A tiny, magical place hides in plain sight by a residential sidewalk in Highlands Ranch, inviting guests to crouch down to get a better view.
Miniature tree trunk stumps lead the way to a small door near a sign that reads, “Fairy Garden.” Behind that door is a mystical land where fairies can gather, sit at a table, admire a pond, enter a small hut or hang out with other animals.
“I love kids, and there’s a lot of kids in our neighborhood. And I wanted something for them to just have fun with and see,” said Angie Gallagher, the creator of the fairy garden.
Fairy gardens hold magical powers beyond being a gathering place for mystical creatures — they are also a hub for people’s creativity, community and positivity.
“It gives us that hope,” Gallagher said. “It reminds us of the magic in the world, and I think we need that.”
[cqmedia layout=”panel” content=”eyJwaG90byI6W3sibWVkaWFfdHlwZSI6InBob3RvIiwicGhvdG9faWQiOiIzMzE3MDYiLCJwaG90b19jYXB0aW9uIjoiTWluaWF0dXJlIHRyZWUgdHJ1bmsgc3R1bXBzIGxlYWQgdGhlIHdheSB0byBhIHNtYWxsIGRvb3IgbmVhciBhIHNpZ24gdGhhdCByZWFkcywg4oCcRmFpcnkgZ2FyZGVuLOKAnSBvbiBKdWx5IDMxLCAyMDIzLCBpbiBIaWdobGFuZHMgUmFuY2guIiwicGhvdG9fY3JlZGl0IjoiQnkgVGF5bGVyIFNoYXcifV0sInZpZGVvIjpbXSwiZmlsZSI6W119″]Scattered throughout Colorado, fairy gardens come in all shapes and sizes.
An elementary school in Thornton, Riverdale Elementary, had students in an after-school club create potted fairy gardens to be placed in the school courtyard.
In the west metro area of Golden 7-year-old Juniper Kenyon’s eyes filled with wonder as she assembled her own fairy garden in a glass container alongside her 9-year-old sister, Olive, and her mother, Kelly at the Golden Library.
“I wanted to make a house for the fairies that we could put … outside so they could live in it,” Juniper said.
She said once she got back to her family’s home in Golden, she planned to put a bed inside her garden for the fairies to enjoy.
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The family was among about 20 participants in the library’s community workshop to make fairy gardens in late July.
“We really love fairies,” Kelly said. “I just think it’s fun that we’re all together and just being creative.”
Seeing the excitement and pride on the faces of children like Juniper and Olive as they made their fairy gardens was a highlight for Alada Ramsey, a librarian at Golden Library who helped with the event.
Making fairy gardens has been a big part of Ramsey’s family, she said.
“My kids always built fairy gardens at my house, and at … my mother’s house, and at my grandmother’s house” she said. “We’re constantly doing fairy gardens.”
When children are young, their imaginations can become enamored with the idea that fairies will come to the gardens and play, she said.
“It’s just so fun, and it also is a great opportunity to teach kindness,” Ramsey said. “Because if you can imagine that there are fairies and you can imagine what their needs and wants are, that’s all good for getting you out of yourself and into the world and opening yourself up to the natural world around you.”
Emily Due, also a librarian at Golden Library who helped lead the event, said she loved to see how intergenerational the event was, as there were young kids, parents and grandparents who participated and made their own fairy gardens.
“I wasn’t expecting the adults to get so into it,” Due said.
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Putting together the fairy gardens consisted of putting pebbles, air plants, moss, seashells, stones and other decorations into a glass bowl.
Although everyone had access to the same materials, each garden ended up looking different, Due said, which highlights the artistic expression that is possible.
Due said she likes that so much of fairy gardens comes from folklore and mythology, which ties into the literacy elements that libraries want to promote.
“We have an opportunity to educate and maybe get them interested in stories that are already on our shelves, but then also, we’re encouraging them to play,” Due said.
In her research on fairy gardens, Due said she found out that some people believed that fairies were the first magical creatures to inhabit British islands, arriving before humans had.
“When people came, the fairies got a little bit scared and so they went underground. And so, fairy gardens was a way for people to say, ‘Hey, come on back. Spend time with us,’” Due said.
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Angie Gallagher, of Highlands Ranch, compared fairy gardens to bird baths and birdseed being offered in people’s yards.
“It’s to help the birds with the migration, and it’s kind of the same idea,” she said of fairy gardens.
In addition to assembling a fairy garden in the community, Gallagher has made fairy garden starter kits that she has given out to people, which included a sheet about fairies.
The sheet explained that fairies are all over the world, such as in Mexico, Thailand, Russia, and the United States, and they are flying to new places all across the globe.
“I wanted the fairies to be multicultural because I’m half Thai,” she said.
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Gallagher said she had wanted to create a community fairy garden for a long time, gathering inspiration from the app Pinterest and getting materials from the dollar store and Amazon.
Part of the fun is having fairy gardens in little, unexpected places, she said.
“To have little pockets of fun is just really all you need to keep the faith,” she said.
The community response to the fairy garden has been great, she said. The magical place really resonated with a few young girls in the community, who Gallagher said are obsessed with the garden.
“We see them all the time,” she said. “And they even started leaving notes, so then I would write little notes back.”
One note came after a rainstorm, and the girls expressed concern for how the storm may have impacted the fairies and their garden, wanting to make sure the fairies were OK, Gallagher recalled.
“They were so worried during the rainstorm about how the fairies were suffering,” she said. “So, I wrote a note back.”
Gallagher said she gave the girls ample fairy garden supplies beyond the starter kit, and the girls actually created a fairy garden not too far from Gallagher’s.
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On top of the notes from young fairy admirers, Gallagher said she has gotten some notes from parents who are thankful for the time she has spent to feed their children’s creative minds.
“That just brings smiles to our faces when we see parents or grandparents bringing the little kids,” she said. “I love hearing the kids talk about what they think fairies are about, or — they just start coming up with stories about who they think is living there.”
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Gallagher does not put any figurines of fairies in her garden, wanting to reinforce people’s creativity as they imagine who the fairies are.
In the future, she plans to add to her fairy garden by creating new sections that incorporate different cultures, hoping to increase representation and expand people’s imagination of what a fairy may look like.
“I’m going to make a Thai-based fairy garden, and then I’ll probably make one that’s a Parisian fairy garden,” she said.
She also hopes to add fairy gardens to some of the Airbnb properties her family owns.
“I think there’s always something really fun about just this idea of positive hope — that someone is looking out for you. It’s like another version of an angel,” Gallagher said of fairies. “It gives you hope to kind of move about your day with confidence.”