Children of all ages embark on flights of fancy in gardens. As adults, we yearn to share our magical moments and hope that at some point we will introduce young folk to the joys of gardening. Sometimes we do. But engaging children for the long term may call for a fairy's inspiration.
Few materials, quick assembly, and ease of maintenance are tangible keys in convincing children to ply their hand with plants. It also helps when they have a personal connection to their creation and choose their own ornaments and characters – however unpredictable they may be – to inhabit it.
Here, a Cicely Mary Barker fairy atop an inverted flower pot inside a simple water garden works its magic under a child's watchful eye. Aquarium gravel supports a colorful Belgian evergreen (Dracaena sanderiana) and a trailing Peperomia scanclens ‘Variegata'; a tuft of moss nestles at the base of a twisty willow branch.
By building such a simple gravel garden in a glass globe or a small fish tank, children can watch the garden grow in their own rooms. Aquarium gravel supports small plants and holds whatever objects they add. The clear view makes it easy to tell when the water level needs attention, the only critical maintenance feature.
For a grassier environment, add a few sprigs of dwarf mondo grass (Ophiopogon japonicus ‘Nanus', 'Minor', or 'Kyoto Dwarf') or dwarf fiber-optic plant (Isolepis syn. Scirpus).
In a situation where a dry garden may be more appropriate, substitute a moistened mixture of one part peat and one part sand for water, plant a few small succulents, top with the same aquarium gravel, and water sparingly from spring through fall. The glass globe helps the sand retain needed moisture.
Excerpted from Tabletop Gardens by Rosemary McCreary. Copyright 2002 by Rosemary McCreary. Excerpted with permission by Storey Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted with our permission in writing from the publisher.