Fairy Gardens: A Fun Way to Cultivate Your Kids’ Interest in Nature

fairyWhat could be more magical than a secret corner of your garden devoted to nurturing a community of flower fairies? Just as terrariums have regained popularity, so have fairy gardens–fantasies in miniature that inspire the imagination about a hidden world of precious garden folk.

Reading the series of books by Cicely Mary Barker, an English illustrator known for her illustrations depicting fairies of the trees, garden, and wayside, is the perfect stepping stone to the world of fairy gardening. Full of  beautiful drawings of impish fairies and delightful poetry, these books are sure to engage young gardeners. Check the PHS McLean Library for books about the fairies and gardening with children.

In the Fairy Garden Handbook by Liza Gardner Walsh, she encourages children to make a fairy garden not only to have fun, but also to learn about gardening. In the book’s description, she affirms that the “popularity of fairies and fairy houses has soared, as has the growing movement to get children interested in outdoor activities such as gardening. This new how-to book for parents and kids combines the best of both worlds. It includes basic information for beginning gardeners, such as soil preparation, planting, and watering, then branches into appropriate categories for every fairy gardener: making miniature gardens and terrariums that are just the right size for fairy friends, butterfly and hummingbird gardens to attract these flying friends of fairies, rock gardens, water gardens, and wind chimes and prisms to add music and light. Sprinkled throughout are bits of fairy lore and garden wisdom. Written for children, or anyone with a child’s heart, and filled with color photographs, the Fairy Garden Handbook will turn curious kids into green thumbs in no time.”

Pinterest is a huge source of inspiration for creating your fairy gardens, either in a container, terrarium, or garden bed. While typical fairy furniture is made of all-natural materials–moss for a carpet, an acorn top for a chair, bark for a bench–there are many retailers that sell miniature furniture and other accessories. PHS Meadowbrook Farm has a variety of adorable pieces, including the ones seen in the picture above. What fairy wouldn’t love a chandelier, a comfy bed, and a treasure chest of gold?  An Internet search will overwhelm you with possibilities.

When choosing plants for your fairy garden, think small. Alyssum, thyme, lobelia, and forget-me-nots are all delicate and diminutive. Visit a garden center and let your young gardener choose a plant or two while you explain the difference between an annual and a perennial. Fairy gardens should be planted in quiet spaces, away from foot traffic, lawn mowers, and the neighborhood cat. Above all, they should be created in a space where young gardeners can play, create, and use their imaginations while they provide a beautiful living space for the fairies in your yard!

Summer Reading and Acitivities Mean Fall Fun for Young Ones!

120523-tips-for-spicing-up-story-time-for-your-childSummer is a great time to read a book or do something fun in the garden! The staff in the McLean Library wants to reward young readers and nature enthusiasts through the PHS Summer Book Club. Here’s what participating kids need to do:

1.   Read 10 books over the summer (see the books listed here for suggestions) or do one gardening/nature activity from our collection of nature activity books (see the ones in this guide for suggestions).

2.   Print out the Summer Book Club Form.

3.   Fill out the form. Be sure to write down the titles of the books read or the name of the gardening/nature activity you did.

4.   Take the form to the PHS Kids Zone at the Fall Garden Festival on September 21 in the Philadelphia Navy Yard and redeem for ONE FREE kids activity!

We can’t wait to see what titles are read and which activities are chosen. If you have any great suggestions for either, drop us a note on the PHS Facebook page and we’ll share it with everyone!

A Rare Chance to Learn Floral Artistry with a French Flair

mf000003Each fall, PHS and Longwood Gardens present Inspiring Floral Artistry, an opportunity to learn from one of the world’s foremost floral designers. Whether you’re a hobbyist or a professional, don’t miss this opportunity to meet a celebrity of the floral design scene!

In 2013 we will welcome Marie Francoise Deprez, author of four books that beautifully illustrate her floral sculptures and their pure simplicity of form. She is the director of Jeux de Fleurs International Floral Art Institute, a French school for modern design. Working with negative space, line, and color, Marie lets the shape of her materials form sculptures that are surprising, pleasing, and innovative.

“To me, floral art is not only a means of expression, but also a refuge,” says Marie. “The hours spent in my workshop, surrounded with flowers, branches, and leaves frees my imagination and allows me to find an innermost energy, verging on serenity. What a joyful thing to work with empty space, lines, colors, and materials in order to create an original structure.”

The three-day event includes these classes:

Wednesday, October 2,  Inspiring Floral Artistry demonstration, 1:00 to 3:00 pm

Thursday, October 3,  Autumn Flower Dance, 9:00 am to 12 noon

Thursday, October 3, Circle of Freedom, 1:30 to 4:30 pm

Friday, October 4, Masters Class with Marie, 9:00 am to 4:00 pm

Sign up for one or all four! All classes are held at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA. Click here to register online or call 610.388.5454.

At Bryn Mawr College, the Trees Speak for Themselves

“You will find something more in woods than in books.” —St. Bernard (1090 – 1153)

For an educational institute like Bryn Mawr College, the quote sends more than just a philosophical message. In an era of technology when even libraries can be virtually accessed off campus through websites and learning takes place online as much as in class, the college decided that campus trees should also get digitized. So to celebrate the end of classes for the semester and get energized for the exams week, Bryn Mawr students participated in an active outdoor project to re-label each of their campus’s trees with a unique QR code.


