As you enter the Philadelphia Flower Show, you feel that you are visiting an old time movie theater that has a marquee, bright lights, and excitement, and you even smell the buttery scent of popcorn. And yes, they actually were selling hot buttery popcorn freshly popped, like hotcakes!
The PHS Philadelphia Flower Show is an annual event at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in March. The oldest and largest indoor show, the spectacle features elaborate landscapes, and over-the-top floral creations.
Not only a flower show, visitors experience live shows and entertainment, culinary demonstrations, DIY workshops and lectures. I did a demo on Fairy gardens meets the movies called “Tinkerbell and Beyond” and showed everyone how to arrange a miniature landscape. Tinkerbell, The Hobbit, and Fern Gully gardens complete with animals and fairies were put together on the demo stage and I had a great helper who was eager to play in the dirt.
I had an assistant to help me with my demo on miniature gardens.
The aisles were thronged with people trying to get a good view of the very inventive interpretations of movies.
Four season containers were on display to demonstrate that you can have containers planted all year long.
Four season containers
But the movie exhibits were so interesting that I kept going back to them to check them out.
Chicken coop made out of an old car for “Cars” movie!
Ratatouille was so cute!
The miniatures were wonderful as usual and I am doing another post on just the miniature gardens and scenes. Stay tuned for part 2.
Maybe it is just me. Since I had an order for 40 of my miniature gardens as gifts at the local Johns Hopkins for the staff of one of the hospitals, I am going crazy with Christmas decorating in miniature. Instead of dreaming about sugarplums, I’m dreaming of miniature gardens in an endless line that I am decorating! I love making these small creations that people can enjoy for months to come.
It merely takes a small glass terrarium container, bonsai pot, or low terra cotta container and you can make your own. For materials, I use small Christmas balls, reindeer moss, miniatures, sheet moss, and small potted plants from a local nursery. I use either woodland plants for a moist container or succulents for a drier one.
For details on making gnome homes in a cut away pot, go to Gnome Home. You need to cut a chunk out of a terra cotta pot to create this and I give you instructions on how to cut the pot.
All of the plants will get much larger and can be kept in bounds for at least a year. Transplanting and replanting would be in order when the plants grow too large for the container and you could keep the planter going for several years or more.
Step By Step
Place potting soil in container with drainage: Alternatively, if you have a glass type terrarium, place gravel in bottom with some horticultural charcoal ( few tablespoons, available at garden centers)
Plant a variety of plants with different textures and colors, starting with the largest ones first; I used from 3 to 5 plants for each small garden
If a woodland garden, I like to place moss in between the plants to hide soil; If a succulent garden, place small gravel on surface
Place any pathways, ornaments, reindeer moss, or gnomes at the very end; I like to use colored glass chunks for added color
Water thoroughly until the soil is saturated and place in a filtered sun spot for woodland scenes and full sun for succulent ones
For care, I stick my finger down into the soil to see if it is moist or not; For succulent gardens in the winter water every few weeks, and for woodland ones, water about once a week, depending on how warm and dry your house is
At a recent Decorator Show House, I had the task of designing a space in a courtyard area that was a perfect location for a fairy garden. Fairy or miniature gardens have become an immensely popular gardening trend and I thought this would really draw attention to my area.
I found the perfect spot under a large Chamaecyparis tree that had no lower limbs. The upper limbs would hang over and shelter the area and create a ‘ceiling’. There was a straggly yew that had to go. It was chain sawed down and the leaves cleaned up. The drain pipe was relocated and the wheel stayed as a great visual element.
A fence had to be added to delineate the space. My curly pussy willow was looking good so I cut a bunch and wired it together. I kept it in a round tote for a week to keep that nice rounded shape.
To keep the fence firmly in place, I took short pieces of wire stakes and drove them into the ground at the perimeter of the fence and inserted the bundled pussy willow onto it. This will keep the fence from moving when I fill the interior space with plants and moss. I made an arbor out of the same material and placed that at the entrance, inserting the ends into the soil.
Little stake holding the fence in place
Pussy willow fence in place
I experimented with different positionings of the pathway and house and once satisfied, I remove everything to start placing the accessories. Once I knew where the pathway would go, everything else fell into place.
