Building fairy houses is fun for all ages

Published 11:11 am Saturday, March 3, 2012

Column: Carol Hegel Lang, Serendipity Gardens

On a very hot and muggy day last July with triple heat indices, 12 kids ranging in age from 7 to 11, their mothers and some grandmothers met at the new Brookside Boathouse near the trail around Fountain Lake. The kids had signed up for the Community Education class taught by Brandi Draayer on building a garden fairy house.

Carol Lang

If you have never met Brandi before, you have really missed out on something. This woman has so much energy and enthusiasm for anything she is involved in, and let me tell you she is definitely contagious. She helped the kids to make their headpieces, painted their faces, sprinkled fairy dust on them and then put angel wings on each of the youngsters. Next she read them a story about the garden fairies and then we were off to tramp along the trail gathering dried grasses, leaves, moss, pinecones, berries, twigs, stones and anything else they could use to construct their fairy houses.

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This was a day when the kids were not watching television, listening to their iPods or playing video games; their creative juices were running wild with their imaginations taking over to create their masterpieces. Each child constructed the house by themselves, the mothers and grandmothers were there to just offer advice and cheer them on.

Glances from side to side to see what their competition was doing and to reassure their minds that what they were building was even better were commonplace. The adults were just blown away by what the kids were creating. When they finished each child presented their masterpiece to the rest of us, I was one very proud grandmother to see what Carissa had created. We could have given a blue ribbon to each and every child; they were all masterpieces.

This was such a fun day shared with my daughter and granddaughter making memories that will forever be held in our hearts and minds. I hope the class will be offered again this year, and I know that the three of us will be first in line to sign up. Thank you Brandi for such a wonderful day of building fairy houses and making the kids use their creative genius.

I was first introduced to the world of flower fairies (or garden fairies) by my dearest friend and kindred spirit, Peggy in the early 1980s. For my birthday and Christmas that year Peggy sent me copies of several of the books written by Cicely Mary Barker.

Hegel Lang’s granddaughter, Carissa, poses by the garden fairy house.

Barker lived in Croydon, South London, where she was born in 1895. She was a frail child who suffered from epilepsy; she was sheltered from the rest of the world by her family. “This magical realm, populated by fairies, was captured in her delightful poems and delicate drawings. Her father, Walter Barker, was a partner in a seed supply company; he was also a water colorist and nurtured her talent for drawing,” states the introduction in her book.

Between the years 1917-1918, she did the Flower Fairy illustrations merging two of her favorite subjects — children and nature. She made numerous sketches of flowers to ensure their botanical authenticity using local children for the models. Each child depicted in her sketches was someone who she knew. The costumes were made by Barker for each child with the flower they represented. They were adorable and appealed greatly to people.

“The Flower Fairies of the Spring” was published in 1923. She produced a total of seven books, although her publishers in 1985 compiled the volume Flower Fairies of the Winter, so now there was a book for every season. Barker died in 1973 at the age of 77 and her books are still loved today.

Peggy taught me to use my imagination in the gardens and to become a child again. It wasn’t long after reading the Flower Fairies books that I had my introduction to my first little garden fairy. I had been watering the flowers and the hummingbirds were darting in and out of the spray taking their baths in the gentle mist, my eyes were drawn to movement near the ladies mantle, you see ladies mantle leaves are very special in that they will hold and retain droplets of moisture. Sure enough there was a little garden fairy perched on the small leaf taking a bath, I must have scared her for she jumped off the leaf and peered at me from under it.

Several days later while I was weeding the hosta bed under the pagoda dogwood I felt a gentle breeze rustle the leaves, as my eyes skimmed the area I caught just a brief glimpse of another garden fairy. This little guy was braver than the one I had seen the other day and he just winked at me and nodded his head before dashing off to find a safe place to hide. Flower fairies are very susceptible to sunburn so they will not linger in the sunshine, that is why the sightings of them are most prevalent in the early mornings or at dusk.

Of course, we all know they aren’t real creatures that inhabit my flower gardens, but when I want to be a child again they seem to appear as if a magic wand had been waved. For just a little while I am transported into the world of make believe, something that is very lacking in this hectic and crazy world we live in today. The next time you are in your garden just sit back and see if one of them will appear for you, and you too can be a child again for just a little while and maybe even put a smile on your face.

Happy gardening to all of you and let that imagination of yours transport you back to the world of the “flower fairies.” Thank you Peggy, for teaching me to believe in those adorable little mythical creatures that appear in the garden when you least expect it. Rest in peace dear friend; until we meet again.


Carol Hegel Lang is a local green thumb who can be reached at