18 Dec 2012

Five Questions: Corner Garden Lady, Sharon Ivy West

photo by Kate McFadden, at the request of 2-year old fairy-fan Ava

photo by Kate McFadden, at the request of    2-year old fairy-fan Ava

Nearly every day, my children and I walk down Kentucky Avenue towards Lincoln Park. And, nearly every day we spend a few moments immersed in a charming fairyland created by Hill resident, Sharon Ivy West.

The garden, at the corner of Independence and Kentucky Avenue, is the canvas of Sharon’s creativity, and her medium is a collection of winged fairies, snowmen and other garden features.

More on that later…

What inspired you to transform your garden into such a whimsical fairyland? 

I have always loved Bonsai gardens and became incredibly inspired after visiting the Bonsai Center at the National Arboretum.  There, for the first time, I saw a magnificent Bonsai forest in containers.  This miniature forest inspired me to begin growing my own bonsai in containers in the garden area behind our house.  I bought several small cedar and other evergreen plants and trimmed the lower branches off to look like tall trees in a forest; mine do not compare with the ones at the Arboretum.  I made several containers with those and placed very small Japanese style bonsai ornaments among the little trees.  You’ll have to stop by someday and see what is in our patio out back.  It was this love of the miniature bonsais that started the whole thing in the back area of our house.  I’ve always been a fan of fairies, and when I found the ones I have placed in the front, I couldn’t help myself.  I put one in the front garden, thinking it would likely disappear, but when it didn’t, and we started getting compliments and noticed how the children loved it, the little girl in me just began having a lot of fun.

Which are the oldest pieces in the collection, and when did they debut? 

The first item in the front garden was a little fairy boy who was sitting with his knees drawn up.  I found him and sat him on one of the rocks in the front.  He became quite a hit.  You’ve probably noticed the large concrete fairy statue by our front door – this was our first official fairy and we found him in Middleburg.

Does your husband and other family members get it? 

My husband is a willing partner in the endeavor and encourages me to keep expanding.  If it were up to him, there would be much more than there are now!  And, he was the one who found the tiny Christmas lights.  There came a point when I realized we had likely passed the point of subtlety and had ventured toward overdoing it, but we have both succumbed to the joy of the children and decided we didn’t really care if the grownups thought it was gaudy.  We did have one older gentleman ask us what was up with all the fairies and we just smiled and said, “what fairies?”

Where do you find the features, such as the gazebo, mini adirondack chairs and the Halloween witch? Should we keep our eyes open for additional seasonal appearances?

Merrifield Garden Center in Fairfax, Va.  They have a wonderful selection of miniature evergreens and succulents and have several magnificent large containers that look like forests with houses and other miniature decorations.  They even have one with a train that runs through it, which I have had to put my foot down to keep my husband from doing in the front.  And absolutely, we will continue to add seasonal changes!

When my family and I unwrapped our Christmas ornaments in early December we realized our tiny table top tree was likely to topple over if we loaded it with all of the ornaments we’ve gathered through the years. Two charming, but quite heavy snowmen didn’t make the cut. And I began to think about how fun it would be to reach out to the garden’s owner and see if we could make a donation to her Christmas vignette. And now those two “frosties” get to hang out with fairies.

Do you often hear stories (or letters or visits) from neighborhood children who love to stop by? 

Yours was the first letter – but almost every time we are outside we get comments from people as they pass by.  We often sit by the windows on the front of the house and hear children exclaiming over the fairy garden.  At Halloween, we heard many children tell us stories of how much they love our garden.  Naturally, all of this has just encouraged our little garden to grow and grow.  It thrills us to know that people enjoy it.


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