Fairy Grandmother Gardens Part 1: Her Story
Continuing with our Showcase series where we interview our family of customers and their businesses big and small, we introduce to you Fairy Grandmother Gardens. In this interview, Jackie Alberico, the Fairy Grandmother herself, spoke with Michelle Rosenblum, Creative Director at SuperMoss, as to how this fairy tale came to be. Once upon a time…
Fairy Grandmother Gardens are whimsical displays that tell a story through the landscape created. Whether the Fairy is at the beach, fishing by a lake, or at the park after school, children and adults alike have fun admiring the gardens. Fairy gardens make for wonderful decorations and brings a smile to one’s face anywhere. They make great birthday, teacher, anniversary, new baby gift, party favors and more!
J: Oh, I’m so happy to be here. Thank you, I’m so flattered! I can’t even tell you how flattered I am.
M: Well, me and you’ve been having some back and forth on Instagram with sharing stories and posts… I had my eye on you!
J: Oh good, that’s great! Thank you.
M: Of course! You do great work and, as I was saying earlier, we never know what kind of moss maker we’re going to get. Do they make huge moss walls? Or we have people that are doing some really cool stuff with modern potted plants and are using moss as topdressings and then obviously your fairy gardens…
J: My fairy gardens, yep.
M: So wonderful to see so many creative concepts. So, why don’t you tell me…
Who are you and how did this all get started with fairy gardens?
J: Okay! So, I am a mom of three and a grandmother of five. This all started in 2017. I was in special education and I worked in the high school three blocks from here. One of my co-workers came in with this tiny little fairy garden and it had real plants in it. With our students, we used to have little jobs. Each kid had a job every week. She had Fairy Gardens at her house. So, she brings one in and I see it and I say “What is that? It is the cutest thing I’ve ever seen!” and she says “It’s a fairy garden!” She goes “I thought with you and the kids it would be fun. The kids can take care of it”. I thought it was so cute and I immediately thought of my granddaughter, who at the time was turning two, and I thought “Oh, that’d be so cute for her birthday.” So I asked my coworker “Can you make me one of these for her?” and she said to me “No, make it yourself!” and I was not a plant person, I’m not crafty, I don’t know what to do, I don’t even know where to buy any of this stuff. She says “Go to Michaels or go to Hobby Lobby. Go do it with your granddaughter. Make it with your granddaughter, it’ll be so much fun!”
I had never seen a fairy garden, never heard of a fairy garden, so I went home and I googled “fairy garden” and I was completely blown away by the photos of all of these different fairy gardens. Big ones, little ones, landscaped ones… I was immediately hooked. So, I said to my daughter “I want to make a fairy garden for Scarlett for her birthday” and my daughter says to me “Fine, but don’t make it out of real plants because first off, I have no window to put it in and I’ll kill it”. So, I’m like a fairy garden with not real plants okay. So I went to Michaels and I found these little things and then someone said try Etsy. So I go on Etsy. Between Michaels and Etsy I was just mesmerized and completely hooked. So I got a bunch of little things and I made my first fairy garden for my granddaughter. You know, it was probably about a 10×12 inch little box and put a little princess fairy in there and a little cottage and just bought a bunch of fake plants and cut them and put them in the foam and bought my SuperMoss moss and gave it to my granddaughter and she loved it — just absolutely loved it! And I loved every minute of creating this. Just putting these little pieces in and how am I going to do this and how am I going to do that and just like all of this creativity that I never knew I had just came pouring out of my body! The smile on my daughter’s face when she got this for her birthday was just… it was incredible!
Then my grandson, who’s a year older than her, says to me “Nani, can you make me one, too?” So I went out and searched and got all the materials and made one for him. Then I made one for me. Then I made one for my daughter and then I made one for my sister-in-law and before you know it I’m making all of these little fairy gardens for all my family and friends! I kept hearing over and over again “You are so good at this! You’re so good! You should start a job and start a little business and sell these things” and I’m like no, no, no, no, no, no, no! This is just fun and plus I had a job working in the school.
