My wife and I recently had an opportunity to visit our favorite great-niece and great-nephew. They visited us nearly a year ago when they were five and seven years old. Both of them loved running around our garden, their active imaginations leading them in all kinds of adventures. I remember walking them down the initial paths, their eyes wide with curiosity, as they had their first experience in the conifer garden.
It took very little time for them to feel comfortable in exploring on their own, and in no time at all, as we sat on the patio sipping our iced tea, we could hear the sounds of their adventures. Our great-niece would tend to be the conversationalist, telling the story while interacting with the imaginary characters. Alternatively, our great-nephew would provide the sound effects. His jungle sounds and hurricane winds along with gunfire and explosions followed by the painful screams of fallen foes seemed out of place with her occasional words like, “magic rainbow,” “flying unicorn” and “queen of the fairies.”
Being that both of the children celebrate summer birthdays, we wanted to make sure to bring them each a gift so we could celebrate with them during our visit. I decided that the kids were old enough to begin to enjoy miniature container gardening, and my wife approved as long as I let her purchase some accessories to go along with the dwarf and miniature conifers I would select. Now, my wife, being of the feminine persuasion, opted for cute little Fairy Garden accessories; fanciful fences and furniture, little light-posts and lawn sculptures (including a miniature pink flamingo) and tiny paving stones.
The kids seemed just a little confused when we announced that we had brought them birthday presents, and then presented them with ceramic pots and miniature conifers. My wife, of course, wrapped her little accessories so that each child would open two or three small packages – looking a little like toys, their moods began to brighten. Once I explained that I was going to help them create their own miniature versions of my garden, they actually became very excited.
We began with the young girl. She delighted in helping to place the small plants in the pot and she began to tell a story of how the fairies planted the garden many years ago so that they would have a beautiful place for the Queen of the Fairies, should she ever happen to visit. Meanwhile, my great-nephew’s mood seemed to darken.
“I don’t want a fairy garden, those things are for girls” he said as he folded his arms, slumped down in his chair and made a classic pout-and-frown face.
His mother told him to straighten up and try not to hurt uncle Ed’s feelings. I began to think that perhaps he would have some small toys in his room that might be suitable to a miniature garden – in a theme that he would enjoy.
“Hey buddy, how about you show me your room?” I asked and he jumped out of his seat sparing no time to get away from all this fairy silliness. After showing me his collection of model fighter planes spanning about 50 years of military history, I noticed a bag of army-men on the shelf next to his bed. “Hey, I had army-men just like these when I was your age” I told him.
“Yeah, I used to take them out into my parents garden and play with them for hours out there.”
Before long, we decided that his miniature conifer garden would be really cool if, instead of fairies, we set some of his army-men in with the plants and rocks. He dug under his bed until he found an old shoebox filled with rocks he had collected and chose three that he thought would be perfect for his garden.
As we sat on the deck listening the children play with the characters in their own personalized miniature container gardens, I had a certain satisfaction that these two young family members would one day become confer lovers and go on to inspire another generation of Remsrola’s to do the same.