Fairies alight at Gardner Village, reflecting a national obsession with the magical creatures

(Rachel Molenda | The Salt Lake Tribune) Children dressed as fairies at Gardner Village's Woodland Fairy Festival dance and twirl in West Jordan on Saturday, June 16, 2018.

West Jordan • Move over, garden gnomes — fairies are on the rise.

Those winged, ethereal creatures (think Tinkerbell) are everywhere in the Beehive State: wooded nooks, ceramic pots, old boots, a wheelbarrow or peering out from tiny mushroom houses.

Apparently, fairy gardens are big even nationally these days (OK, maybe for the past few years). Pinterest is awash in how to arrange the colorful miniatures among delicate plants, garden stores are stocking up and selling out, grandparents are using them to lure grandkids over for a visit, parents employ them to teach values and celebrate nature, and both generations are nodding to nostalgia.

(Rachel Molenda | The Salt Lake Tribune) Launa Erekson takes moss for her fairy garden from Camille Crump at Gardner Village's Woodland Fairy Festival in West Jordan on Saturday, June 16, 2018.

For the past few months, historic Gardner Village here has been hosting a weekly Fairy Festival, where children don wings, sit for face painting, make wishes and stroll around, gazing at the variety of fairy merchandise, marching in the fairy parade or gleefully running around on the fairy scavenger hunt to spy the otherworldly figures slightly hidden in a tree knot or behind a diminutive door.

Meanwhile, their parents, mostly moms, sign up for the twice-daily class in building a fairy garden.

All it takes is a desire and a splash of imagination, says Suzie Bolton, manager at Aunt Elsie’s Treasures and Trinkets, just past the Wishing Bridge. “Fairies can take flight in any setting.”

Start with a pot, put in one little figure, then play with it, move it around, add more pieces, then some plants and accessories and voilà! — a dreamy garden for inside or outside.

“You can’t really do it wrong,” Bolton says. “It’s all about your creativity.”

So what’s the appeal?

“Everybody wants a little magic,” says Camille Crump, who teaches the fairy garden class wearing her own set of wings.

Gnomes are still around but not as popular as fairies this time of year, Crump says. They come out for winter or Christmas (unless they are also tiny and showcasing yoga poses, making them trendy and right for a garden plot).

The gnome character — a short old man with a white beard and pointed red hat — originated in Germany hundreds of years ago but came to reside in American gardens in the 19th century.

They were seen as protectors, or warriors, to ward off evil.

“Garden gnomes are also typically known to smoke a pipe (or are usually seen holding a pipe),” according to dengarden.com. “Lawn and garden gnomes are seen in various positions, such as standing, lying down, sitting … [or] in activities such as fishing, napping, etc.”

The site says these guys even have their own holiday — International Gnome Day — on June 21, which is celebrated in more than a dozen countries.

Still, Crump says, it is during the colder months when gnomes are most visible.

Come spring, it’s all about fairies.

Garden fairies, which originated in the British Isles, came to the U.S. in 1893, according to fairygardening.com, with the bonsai dishes at the Japanese Pavilion at the Chicago World’s Fair.

Unlike gnomes, these whimsical characters are not there to protect the flowers, Crump says, as much as to nurture their growth, like the offspring of Mother Nature.

They are bright and hopeful and optimistic, she says, symbolizing spring and rebirth.

If they have supernatural power and wings, how are fairies distinct from angels?

Angels are more mystical and reflect spirituality and heaven, she says, while fairies are grounded and earth-based.

In the 1990s, angels had their own craze.

“Touched by an Angel” was one of the top-rated shows on television, “Where Angels Walk: True Stories of Heavenly Visitors” was a New York Times best-seller and stores selling nothing but angels popped up all over the country — including Guardian Angels in Trolley Square.

A bimonthly magazine, Angel Times, attracted thousands and featured at least one article about gardening with angels.

Like so many fads, though, the angel obsession eventually dissipated.

“Touched” ended in 2003, Angel Times ceased publication and Guardian Angels morphed into Spellbound, a Sugar House store that specialized in paganism.

Though some of today’s young parents have become more secular, Crump says, they nonetheless enjoy the playfulness — and mythical reality — of fairies.

They’d better hurry, though.

The Fairy Festival at Gardner Village ends next Saturday. Next up? Halloween.

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