A sense of community can be built with small items

by Jan Robbins

Richmond District resident Christine Raher is trying to build neighborhood community with very small items, “fairy garden” items to be exact. Her fairy garden is located on Cabrillo Street at 31st Avenue and is attracting participants young and old.

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A fairy garden at 31st Avenue and Cabrillo Street is comprised of miniature artworks,
many of which are created from recycled and reused items. Courtesy photos.

The idea came after visiting her youngest son and family in Portland, where “fairy gardens” are common in the front yards of homes.

“Portland’s north-west moisture easily transforms small areas of grass- and moss-covered stones into miniature gardens, and neighborhoods are filled with them. It becomes a community activity where children walk by to move and add small items, like shiny stones, miniature toadstools and painted doorways. I call mine a ‘rock fairy garden’ because it’s mostly rocks,” Raher said.

After announcing the creation of a community fairy garden on the Next Door website, donations began to arrive. Especially welcome were items made with repurposed materials, like marbles, popsicle sticks and seashells. Rather discovered several fairy garden sites on Pinterest and used ideas she found, including a marble on a golf tee to make a “gazing ball.”

“I took out my glue gun and bamboo skewers and had a couple of ladders in no time,” laughs Raher. “Luckily, a very talented neighbor has taken an interest in the garden and has produced some beautiful items, including painted doorways on rocks, a picnic bench made of coffee stirrers and a lovely painted bed for the fairies to rest. I call her the rock fairy godmother.”

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Christine Raher holds a miniature picnic
bench from her fairy garden that was
created with coffee stirrers.

In addition to the large square flower bed used for the fairy garden, the Raher household also participated in the Public Bench Project and secured a bench for one side of the garden.

“Having the bench really made the fairy garden come alive,” Raher said. “It allows neighborhood walkers to take a break and look at developments in the garden, since it always changes. Each day my husband and I run to the window when we hear someone active in the garden. Sometimes, it’s children moving little pieces around, or, it’s senior ladies speaking their native language while they admire and smile at all of the miniatures they see, occasionally adding something.”

Raher’s ultimate vision is seeing more fairy gardens throughout the Richmond neighborhood. Perhaps even creating a “fairy garden walk” for small children.

“Making a fairy garden is as simple as placing marbles in a circle,” claims Raher. “The most fun comes from finding creative ways to make miniature items from recycled materials, or just hand painting a rock with a heart on it.”

In addition to on-line resources on how to create fairy garden items, Raher also highly recommends a familiar neighborhood store, The Hobby Company of San Francisco, located on Geary Boulevard at 16th Avenue.

“They have an incredible selection of inexpensive miniature items that go perfectly in a fairy garden. Children love to create homes and places for the little critters to play and rest, and the selection allows for every person to put their own personal touch on their magical space. This shows you that community can be built with something very, very small.”

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