When I was little, I’d tiptoe up and spy into the center of each tulip blossom hoping to catch a glimpse of Thumbelina before she woke and slid off her throne. I believed in fairies and in elves and in the other magical creatures that made their homes somewhere between the azaleas and the corn flowers in my grandmother’s garden.
Early modern fairies don’t seem to have a single origin rather they appear in old English and Germanic literature. In his 1691 manuscript, The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Fairies, Reverend Robert Kirk, of Aberfoyle, Stirling, Scotland, wrote:
These Siths or Fairies they call Sleagh Maith or the Good People…are said to be of middle nature between Man and Angel, as were Daemons thought to be of old; of intelligent fluidous Spirits, and light changeable bodies (lyke those called Astral) somewhat of the nature of a condensed cloud, and best seen in twilight. These bodies be so pliable through the sublety of Spirits that agitate them, that they can make them appear or disappear at pleasure.
As I got older, I fell deeply into the mysterious drawings of iridescent beings that flitted amongst in the natural world scattering glitter. Somewhere towards the end of my adolescence, I found the work of the Christian seer, Edgar Cayce. His alleged abilities not only caused individuals to heal from tragic illnesses but he was often seen bending down in the garden to pet one of the ethereal sprites that he acknowledged. It seems that for centuries, fairies have teetered on the edge of both folklore and spirituality.
Red Fairy Duster:
Today my fairies no longer linger in their invisibility cloaks. Rather they bask beneath the desert sun in full red regalia. The Baja Fairy Duster (Calliandra californica) is a beautiful option for desert gardens. It’s feathering red blossoms come and go all year long and are very low maintenance. The flower is actually a pack of spiky red stamens that are followed by seed pods. The scarlet fairy skirts pop amongst other desert plants which so often bloom in yellow and the flowers attract hummingbirds – a welcome feature.
Red Fairy Duster Care and Maintenance:
The Red Fairy Duster thrives in full desert sun but can also grow in light shade. Fairy Dusters require water until well established – more often in the summer than when the temperatures are cool. Ours is on a drip system which can be adjusted throughout the year but we do irrigate it which helps it bloom year round. Be cautious however. They hate to have wet feet and like so many of our desert plants, won’t tolerate over-watering. On the off chance that it suffers a cold winter freeze, it grows back from the roots.
If you do grow a Red Fairy Duster, be patient. They grow slowly yet can get up to 5 ft tall and just as wide. And, if you want to be authentic, please don’t shear it into a ridiculous round shape. Control it’s size with hand pruners and cut it back in the late spring but allow it to retain a natural shape. Fairy Dusters thin out in the winter but remain evergreen. As with any plant, the best advice comes from a local master gardener or extension service.
I relish in the description of fairies as the middle nature between man and angel.
Do you believe in fairies? What magical flora do you have in your garden?