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Gardening with the Fairies, Part I

Do you believe in fairies?

A few years ago when we lived in Michigan, we rented a house several streets from the shores of Lake Michigan. The back yard was nothing more than weeds shaved down to stubs in an effort to mimic a lawn. The landlady even apologized for it. But we loved the house.

So when a friend of ours announced that he was gaining his Fairy Realms Reiki attunement, we immediately asked him to practice on our back yard.

I don’t think we really believed then, although the story of this form of Reiki’s origin was fascinating: all about a man in the Pacific Northwest who’d bought damaged forestland and who worked out a language with the fairies for healing it. They told him what to do and he did it. The land healed. It didn’t hurt that he already practiced human Reiki healing, so developing the fairy version came naturally to him.

And our friend, Laird William … well, let’s just say if anyone could speak Fairy or Faerie or Faery, it’s William, a Lavender Life Color through and through. We’d already dubbed him Sir William, Lord of Cats, Teller of Tales, Dweller in the Outer Realms. One day I hope you’ll read more about him, but for now, the topic is Fairy Reiki.

While we stood back in silent expectation, Laird William placed a folding chair in the midst of the stubbly brown stuff, facing away from the house toward the few things growing along a fence, runaways from an impeccably designed garden on the other side of this barricade. While Joseph and I and William’s wife repaired to the house to sample the potluck goodies, he sat out there silently for what seemed a long, long time. As I recall, he might have moved his chair once or twice to sit in a different part of the yard.

When he finally came back inside, he told us that the fairies had never left the garden, but they were, well, hidden, as if hunkered down and buried deep because of all the insults hurled upon them in this rental property.

First of all, they wanted us to remove all the bits of trash and debris hiding in the dirt and weeds. These were things that did not belong in their realm, such as rusting ancient bottle tops and bits of foil and all manner of man-made detritus, including broken dog ropes tied to a fence but hidden by weeds, and disintegrating rubber toys.

As we dutifully obeyed, we noticed the energetic feeling we got from various parts of the neglected yard. For instance, where the dog had been tied to the fence, oh, how sad! Never mind the intensely groomed, conventionally “beautified,” and strictly maintained yard directly on the other side of the fence, where no chemical was forbidden in the fight against Nature and the strenuous effort to prove the supremacy of human design. This part of our yard was a place of darkness. The dog’s despair still lingered, and who knows what other tragedies. Not far away, a Deadly Nightshade vine was literally attacking our roof, crowding out everything else.

When we were out there removing that debris, we discovered so many things we’d never taken in before. It was as if the landscape itself told the stories of woe from former tenants, with a few bits of happiness long forgotten.

The landlady’s mother had died in this house, after a long period of confinement to a wheelchair, but we never felt her presence in any lingering way (as we certainly did in other houses). But here in the back yard, the human damage was evident and much of it probably from the tenants who came after her.

Not long after we began picking up the bits and pieces of this evidence, the runaway spearmint took off along that shady fence where the dog had been confined, and soon the first of many “islands” to come appeared in the shade of a huge, spreading tree: a large oval of the biggest wood violets we’ve ever seen!

Their leaves were almost as big as my palm, and when they flowered – so beautiful! We placed a birdbath we found for $14 beneath that tree and the birds returned, providing a delightful view from our bedroom (even breaking ice in the winter to bathe).
More violets appeared, paired with what most consider an invasive weed, called “horehound,” I believe. But they matched so well, we left them.
Soon we had graceful islands of sedges beginning to form in the low spots—tall, flowing grasses cropping up here and there around the rest of the scarred yard, topped by their characteristic blooms.

Back at the far fence, where the prior tenants’ dog had been tied, you can see we were rewarded for leaving a certain kind of “weed” at the fairies’ behest: lavender daisies suddenly bloomed from it! (This was an important lesson we’ve carried with us ever since, as you’ll see in Part III of this story.)

And surprisingly, this huge volunteer appeared right in the middle of the yard! You can see the “healed” dog corner filled with mint and daisies by then (the green distance is a neighbor’s yard). Laird William had performed his Fairy Reiki only about three months earlier.

