Fairytales are a wonderful form of storytelling. There is action, adventure, magic, heroism, love, romance, honor, loyalty…well the list goes on and on. And the villains are clearly defined. They’ve usually betrayed their friends and family for power or money.
The lessons fairytales have to teach us are good ones. Granted, the stories aren’t always politically correct in our own time, but the ideals are still relevant. So, rather than try to pull our favorite stories into a pleasing 21st century version of themselves…why not write new ones?
That’s when I decided to write Robin & Jamie.
Action, adventure, magic and romance. An ancient curse has returned to the lands and Robin and Jamie must help a fractured group of heroes reunite. Only by working together can they solve an age-old prophecy to stop an evil sorceress and Lord of the North.
Trees are such a major element in many types of story telling. But they almost become a character in their own right with fairytales, whether in groups or alone.
Several trees make up the forest, where so many of our favorite stories take place. The woods can offer protection from danger and a hiding place for those like Snow White, searching for a safe haven. Or the woods can cause confusion and lead to trouble, like Hansel and Gretel ending up at the Witch’s gingerbread house.
Trees individually can be homes to wise elves, fairies and other magical beings. And trees with an enchantment put upon them can even serve others, like the apple trees in the Wizard of Oz. But one of the most popular trees in many stories is the willow. Usually found along streams and other bodies of water, a willow holds a special place for many story lovers.
Not only are willows beautiful, but they are said to have a magic all their own. Willow branches are so connected with water that they are often used for divining well water. And willow branches root so easily, that “willow water” is actually said to make rooting other plants more successful. Willows can also grow in moving water like streams, where other trees may wash away in spring flooding.
So the next time you think of what type of fairytale garden might be right for you, don’t forget trees. Almost any garden has room for an apple tree or dwarf evergreen. And if you’re very lucky, you might even find space for a willow. There’s nothing wrong with having a little magic in your garden…
Flowers play such an important part in many famous fairytales. But what flower says fairytale style to you? We’ve talked about roses, but what about daisies or delphiniums? Do you think of a woodland garden or an English cottage garden, when you imagine your fairytale space?
For me, lupines are a wonderful fairytale flower. They look at home in woodland or cottage gardens and the amazing variations of color (even on the same plant) look rather magical. In the picture above, one plant has pink, blue-lavender and even a bloom with white on it. Easy to believe fairies might have had a hand with that combination.
My favorite fairytale garden is a mixture of shrub roses, perennials, herbs, annuals, bulbs…everything mixed together. And with a color theme and planting plan that makes it look magical and effortless. It’s not, but if you do enough planning ahead of time, you can find plants that compliment each other, not only with colors, but bring in beneficial bugs, like the same amount of sun or shade…and the same amount of water.
At the end of the day, we all want a garden we can enjoy and relax in. So don’t make it too complicated, but try to add some place to sit and enjoy your beautiful flowers. We all love a good fairytale…so create the space that will bring you, your happily ever after.
How many times is the magic in a fairytale instigated by a potion? The Evil Queen makes herself into a crone and gives the apple to Snow White. Alice grows smaller and then larger in Wonderland. The Little Mermaid gains her legs and visits her prince…and it’s all done with potions.
Any witch or sorceress worthy of the name could make potions. The good ones used the potions to help the heroes, while the evil ones made potions to defeat them. And potions could contain some really creepy things…but most started with basic herbs from the garden.
Herbs have been used for fragrance, flavoring, medicines and even magic for centuries. Even before the early Greeks and Romans used them, herbs were valued for their many attributes. And monks had herb gardens in monasteries during Medieval times, throughout Europe.
An herb garden often contained roses, since rose hips were one of the few sources of Vitamin C…and of course, for the fragrance. Lavender was also popular, as were many other herbs we still use today. In a modern herb garden, roses and lavender are joined by sage, dill, mint, chives, basil, oregano, bee balm, rosemary, marjoram, thyme, tarragon and many others.
Herbs are still used today to make many potions, although some might say the potions are now recipes for healthier foods, relaxing bath oils, even teas. If you think about it, there is definitely a bit of magic in the herbs and potions we use everyday…making herbs an important and wonderful part of any fairytale garden.
Fairytales are often about journeys and adventure. The hero or heroine leaves their home and courageously set off for the unknown…often faced with difficult, if not impossible, odds. And the path is rarely direct or easy. It is often a winding one, hiding what lies around the next bend.
Will the path lead to wealth? Romance? Danger? All of the above? Many times the path will travel through the forest. This is particularly challenging, for the trees block not only the view, but also light and even sounds. A fairytale forest can be beautiful, but still dangerous. It’s not easy to set aside fear of the unknown and travel down a path you do not recognize…no matter how inviting it may seem.
What makes a fairytale character special is that they do this every time and we wait…holding our breath just a little, to see if they will succeed. How many times do we hope that the hero arrives in time to stop the evil queen? Or the children are not lost in the woods? Or that the princess is not forced to marry the man she does not love?