Okay, so that was 2017. I did my first little fairy garden, but then after I did about three or four of the little mini ones with all the fake plants. We had this big flower box that wrapped around our house, so I decided to do a fairy garden outside. I did one outside all with real plants and it was a huge hit and it was just a small little section so that was the summer of 2017. Then I started buying and collecting all little pieces because I knew I was going to expand that garden outside. So I started doing that and then in the meantime I’m still making little tiny ones for people. You know, if we go to a party and instead of bringing a bottle of wine I’d make a little fairy garden and give it as a hostess gift, or somebody’s birthday was coming up, or Christmas. So I just kept doing that and then in 2018 I made this giant landscapes garden outside and then all the neighbors started coming and they started seeing the garden outside!
Then, in 2019, I expanded it around the tree and then this year I expanded it so now I have five big ones all landscaped throughout my gardens outside. In 2018 I knew I was going to retire from education, so in the summer ’19, between all the gardens outside and all the little ones that I would make over and over again, people said you should start it. You should start at a little shop. You should make us, since all these people would love these, “I would buy these from you” they said. So, I just started kind of researching it and I thought you know I’m going to start to get out of education and I’m going to start this little shop. And that’s what I did! So in the summer of 2019 I got my business license and I opened up my shop in this year, so in 2020, of all years to open up a little shop, I started it I started an Etsy shop and I have like a little sign outside advertising my shop…
J: … and it’s been just incredible. Between outside fairy gardens and my little ones that I sell it’s just been incredible and it’s so much fun!
M: It looks like fun!
J: When I would make the little ones, I would make one and I would say to my husband “This is so much fun! I’ve never done something where I’ve had so much fun and I and it makes me so happy! Every time I make a garden it’s like “Oh my God, this is the cutest one I’ve ever made” and then I make another one and it’s like “This is cuter than the last one!” and it just brings me so much joy.
My grandkids, who were my inspiration for this, they do it with me. So, all my gardens outside, they come, they help me, they dig, they plant the plants, they put the fairies in, and we do it together. Just this morning they were cutting — they were doing my little leaves. I have my little leaf to make tiny little itty bitty leaves. I take them to school in the morning my daughter drops them off here. I take them to school and they come right down here and are like “Okay Nani, what can we do?” So this morning they were making leaves. My grandson unpacks my boxes and sees what’s in my inventory and it’s just so much fun. It just brings me so much joy and most of the time it’s very therapeutic. I just sit here, I’ll put my music on, it’s real quiet, and I just I look at all my supply and I’m like “Okay, what am I going to make today?” Then I just sit here and I can make it. It’s just so therapeutic and calming and relaxing and then when it’s done, I just look at it and say “This is so cute and it’s just extremely joyful”.
J: I love it!
M: I love hearing that! I know you mentioned that starting a little business in this year…
J: Put a damper on it.
M: For sure, but you know, when I think about, especially fairy gardens, but also we find SuperMoss in terrariums and also in miniature train sets… and what’s in common to me ia it’s like you’re working with a little world in front of you.
M: Now more than ever, how cool is it to have that little escape that you can have on your desk. You have a whole other place that you can be in and it’s magical and you can make it what ever you want — I love that.
So, you have many different styles and designs. Could you tell me about when you were first starting…
What kind of styles were inspiring you and what kind of themes and what directions have you grown into?
J: When I first decided to open up my shop, I had found these little containers. Small little containers, actually at Target. They were a dollar for little 4 inch containers. So, when I was first shopping I thought that is what I want to do. I want to do just these little 4 inch containers and that’s it. Just do that and that was my first container purchase.
M: Like a jar?
J: It’s this tiny little bucket from Target and it’s 4 inches across and I thought that would be so cute. I thought this would be like my niche where I would just have them all in this type of little container and just these tiny little miniature gardens. That would be it. I would just do this and Target has a bunch of different styles like this and I thought “Okay, let’s do that. That would be my niche”. But then I started going into Hobby Lobby and I started going into Michael’s and then I discovered your website with all of your moss containers which… I want to do more with SuperMoss! I wanted to expand to your wreaths and your little purses, you know you have a little purses? Oh my God! I could put cute little fairies and I would eventually… I will get there! So, I had the little one and I just kept discovering all these new little containers.