Then came winter. And we went out to play with the winter fairies! We had wonderful silly fun flinging the snow up in the air from the driveway (while our neighbors disturbed the peace brutally with their blowers). We sculpted pyramids and sphinxes at the end of the driveway, just to keep them guessing about the crazy renters from California.

But when spring came, the flowering plum out front burst into bloom again.

By the second summer, White Queen Ann’s lace appeared to accent the sedges and the pink ecchinacea we bought at a native plant sale. The wild native sumac trees that had sprouted up at the fence the first summer were readying themselves to put on a gorgeous, fiery display in the fall.

Before long, our back yard of shaved weeds was once again a lovely meadow, gracefully designed with dips and rises, “ponds” and “islands” of varying textures, colors, and miniature ecosystems, placed in perfectly pleasing arrangements. We couldn’t have designed it better.

Did I need to mention that our fortunes were small during our four-and-a-half-year Michigan sojourn? We moved three times during those years, before we headed back to San Diego. So that gave us incentive to make the best of what we had in each location, without a lot of investment. As renters, you learn to appreciate, innovate, and accommodate. We were perfect candidates for learning to let the fairies direct our gardening efforts (except when things got too far out of control, of course).

We didn’t know it for quite some time, but the tall sedge islands were providing a daytime hiding place for one of our fairy realm visitors who’d decided to stay. Then one day, in an area where the greenest grasses grew thick and free, sure enough we started to see baby rabbits!

Apparently Momma, whom we finally spotted spending her days hiding in and out of the tall sedge islands, had dug a hidden burrow there and stashed her young safely out of sight. Safe, until the day we had to come out and chase a crow away from a youngster! Thankfully, the little bundle of fur ran off and hid in the lilies of the valley that had come back to life under our kitchen windows. I’m sorry we never caught a photograph of Momma or her babies! (As you may know, I LOVE wild rabbits in my yard.)

But we also started to see a toad-fairy every time we set foot in the yard. (Can you spot him, hidden in the middle of this grassy clump? He’s very near the rabbit-babies’ hiding place.)

Were there a lot of toads, accounting for the fact that we always saw him?

Or did this one particular toad lie in wait for us, always underfoot?

And beneath the bird feeder we installed, sunflowers grew and bloomed for us—but only because we obeyed fairy orders not to pull out those unsightly shoots that grew up where the seeds fell.

As you can see if you look closely, one golden fairy finch and his wife made the best of them.

We would’ve missed the joy of watching the finches if we’d pulled those “weeds”!

Meanwhile, the tall sunflower variety we planted along the fence from seed also did surprisingly well, one single blossom near some gladiola bulbs we stuck in the dirt as the toad hopped around us.

But one day our prize sunflower, so carefully nurtured all summer, succumbed to a ravenous attack by a squirrel! He completely dismantled it in nothing flat! We were heartbroken.

And then the plant responded by sprouting side branches and our flowers multiplied! We would never have had the nerve to do what the squirrel-fairy did for us.

We started a compost pile, and it grew the most magnificently evil-looking toadstools, which Joseph marveled over as much as anything that grew in his yard. The work of evil fairies? Hmmm … we paid attention.

Out in the front yard, one tree was nearly dead when we moved in; we had no idea what kind it was. But I followed an inner (fairy) prompting to seek beneath the dirt. There I found a hideous contraption torturing the poor tree, some kind of thick plastic barrier, buried out of sight beneath the dirt! Maybe something to keep weeds away when it was a youngster? But now the tight band was killing it! I dug it out and soon after we awoke to find a fairy ring circling the tree. Soon it was thriving and growing again, and the following spring it bloomed: a flowering dogwood!

Near the dogwood, we found a sapling growing out of a poorly-chopped-down apple tree stump, which we also lovingly and defiantly resuscitated.

We learned later from the landlord that his wife’s mother had insisted that he remove an entire orchard of fruit trees from the front yard years before, simply because she didn’t like the look of them. !!!! I suppose that told us something about her gardening philosophy, and her relationship with all things fairy. Thankfully, she left the ornamental plum which supplied that perfect perch from which to commune with the fairies.

