In Kensington-Cedar Cottage, Vancouver, folks are used to giving stuff away, thanks to the local Buy Nothing Facebook group. Got a sad plant? Someone will adopt it. Need a cup of sugar or a ride to the hospital? Just ask. Want to brighten the neighbourhood with fairy gardens? Bounce the idea around the neighbourhood FB page (the Buy Nothing group’s alter ego) [].

“A poll showed there was a lot of interest in applying for a grant,” says organizer Susanna Chu. “Families were quick to catch the vision of adding a touch of whimsy to the neighbourhood. Something for the little ones to look for on their strolls.”

Some neighbours made tiny mushrooms and garden signs. Others donated figurines and craft supplies. Thanks to their generosity, the KCC Fairy Gardens project stretched its Responsive Neighbourhood Small Grant to provide 50 kits: tiny wooden doors and windows, paint, varnish, seeds, pretty pebbles and glass, figurines, mushrooms, garden signs and other décor.

“It took a lot of teamwork,” says Susanna. “Do you know how hard it was to squeeze paint into 300 mini pots? Not to mention designing and laser cutting 50 tiny wooden doors and windows by hand?”

Teamwork. Connection. Community. Many neighbours helped sort supplies and assemble kits. To distribute the kits and support each other, organizers set up a Facebook group for participants and three pick-up depots. For ongoing distribution, one member volunteered to run a library for extra supplies.

Then came a summer of making. Tiny fairy doors popped up here and there. Some children wanted dinosaurs; others added winding moss paths, fairies and gnomes. Many parents and kids had fun creating homes for their wee neighbours.

“The fae have been receiving little treasures from passers by,” reported participant Renee Frappier. “I’m delighted by the daily changes in the garden.”

Susanna noted both young and old stopped to check out her installation.

“It is good! I like it!” Bella, an elderly Portuguese neighbour, declared. “I look every day.”

Sadly, not everyone appreciated these whimsical creations. Several of the fairy gardens had items taken or destroyed. A winding path Renee made with moss sticks was torn away and her fairy door ripped off and tossed. Someone yanked off a tiny swing from Susanna’s tree and other items were repeatedly taken or tossed.

As participants commiserated in their Facebook group, one member pointed out that these little fairy gardens are public art—invitations to interact with passersby.

“It was a joy to create, and we’ll definitely rebuild to [continue] the sweet interactions,” says Renee. “Can’t allow the odd few to finish our resolve to be advocates for beauty and community…. we realize it will be an ongoing project with improvements and declines. A great metaphor for so many of life journeys.”

To celebrate, organizers ordered cookies from a former pastry chef in the neighbourhood and distributed 30 treat bags on a rainy Sunday in November.

“This was an amazing and challenging venture,” says Susanna. “It was one thing to apply for the grant and install a fairy garden, but the real connection came while we dreamed together, shared the work, and encouraged each other through the ups and downs.

“My partner, Naomi Joy Yamamoto, talked through all the difficulties and decisions with me. Participants gave generously and cheered each other on. I’ve learned a lot and met many kind souls. That made it all worthwhile.”

To date, participants have installed 20 fairy gardens, which are continually changing. You can check them out on the KCC Fairy Gardens Map []. View more photos here:
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