I can put a fairy garden in anything. With any type of container, I can do something with it. So, I kept seeing all these different ones and then I started buying them. For example, I see this is it at Hobby Lobby and I’m like “Oh my God, that would be so cute. I could do a cute little one in that.” I find these little tiny 2 inch container from the Dollar Tree store. So, I start seeing all of these different containers and I’m like “I got to do more now. I have to expand this to different types of containers” But, I don’t want to do super big ones. I just want to stay like your moss coffee cup, the big six inch one, that’s about as big as I want to go. I want to stay small, I want to stay miniature.
M: Looking at your pictures, it’s a little hard to get the scale of how big they are or how small they are, so it’s interesting to talk about and seeing how small some of those are.
J: I mean, I could I could expand and do big ones but I don’t want to because they will cost a lot to do. Also my sort of niche I specialize in is in the details. Most of the fairy gardens that that I’ve seen there that I’ve researched that you can buy, artificial plants or even real plants, they don’t have the detail that I put into my gardens. That’s what I feel separates me from a lot of other fairy garden creators out there. They’ll put a little mushroom in, they’ll put a little fairy in, and that’ll be it. But I go in and I take of a flower, you know something like this this little purple flower and I’ll cut these tiny little buds off and I’ll place them here or I’ll put the whole little piece in. Or I’ll take a little piece of fern that’s like this big and I’ll cut it real tiny and I’ll use tiny little pieces of fern and I’ll put them in there. So that’s what I want to be known for, is the amount of detail that I put into each garden.
J: That’s what’s so incredible about your containers, the coffee cups I love so much, because I could put so much detail in those little gardens! It’s got the rim and I can put little fairies on the rim and they are just so… they are my absolute favorite containers to work with is those little coffee cups, I love them I absolutely love them!
M: I was looking at your Instagram and looking at all the little details, I love how you do the slideshow so you can zoom in on the different spots and it gives different perspectives. It reminds me of like those like “I Spy” kids’ books.
M: It’s like you can just look anywhere and there’s a little story in every corner.
J: There is! Each Garden has a story. Every garden I create there’s some type of theme in there and some even have a little story. The ones that I make that I’ve done custom for people, they’ll say to me “Can you make one for my mom? This is for my mom, it’s for her birthday. I want to do one for all three of her grandchildren. There’s a boy, two girls, my one grandson loves to play baseball, or my granddaughter loves to dance.” So, I’ll incorporate all those little things in there.
Or my parents! So, one was for Mom’s birthday. My mom and my dad love to drink wine, they’re big wine drinkers. They love their wine and their cheese. So, I went out and I found this little wine and little cheese board and put it in there. A little story of people and their families. I really, really love doing custom gardens. When people come to me and say “Can you do this for my mom? My mom loves reading and her favorite color is purple”. So, I’ll get a little fairy that’s got a little book and I’ll get lavender and purple and I’ll get all of that in there so there’s always a theme. They do tell a little story.
You know, I try to do as much as I can when it’s a custom. I have had a mom or a grandma that I created in one of your containers, the big coffee cup, I put 7 fairies in there, which was the biggest one I’ve ever done, and the grandma comes here with the with the grandkids and goes and looked at all my outside gardens. She’s like “I can’t get enough of the fairies!” She loves the one I did for her and then she comes with the grandkids. They are here maybe 10 or 15 minutes at least once a week when all the fairies were up. They’re all down now because, obviously in Illinois, I can’t keep them up all year. If I was in California, where you are, I could keep them out all year, but I have to put them away and they come every week they come here.
It’s just incredible when I have people come back who have my gardens because they were given as gifts and now they come and they see the outside ones and I have a chance to chat with them it’s so heartwarming, just warms my heart.
Dive In to More Fairy Garden Magic
Stay tuned for Part 2 where we learn how Fairy Grandmother Gardens becomes a local sensation and Jackie shares her magic for aspiring fairy garden makers.
You can explore more of this magical world at FairyGrandmotherGardens.com.
Treat a loved one with a custom gift from Jackie’s Etsy Shop.
Last but not least, you won’t want to miss her Instagram @FairyGrandmotherGardens.