A few azaleas had survived beneath the front picture window, and everywhere Johnny Jump-Ups were volunteering their little yellow and purple faces.

To cap it all, Laird William and Lady Michelle graciously donated a non-gasoline-burning, hand-powered, old-fashioned rotary push mower to our cause and we were in Michiganheaven. (All this and free exercise too?!)

We did have some of the largest fairy helpers visiting our front yard nearly every night, though, and in summer they kept my rose-growing attempts and our volunteer tulips, shall we say, pruned. The local herd of deer loved to wait until the blossoms were just opening before enjoying their succulence. They also developed quite a fondness for the moss roses I kept trying to plant along the driveway, leaving their hoof prints behind as a kind of “thank you for the snack” rune marking. And the chipmunk fairy built a nest inside our car engine that caused us some trouble during our move back to San Diego—but that’s another story.

The only thing that failed spectacularly was our attempt at a human-designed, boxed-in, Square Foot Garden in the middle of the back yard. What an eyesore it became! And it failed because the store-bought, bagged compost from the discount garden store was improperly aged and burned up everything we planted.

The fairies must have been very tolerant of our food-growing attempts, knowing that sooner or later we’d realize that they were indeed the Master Designers and we should learn to work with them instead of relying on books. Not that we should give them free reign; even in the Fairy Kingdom there are some fairies that humans should not trust nor try to co-exist with; but that we should listen carefully, pay attention, and follow their instructions on which things to remove, and which to retain.

They taught us that, even if at first it appeared to be a weed, we must take their advice and let it be, and the results would be far more than if we used our own conscious limitations to guide us in our planting and growing. After all, I’ve heard it said that a weed is nothing more than a plant in an inconvenient location.

Of course, a fairy garden will not look like that neighbor’s yard over the back fence looked—something out of a gardening manual. It ebbs and flows and resembles a forest meadow. Leaves fall and some must remain. Edges are not trimmed by sharp blades. Snakes and spiders and bees and especially wasps must play their roles. Even crows hunting rabbit babies must be tolerated, although that’s the kind of fairy that should be discouraged from eating your friends. And neighbors who do not see fairies as you do must be reassured now and then.

Did this transformation take years and years? Not at all! The fairies’ response to Laird Williams’ contact had been immediate. With only summer as a growing season, they did remarkable things in just two of those seasons before we moved back to San Diego. But we’d learned about fairy gardening.

Still, we thought San Diego’s high desert chaparral could not be so easily coaxed. How wrong we were!

NEXT: Our traveling fairy garden, Part II, the California fairies continue our education. And Part III, wherein my Cosmic CoAuthors have a few things to say about faeries.

P.S. After a little bit more reading on the subject, I feel I must explain that my concept of faeriesis closer to the Theosophical devasthan the Celtic troublemakers so common in stories, and similar to the Findhorn devas, although not attached to the dogma from any of these traditions. More on this next time!
Please feel free to share your own fairy-gardening exploits in the Comments section!
Published inFairiesGardening


  1. Trisha Trisha

    I was thoroughly enjoying this narrative about your growing experience and got a phone call and thought I lost your page. Fortunately I was able to scroll back a few and found you again. My garden had been nicer this year than ever because I didn’t have time to do much and felt
    I had neglected it. Mother nature knows best and it looks wonderful!

    • So glad you found it again, Trisha! And thank you for commenting.

      Yes, it’s amazing what happens in the garden when we stop interfering, isn’t it? Sometimes we must defeat invaders, or we want to try our hand at designing. But some of the surprises that arise when we leave things for a while can be truly delightful.

      From your comment on Part II, I surmise that you live in Michigan–lucky you! I always think of Michigan as a place where, if you toss a seed out the back door, it’s going to grow. But as you’ve read in Part II, now we’re in dry, hot Southern California where things are a little different …
      Happy gardening!

  2. […] in our collection … until now, when I’ve come to write the follow-up to Part I of “Gardening with the Fairies.” (If you haven’t read Part I yet, follow that link.) Okay, if that doesn’t convince […]

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