"Oh no." the woman corrects with the utmost seriousness. "These are no ordinary houses! Those are the homes of magical fairies who live in the forest... and the mushrooms? They belong to trolls!" Suddenly the girl gasps and breaks into a beaming smile. She is all ears.
Jeanne, one of the zoo's accredited fairy experts, is a volunteer and loves her job despite the sweltering heat. "Those kids really keep me on my toes sometimes!" she confides, after making sure that no one is listening. "One girl scolded me because I couldn't tell her all of the fairies names! She made me go back and research the names of the fairies so I could get my facts straight... but now I'm ready!"
The oversight is understandable, considering that there are so many individual fairies in different ecosystems around the world. Besides, it is a well known fact that children can understand the fairies' tinny voices better. Jeanne still relies upon the observations of children to get her most accurate data, so she's always sure to check with her visitors for the latest news. After all; fairies are very secretive and since children are smaller than adults, it's likely that the fairies feel a special kinship with kids.
While going to the Jacksonville Zoo is the easiest way to see fairies, the Butterfly Hollow exhibit has some great ideas you can use to attract fairies into your own backyard. Chances are, you probably already have a fairy or two living in your garden already!
I am grateful for the assistance of Jeanne and my friend Sarah, who were willing to share some of their secrets for getting fairies to live in your garden.
Plant Lots of Flowers
Fairies need animals like frogs, snails and butterflies to protect them and serve as their special companions. Just as a dog is man's best friend, butterflies are fairies BFF's. Getting butterflies to live in your garden is the easiest way to attract fairies, and luckily it's really easy. Plant lots of flowers so that the butterflies can drink the nectar, along with plants like passionflower or pipevines that their caterpillars love to eat. If you need help finding the right things to plant for butterflies, click on this link to find out more.
If you plant flowers, it won't be long before you discover butterflies and other animals showing up. According to fairy authority Sarah Gallinger, this means that fairies can't be far away. Whatever you do, treat the animals kindly and let them enjoy the garden in peace so that you don't make the fairies angry... you wouldn't like them when they're angry. Ms. Gallinger also recommends using flowers that look like they might be magical or could be used by fairies for clothing, because they usually are.
Make them Feel at Home
The team at the Jacksonville zoo did an excellent job creating the perfect habitat for fairies. They've included lots of bushes, which gives fairies a place to hide and go about their business without being noticed by people. Sometimes they like to cool off in the shade of rocks, so stack several rocks together underneath a bush to encourage them to visit. If you're really patient, you might even see moss start to form on the rocks and if you let it grow, fairies will thank you!
Just like people and animals need water, so do fairies. The Jacksonville Zoo made a big waterfall for fairies to use for swimming and drinking water, but all you really need to do is leave out dishes of water every now and then. You might even find butterflies and frogs taking a dip too!
Since fairies and their animal friends need lots of clean places to explore, they strongly disapprove of pollution and love to see you recycling. Show them that you're one of their friends by reusing things around the house for the garden. Bottles can be used to make magical bottle trees and line your pathway with a bit of magic, bowls and pans can be used as molds to make concrete mushrooms, and things like tiles and roof shingles can be used as building materials! While fairies don't like littering, they don't mind if you leave a few feathers or toys near their houses. If they're really happy with you for recycling and attracting nature, you might even find that they've used them to decorate the homes on their own.