A New Hobby Fit Only For the Silly

Garden mailbox

Story and photos by Cynthia Ruehlig

Many times before, I’d heard the suspicious rustling noise, but could not believe it when there, before my eyes, was proof of the freeloading gnome living in my back yard.

I brushed aside parched needles fallen from the giant cedar tree – thick debris from past winters – to uncover a shining silver mailbox. Written in beautiful Gaelic script was the culprit’s name – Horace.

My husband Walter and I go on weekend adventures to peel off the stress of daily life. During one jaunt, we found ourselves in an antique garden in Sutter Creek, probing the curious display of metal chairs the size of a matchbox. The encounter inspired a new hobby fit only for the silly – miniature gardening.

In pursuit of this absolutely useless endeavor, I scoured nurseries for dwarfed-leaf plants that stay small; gently scraped mosses from cracks and crevices; and endlessly shopped online for whimsical garden furniture and accessories. In my garden, I created a refuge for mythical creatures.

If you build it, they will come. Inside an heirloom birdcage, I pictured nymphs dining on fanciful white bistro bedecked with a silver teapot on a tray sheltered by Boston ferns, baby tears and succulents.

Tiny earthen footprints lead to where imagined fairies rest on a bench watching splatters from a birdbath, or ride a bike whilst savoring wee vegetables grown in a fenced plot guarded by a thumb-sized copper wire scarecrow dressed in overalls, straw hat and green rubber boots.

I pondered my dilemma, finding solace in the slow-dripping sound of water from a nearby fountain. Should I evict my uninvited guest? Horace seems settled in his humble abode. Colorful mushrooms shroud the mossy path that meanders amidst frogs and snails before fading behind a keyed red door perched on the gnarled roots of a mature redwood. A tire swing hints of youngsters in his household.

Sigh, I’ll just take it easy on the pixie dust.

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