furniture and accessories for their outdoor living spaces. Debra

rebecca sweet July 22, 2010, 11:58 pm

This has GOT to be the sweetest post I’ve read in a long, long time. And it features my very favorite garden shop of all time – Heart’s Ease! Though I knew it when Sharon Lovejoy was there….(it’s where I first realized I wanted to be a garden designer!). Gorgeous photos, as usual, Debra. Thanks for bringing a smile to my night!

Hi, Rebecca — Indeed, Sharon Lovejoy has never lost that childlike sense of wonder that we all cherish, and she has a delightful imagination as well. I highly recommend her books on how to introduce children to gardening, such as “Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots.” Thanks for the reminder! — Debra (P.S. Did I tell you I saw a fairy in your own garden when I visited? A shy one. Check the drops of water on the blue echeverias near the chicken coop.)

Cindy July 23, 2010, 3:27 am

That was wonderful, Debra! Thank you for capturing Bella’s garden in it’s finest and sister Julia’s painting so pure. Your enchanted photography and eloquent words makes this post magically believable…We Believe!!

Cindy & Bella

Hi, Sweet Cindy — Bella is lucky to have a mom and aunt who capture the magic of the garden, both seen and unseen! And I’m lucky to have you for a neighbor ;+) Debra

Julia July 23, 2010, 11:29 am

Hi Debra, your article on faeries in the garden is delightful. I love your writing, always enjoyable and informative. Faeries must love you; you understand their fashion sense and are very creative. I have been seeing faeries all my life, usually out of the corner of my eye; it helps in painting their portraits. Thank you for sharing Bella’s magical garden and my site.

Hi, Julia — I love your work and admire your talent—the way you portray everything from amphibians to high-heeled shoes. Fairies must love you, too! Fondly, Debra

Cheryl in Austin July 24, 2010, 8:08 am

That was a precious tour! I believe! I believe!

Kathryn Clayton August 12, 2010, 3:10 pm

What a wonderful post! I was so happy that you included my faerie garden sign at my store Heart’s Ease!
Just wanted to clarify that the faerie gardens ( we have two) and signs (which is my attempt to rhyme) weren’t there when Sharon Lovejoy owned the shop which is going on 14 years ago. Keep believing! It makes the world a better place!

Hi, Kathryn — Thanks for clarifying. I enjoy your charming shop whenever I’m in Cambria (about once a year). I wish more gift shops had gardens! Debra

Karen x April 16, 2015, 3:06 pm

wow thx Debra !! As I now know I’m right in believing in fairies, I love their happy, carefree life and I’m making them homes in my garden so they vist more,,,,as they are always in my home love your pictures xx

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