A tree label with QR code

The idea is to invite people on campus, from students to visitors, to learn more about the trees through the advance of technology. Each campus tree has a label with a Quick Response Code (QR code), scan-able on any smart phone, which will then lead to a web page with detailed information about the tree. Previously, the labels only had the trees’ names on them, and even a tree enthusiast would find it hard to memorize the scientific name of a tree to look up and learn about it later. Now with these QR codes, these Bryn Mawr trees can finally speak for themselves.


The Bryn Mawr campus in spring

“Each tree on campus carries a story and a piece of the college’s history behind it”, says Ed Harman, director of grounds at Bryn Mawr College.  “So we think that it is important to also provide students and visitors on campus with a chance to learn about the trees and appreciate them the same way we do our beautiful buildings.” The webpage for each tree linked with the QR code includes not only information about the type of tree and its characteristics, but also a story of how it came to Bryn Mawr. Some of the trees were gifts from a previous class, or a replacement of a class tree. Some are as old as 1900.

The QR code feature is not the first project organized to connect students with the campus trees and landscape at Bryn Mawr. Last year, the college and the students also completed designing a Campus Tree Map, and a tree tour using this map as a guide has been introduced to parents and visitors to Bryn Mawr campus. The college has been recognized by the Arbor Day Foundation as a Tree Campus USA for these outstanding student services project to promote more active student-tree relationship on college campuses.

Join Us for a Fun Wine & Cheese Educational Series!

Best of (13)It’s time to shrug off the overcoat, replace mittens with gardening gloves, and get outside! Spring has sprung and PHS is celebrating with a fun way to learn something new–our wine and cheese series!

As proponents of gardening, greening, and learning for more than 185 years, PHS is pleased to announce its new line-up of evening events to help you hone your horticultural skills and pique your interest in all things outdoors. These six exciting programs will be held in the McLean Library at PHS headquarters (100 N. 20th Street, Philadelphia), feature special guest presenters each night, and be served-up with a side of snacks and sips.

The series, which kicks-off on Wednesday, April 10, will offer three lectures/panel discussions and three workshops. Guests are encouraged to sign up in advance as these classes fill quickly! The McLean Library will have extended evening hours for each of the presentations, and all lectures will include a wine and cheese reception.

Lectures/Panel Discussions
Each class is $10 for PHS members, $20 for nonmembers. Register online, or for more information visit www.phsonline.org.

Private Edens: Lessons in Creating Your Own Garden Paradise, Wednesday, April 24, 6:00 pm
Garden writer and popular lecturer Jack Staub distills the important lessons in “Eden making” he learned while creating his new book Private Edens: Beautiful Country Gardens. Based on the interviews he conducted with the owners of the garden paradises featured in the book and using Rob Cardillo’s superb photograph, Jack identifies the key components of “heart, home, and horticulture” that elevate what is merely a house on a plot of land to a personal place of genuine respite, comfort, and beauty.

To Be or Not To Be Native: Is This Even the Right Question? Wednesday, May 1, 5:30 pm
Join us for an in-depth discussion about how we talk about plants. What do we actually mean when we use the terms “native plants” or “invasive plants?” Do we inadvertently assign value or blame to certain plants just by using these terms? We will hear from three distinguished experts in the field: Doug Tallamy, lecturer, professor at the University of Delaware and author of Bringing Nature Home; Peter Del Tredici, author of Wild Urban Plants and senior research scientist at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University; and Anthony S Aiello, avid plant collector and director of horticulture and curator at the Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania. This engaging and interactive dialogue will be moderated by Nancy O’Donnell, PHS director of design. Members of Philadelphia Parks & Recreation and Audubon will offer comments in response to the panelists, followed by questions from the audience.

Gardening with Nature, Tuesday, May 14, 6:00 pm
This program, presented by Douglas Thomas, will highlight her fabulous garden, Twin Maples, which she and her husband purchased in Salisbury, Connecticut in 1996. They are only the third recorded owners of nearly 400 acres received by the original owner as a land grant from George II of England in 1740. On this historic property they have built a Georgian style house and a guest cottage, both designed by David Anthony Easton, and have developed 40 acres of wildflower meadows as well as formal gardens connected to the house. This property has been documented by the Millbrook Garden Club for the Archives of American Gardens at the Smithsonian Institution. The program shows the landscape in all seasons and describes the process of planting sustainable wildflower meadows.

Each class will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 pm and is $18 for PHS members, $23 for non-members. Register here, or for more information visit www.phsonline.org. Enjoy a glass of wine and nibbles while you learn.

Terrariums: Landscapes under Glass, Wednesday, April 10
What could be better than brightening your home with a lush, green, miniature world under glass? Lori Hayes will offer practical tips on the design, plant and container selection, and maintenance of terrariums.

How to Compost at Home, Wednesday, May 8
Gardeners call compost “black gold,” because it is rich in nutrients that keep plants healthy. Join us to learn how to successfully start and maintain a compost pile anywhere–outdoors or even in an indoor worm bin. Paco Verin, environmental educator, will be the instructor.

Simple Tips for Gorgeous Garden Photos, Wednesday, June 12
Barbara Peterson, professional photographer and PHS staffer, will share tips and tricks collected in her years behind a camera. After a brief overview, Barbara will lead the group to nearby Logan Circle and demonstrate ways to truly capture the beauty of plants and garden design, regardless of the kind of camera you use. Please feel free to bring your own camera and dress for the weather.