Getting the layout right
Mounding up soil and pressing it firmly in place to mimic hills and valleys made the space more interesting.
Then, I placed the largest items, like the houses – the bark and a gourd house, and the bridge. Once situated, I started with the plants. I chose plants that were colorful enough to contrast with the moss covering that was planned to top everything off. I planted my plants both inside the fence and outside. I used a couple a miniature conifers, violas, polka dot plants, ivy, ferns, armeria, and saxifrages.
To construct the stream, I first placed a strip of landscape cloth on the ground as the base for the stream bed. This prevents the gravel and stones from washing into the underlying soil and keeping it clean.
Laying a strip of landscape cloth, a base of clean gravel on top
I added my pathway and topped everything off with a layer of mood moss. Mood moss is a moundy, springy moss, much nicer than regular sheet moss. It gave dimension to the whole garden. Moss also gives the garden a finished look and a good backdrop for all the accessories and plants. I bought a case of this from a local wholesale florist.
To the stream, I added colored gravel and small boulders. Colorful glass balls were pressed into the moss to add color. Wheelbarrows, chairs, and various other fairy accessories were added on top of the moss.
To keep this garden going, I will spray it with a fine mist attachment of the hose to keep it moist, once every couple of days depending on rainfall. The garden is in the shade so it will not dry out quickly. It is important to keep the moss moist but not drenched. The plants need to be pruned and groomed every few weeks to keep them small. The garden should last the entire season and will need renovation next spring.
I am going to present at the Philadelphia Flower Show Gardener’s Studio on March 4th and am very excited about the topic. Since the theme for the flower show is Brilliant!, which is celebrating Great Britain, I thought that designing fairy gardens would fit right in, kind of like gardening with”A Mid-Summer’s Night Dream” in mind.
I am frantically creating, and designing miniature gardens, houses, and fairies so that I am well supplied with examples to display. I sold most of the ones that I made in the spring, so am starting from square one in getting ready.
But if you can’t make it to the Flower Show, here are my guidelines and helpful hints about creating a masterpiece yourself.
Miniature Plants Suitable for Fairy Gardens:
There are tons more that are available, but I find these work well for me.
English: Cultivated violas at the show. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Sources for Accessories and Materials:
The woods and fields around your house!
Michael’s Craft Stores
save-on-crafts.com (one of my favorite sites for generally everything crafty!)
Model train and dollhouse stores are great also
Materials for Making Fairy Houses Outside
Slab of bark
Mullein Leaves (soft and fuzzy – makes good blankets)
Lambs Ears Leaves (soft and fuzzy)
Moss, Sheet, Bun, and Reindeer
Smooth Pebbles (get these in the floral dept at Michaels)
Beach Glass and Pebbles (Michaels)
Seeds and Pods
Milk Weed Pods
Potting Mix – Use a good quality soilless mix
Taking Care of Your Garden, both inside and outside
Do not let moss dry out in the summer, spritz with a mister
For portable containers, set them outside in high shade for the summer if the plants are tender bring them in for the winter and keep it on the dry side – the moss will go dormant
Fertilize sparingly – you want the plants to grow slowly!
Trim and prune regularly to keep plants in bounds
Every few months, tune up the garden by replacing plants that die or grow too large
Creating an Outdoor Fairy House
When spring comes, I like to make a fairy house to set into the garden. Each year it is different. Here is one that I made this year.
To put this together, I gathered some large pieces of bark. I got mine from a tree cutter. The bark was about 1 1/2 inches thick and curved so I cut pieces and glued them together to form a house about 15 inches tall and 12 inches around. Then I cut a hole through the bark for the door. I traced and cut a circle out of wonderflex which is a composite material used for theater costumes, for the roof. It is very strong and water proof. I twisted the wonderflex into a cone shape and hot glued it together. This formed the basis for my roof.
I then took a very large Sugar Pine cone that I picked up at Lake Tahoe years ago. It was about 1 foot tall! I took apart the scales which are nice and large to cover the roof.
I hot glued the roof to the base and added some more natural things to make the house more interesting – antler pieces, and twisted branches. Allium seed heads are great additions.
You can set this as the centerpiece of your outdoor fairy garden, and put fencing, paths, and landscape around it with moss and plants. The house should last several seasons if you take it in for the winter. I hope to see you in Philadelphia!