So, the next time you see a path, consider carefully where it may lead. It could be to adventure, wealth, or something more hazardous. Or if you choose the right path…it may even take you to your happily ever after.
Forests are one of my favorite fairytale places. Trees grow all around you, making it difficult to see where you’re going or where you have been. Light streams down through the branches, giving those shaded spaces under the trees even more mystery. Eyes watch you as you walk down the path. Do they belong to rabbits, a fox…or maybe something larger, like a deer or even a wolf?
Forests are beautiful, yet dangerous places. And only the very brave or very foolish will go through a forest at night. During the daytime, many famous storybook characters go into the forest to gather food, visit a loved one or travel to another town. There are even those, who live in the forest. And some of them keep bread crumbs with them…just in case.
But a forest is a living thing, constantly changing and growing. Trees fall, new trees grow, animals migrate and paths are washed out in rainstorms. It takes a knowledge of the woods, to successfully navigate such a place. And an understanding of the ways of the forest, to successfully coexist with the many creatures that call it home.
So, the next time you walk along the trees, look past the branches into the shady areas underneath and beyond. Stop and listen to the sounds of the forest and think about the brave fairytale characters, who ventured into such a place. They may have looked for adventure, riches, love….or even escape from an Evil Queen. But they took a chance and braved the forest. And some even found their happily ever after.
All great fairytales have one thing in common….a great romance. Snow White would not be the same story without Prince Charming and true love’s kiss. The couple meet, have to be parted, stay true to one another and are finally reunited to live happily ever after.
While this may be the ideal, it is an important part of fairytales and shows the influence of romantic or courtly love in the story. The idea that love had to be true, proven and worthwhile was made popular during the time of knights, jousting for the approval of their lady or queen. Often the knight would never marry, let alone be able to spend time alone with this lady, but the idea has had a huge influence on our own view of romantic love.
The unattainable, the ideal, the woman worth risking all for. This is what so many fairytales embody…the man or prince, who can prove himself to such a woman, who might even be worthy of her hand. Many critics dismiss fairytales as a story of a girl or princess waiting around for Mr. Right to show up and save her. But in truth, it is about a man searching the countryside for Miss Right, in order to prove himself worthy of her respect, admiration and if he is very lucky, her love.
So, the romance of a fairytale is not the woman waiting in the garden for the man to notice her….but more likely the man waiting in the garden, hoping to catch sight of the woman he loves from afar. And if he can prove himself worthy, he may even walk through the gardens with this woman. She is the main character and it is really her story. After all, most fairytales are named for the woman, are they not?
By the end of the story, the the two are able to overcome all the obstacles in their path and pledge themselves to one another, with true love’s kiss. And as we all know….they live happily ever after. It’s that classic fairytale ending of romance, commitment and enduring love. Fairytales help us believe, or at least hope, that such a love might be possible. And that’s the real magic.
Fairytales use magic to make the impossible…possible. There are evil Queens with magical powers, sorcerers, fairies, even magic beans. So why is magic so necessary as part of the story? Maybe because it turns an everyday item like beans, into a wonderful adventure.
Magic in the fairytale garden is just as important. Think about arches that make the everyday path more inviting…and more mysterious. Shaded by climbing roses, honeysuckle or other vines, it makes one wonder what might be hiding on the other side.
Fanciful flowers are another important part of the fairy garden. Any flower that changes color is an amazing addition…and it’s not that difficult to find roses and other flowers that do just that. Consider larger than normal flowers such as short sunflowers with big blooms. Or go the other extreme and have tiny flowers that are just right for fairies. Alyssum and thyme are both great choices. And don’t forget the unusual flower, such as bee balm…which makes a very bold statement in any garden.
And while you’re adding all these textures and colors to the garden, you’ll also be bringing in hummingbirds, butterflies and other visitors. Was that a hummingbird darting so quickly past the arch….or a butterfly flitting past the window…or was it possibly a fairy looking for a quiet place to take a nap?
What makes fairytales so wonderful? The contrasts between black and white, right and wrong….even rustic and romantic. If a fairytale has too much of one influence and not the other, the story doesn’t hold up. Too good and it’s sugary. Too dark and it’s a horror story. There has to be that perfect balance to keep us entertained, on the edge of our seat, but still rooting for that happy ending.
The same is true in a fairytale garden. Too much color and it becomes chaotic. Too green and it’s a shady retreat, but not as interesting as a theme of silvers, white and a pale pink or blue. In our garden, we are surrounded by pine trees, which form a beautiful, yet rustic backdrop. So we decided to add several black iron arches and arbors…and a mix of cottage blooms. Shrub roses and climbers are everywhere, as are a beautiful mix of perennial flowers, blooming shrubs and an amazing array of spring bulbs.
Without those pine trees, I think the garden might be too much! But with the alpine backdrop of trees and mountains in the distance, the romantic blooms of so many flowers are unexpected, but exactly what a fairytale garden needs.