Hunt for Fairies, Then Mulch


Fairy3 Through absolutely no fault of her manure-shoveling mother’s, my four year-old daughter Grace is a real girly girl.  Favorite color: pink.  Favorite activity: Twinkletoes ballet.  Favorite literature: Angelina Ballerina and Flower Fairies.

I was reading Grace a Flower Fairies book before bed the other night and–though wincing my way through the verses–found myself peculiarly captivated by the illustrations.  The charm of them is the careful observations of nature…each plant is really well drawn.  And the way writer and illustrator Cicely Mary Barker has transformed these plants into costumes is really clever.  The puffy flower of a sweetpea becomes a baby’s bonnet.  The poppy fairy has a really chic red dress that’s gathered at a black waist.  Plus, I like the fact that it’s not just obviously beautiful plants like roses that get flower fairies.  Fruit trees get fairies.  Even brambles get fairies. There’s an acorn fairy. 

Barker was a Brit, of course.  That serious attention to plants–well, you won’t see that kind of thing coming out of Anaheim and the offices of Disney, where there appears to be an earnest focus on busty blondes who’ve had stuff injected into their lips. 

240pxflowerfairiesjpg As we read, Grace and I learned that every time a seed drops and a plant grows, a flower fairy is born.  He or she sleeps inside the flower and cares for it. 

Grace’s eyes got wide.  "Are flower fairies real?"  she asked me.

I wasn’t going to lie to her.  "It could be.  Flowers are pretty magical."

"Can we go to the country this spring and look for baby flower fairies?" she asked.  "Because I’d love to take care of a baby." 

I was touched not just by this nurturing impulse, but also by her faith.  She really believes there will be a spring.

Me, I become less convinced with each passing day.  It’s been a horrible week in Saratoga Springs with temperatures dipping below zero, pipes freezing, and three-foot high mounds of frozen snow narrowing every roadway and blocking the sidewalks.  My nine year-olds are behaving like caged animals, despite much organized exercise at the Y.  Even walking the dog is punishment, given the wind-chill.  March is the cruelest month.

I’m getting through it by forcing myself to think about the first spring tasks.  Mulch.  Plant the peas: Sugar Snaps, an old sweetpea called Matucana that manages the abrupt transition from winter to sweltering summer better than more highly-bred varieties, and a soup pea called Amplissimo Viktoria that Fedco promises makes a great hummus and does. 

Oh, yeah, right at the top of the list:  search for fairy babies.  What could possibly be better than spending a few hours knee-high with my pretty child, peering into fresh green plants and watching for babies with wings?


  1. Nice. My pet vice is reading children’s literature to kids. It started three years ago when I began reading to my daughter’s charter school class as a parent volunteer. Now I am also reading to kids in a “food appreciation” class at a private elementary school here in DC. Any good children’s book written around food or gardening is a treasure to keep, because such books are not so easy to find. Even good librarians in the children’s section have a hard time laying their hands on these books when you ask for them, and searching for them in the catalogue references is extremely time consuming. You would be doing a great service if you kept track of good gardening books for children, especially picture books. One I highly recommend is “Weslandia” by Paul Fleischman, about a little boy who plants some alien seeds and creates his own world.

  2. Oh, I loved this! Isn’t the faith of children amazing? And being able to see the world, just a tiny bit, through the eyes of a child is a wonderful thing.

    I know what you’re saying re: the girly-girl thing. My oldest, Emily, is a total girl. She’s already scary at three, wanting her nails polished and telling me *exactly* how she wants her hair done. I’m scared of the teenage years….

  3. Thank you for a sweet post, Michele. You turned what might have been a downbeat post about your long winter into an uplifting peek into childhood fancy. It makes me want to run right out and look for flower fairies with my kids too.

  4. Lovely post, Michele – takes me back to when my daughter was young and we’d seen Midsummer Night’s Dream as a play… we both pretended we were in fairyland that summer.

    Mustardseed! Peasblossom! Cobweb!

    I hope you soon find many fairy babies.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  5. Such fun to look for the garden fairies. I’ve posted several times about the ones that I’ve just missed seeing in my own garden. But they leave their little signs that they’ve been there, for sure. Good luck and I agree with your priorities…garden fairies, then mulch!

  6. I can sympathize! With two kids and a dog I’m sick of winter too! I’m longing for the days when the kids run outside to check the tomato plants to see if the fruit is ready to be picked and eaten!

  7. Sorry Michele. April is the cruelest month. You get a couple tastes of summer interspersed with freezing rain and a couple of ‘onion snows’.

    re: Kids books. One of my favorites (for grade4+)is Seed Folks by Paul Fleischman, a short novel telling how an urban garden pulls a community together.

  8. Way to drop TS Eliot, Ellis.

    Nice post Michelle and I’m sure even if you don’t find any faeries you’ll find plenty of other life to keep the little one intrigued.

  9. You MUST, absolutely MUST find a copy of “Fairie-ality” by Elwand. It contains photos of the most exquisite fairy-things made from REAL plants, and has lots of fun things tucked in the pages (like that book which includes the “actual” cards and letters between correspondents, by Nick Bantock. Search it out; you won’t be disappointed!

  10. My brother sells antique prints and does brisk business in these Faeries by Cicely Mary Barker. Of course, most of the buyers have them in children’s rooms. Some of her illustraions though are quite comical when see them through 21st Century eyes as they have a lot of “fae” attributes, which just makes them more popular with today’s home decorator.
    I’d collect them all if I had any wall-space left to dedicate to them — her botanical choices – from weeds to wildflowers to flowering trees to bulb cultivars are lovely and inspiring. She rivals B. Potter in that aspect.

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