A child’s garden should be a place where children are allowed to run, play, climb, and freely experience natural materials and bodily sensations. Flowers and berries for picking can be planted in exuberant swaths, with paths made perhaps of yellow bricks winding through their beds. Climbing trees and hiding bushes should camouflage every corner. Miniature forests and meadows can be planted, miniature hills mounded, places for digging and constructing set aside. Rabbit hutches and doghouses should be designed with whimsical flair instead of utilitarian drudge. And water is essential — it is children’s (not to mention adults’) favorite outdoor feature.
From A Child’s Garden: Enchanting Outdoor Spaces for Children and Parents, by Molly Dannenmaier.
Judy at New England Garden and Thread casually mentioned in a comment on her latest post that she used to take part in the annual Portsmouth Fairy House Tour. How did I not know about this?? Adding this to my bucket list of things to do when next we visit relatives in NH; will have to time visit accordingly! Apparently this tour is the world’s largest fairy houses event.
What is a fairy house, you may ask? From Tracy Kane at FairyHouses.com: “Fairy Houses are small structures for the fairies and nature’s friends to visit. Sticks, bark, dry grasses, pebbles, shells, feathers, seaweed, pine cones and nuts are just some of the natural materials that can be used. Ranging from simple to intricate ‘Fairy Mansions’, these whimsical habitats are built by children, families, gardeners and nature lovers reflecting their creativity, joy and pride.” Tracy and Barry Kane have written and photographed a charming series of books with ideas for fairy houses, as well as a guidebook for children about making their own. You can find a gallery of their photographs here: FairyHouses.com Photo Gallery. We had a couple of these books when my children were small and we had a lot of fun with them.
On a related note, one of our favorite movies has been “FairyTale: A True Story.” It is the film based on the actual incident of two girls who were believed to have taken real-life photos of real fairies in Yorkshire, just after World War I (the “Cottingley Fairies”). They became minor celebrities, promoted by the likes of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Part of the movie’s story involves elaborate fairy houses built by the deceased, artistic older brother of one of the girls, who died at the age of ten.
My children are no longer interested in fairy houses or fairy tales but maybe, as C.S. Lewis once wrote, maybe someday they will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. I think I’m there.
Today’s Saturday Snippet, from Moss Gardening, by George Schenk:
The moss plant earns our respect, even our sense of awe, as one of the world’s lengthier successes in the business of living. Fossil traces confirm an age of moss that goes back about 400 million years, give or take an eon. Moss is older and more lowly than a fern, but higher and more august on life’s ladder than the lichen, that slow sharer of many places where moss lives. On sheer face value, the bun or mat of moss is an impressive creation despite lack of height. Images of the plant probably stand out as clearly in a person’s mind as those of a pine tree, a dandelion, or a head of lettuce. We pause to study moss, especially after a rain, and carry away a lasting impression of a plant velvety green and vibrant and yet soothing. Moss is a human experience well noted.
I’m going to add a posting feature to this blog and call it “Saturday Snippets.” As I began with the idea of rediscovering gardening and my many garden-related books, and named the blog after one of my favorites, “Old Herbaceous” by Reginald Arkell, I thought it would be fun to share weekly snippets of garden literature from my collection.
Here’s my first snippet:
“Gardening was a whole-time job, like the cows or the sheep. Cows had to be milked, whatever happened; and who thought of stopping in bed when the sheep were lambing? In a garden, you had to work with the seasons. There were slack times, when you could take an easy with a pipe behind the tool shed, but when the grass started growing and the weeds were getting on top of you, there was an end to all that nonsense….Hours he’d spent watering….But these young fellows….”
I am recapturing my love of gardening by re-reading some favorite garden books and following several garden blogs. One of my favorite books about gardening is “Old Herbaceous”, by Reginald Arkell. I first read it when I was twelve years old. The story of a shy child who loves plants and flowers, and makes them his vocation throughout a long life, spoke to me then and still speaks to me now.