Over the summer, E. and I decided to make a fairy garden. Our grocery store was selling some really cute fairy garden ornaments (bridges, table and chairs, gates, benches, gazing globes and a lot more), and we just couldn’t pass up the opportunity. So, we bought some plants, found some nice smooth pebbles during an outing to the river, and bought two tiny fairy cottages (okay, so they’re really just bird houses) that we painted. I started searching for pictures of other fairy gardens online, looking for ways we could arrange all the little accessories we bought. I did find some, but I became totally smitten by images of solar-powered fairy houses that would light up at night. Smitten may not be the right word. Obsessed is probably more like it. I knew I had to at least try to make one.
The next day, I went out to the local garden center and bought a larger, octagonal wooden birdhouse and one mini solar garden light. I made the door, window frames and awnings out of green Fimo, and the flowers are made from magenta Fimo. After the clay pieces were baked, I brushed them with artists inks to bring out the details before using a clear gloss sealer on top. I drilled three more holes in the birdhouse, a small one in the roof for the little awning, a larger one (35mm) in the back that is just big enough for the stake light to fit through, and one in the side for the window at the top of the door.
Before adding any of the details, I painted the birdhouse with the color that E. chose. After a few coats of paint, I sealed the entire birdhouse with about four coats of sealer because the fairy garden will live outside, and I wanted it to be able to withstand the rain. Next, I took a semi-translucent milk jug and cut out “windows” for the fairy house. These should be a bit bigger than the holes, but smaller than the window frames so they don’t stick out around the edges. I used a yellow permanent marker to tint the plastic, and then used E-600 to attach them over the holes. Make sure you glue all the way around the windows to prevent water from getting in!
I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do for the roof, and after looking at many, many pictures of fairy houses, I chose to cover the roof with pine cone scales. This was a process that was really just trial and error (as it turns out, a LOT of errors, actually), but by the time I started working with the second batch of pine cones, I had worked out a pretty solid method for removing the scales. First, a note about the kind of pine cone you should use unless you’re a masochist or something. In my (albeit limited) experience, the long pine cones with the smooth scales are much easier to work with than the pine cones that are round, because each scale on the round ones has a sort of “thorn” on the bottom, just where you have to grab with your thumb to pull it. They are stabby, and thus they hurt. Don’t use them.
On that note, break each of the pine cones in half to expose at the center of the pine cone. This is the super-tedious part: pull each scale off of the pine cone individually. Yes, you have to. Unless you have teeny, tiny scissors that never go dull. It helps to have a container nearby to place them in. You need to de-scale about 4-5 pine cones to make sure you have enough to cover the whole fairy house roof. This is repetitive, but it goes surprisingly fast. Once you have enough scales, use scissors to clip the top part off of each one (the part that was attached to the center of the pine cone).
Next, preheat your oven to 200 degrees and cover a cookie sheet with tin foil. Spread the scales in a fairly even layer on the cookie sheet, and then pop them into the oven for about an hour. If you are like me and at this point your hands are covered with sticky pine sap, this is a good time to wash them. I found that rubbing my hands with nail polish remover, followed by soap and hot water did the trick to clean the sap off of my skin. Once the scales have finished baking, let them cool to room temperature before attaching them to the roof. Once they have cooled, you will notice that the sap has dried, making the scales much easier to work with.
I used E-600 to attach the scales to the roof, just like you would attach a roofing tile. Starting at the bottom, attach the scale with glue so that they are next to each other, but not overlapping. the next row should overlap the seam between the two scales on the bottom row. Continue in this way, making sure to leave some space around your window for the frame and awning to fit, until you reach the very top of the roof. Then arrange four smaller scales in such a way as to cover the remaining seams and prevent water from getting under them. Alternately, you can cover the very top with something like an acorn cap. I wanted to do that for our fairy house, but I couldn’t find an acorn cap that wasn’t crushed or rotten.
Once all of the scales are glued in place and dried, you can put a few coats of paint and a clear sealer on them, or you can just use the sealer if you are going for a more natural look. We opted to use the paint and sealer method. After the last coat of sealer has dried, use clear caulk to make a ring around the outside of the hole the solar garden light will go into. Be sure that the caulk is in contact with the roof and has no holes or gaps. Allow to dry and fully cure (about 48 hours, roughly).
Remove the stake from the bottom of the garden light and push the glass lamp cover through the hole so that the cap rests flush with your caulk seal. Now all that’s left to do is decorate your fairy garden and enjoy!
Here are some pictures of our finished fairy house!