CENTERTOWN, Mo. - Snow, ice and bitter winds may be outside, but miniature waterfalls, woods and fantasy homes bring warmth to the entrance at Longfellows Garden Center in Centertown.
For the retail space, the first several feet for customers had been used for average product displays. Now, it offers an attraction for tourists as well as a fun inspiration for its gardening customers.
A similar miniature garden - though maybe not quite as large - could fill in dead space in a yard or add a little magic to the underneath of trees and shrubs, said owner Alice Longfellow.
"Your imagination is the only limit to what you can do with it," she said.
A Miniature Garden Workshop at 11 a.m. Saturday at the garden center will teach how to make fairy gardens, terrariums, dish gardens and other unique miniature garden ideas.
The 100-square-feet "Enchanted Forest" began with a border of leftover landscaping rocks and a backdrop of remaining Christmas trees. Above, twinkling lights suspended from the ceiling add to the atmosphere.
Then, Longfellow grabbed some stumps and branches from the woods. And they added moss covering and some commercial fairy garden decorations.
Employees have been adding things here and there for the last month - birdhouses, boots, utensils, mushrooms and more.
It features gnome-sized doors and fairy-sized homes.
"The more you look, the more detail you find," Longfellow said.
Fairy gardens are not meant to be permanent; more like playing with dollhouses as children or model railroading, she said. That offers gardeners flexibility and the creativity.
The miniature gardens benefit from the popular idea to repurpose items, too, Longfellow noted.
Bits and pieces that may have been pushed to the shadows in a shed or basement might be the perfect focal point for the fantasy world.
"There's no wrong thing," Longfellow said.
But the plants are what give the scene its life.
Ground covers, dwarf perennials and dwarf shrubs are available for the larger-scale fairy gardens.
A variety of slow-growing or naturally small-sized plants work for containers and indoor use.
Longfellow has taught several classes on this miniature gardening form. But she continues to be impressed by the creativity of the gardeners.
What makes this low-maintenance garden unique is the creator.
"It's exciting because it's an expression of you and your personality," Longfellow said.