As a child in southern California, I had no landscape that called out for the creation of a fairy house. Even as a person who has worked at the Arboretum for eighteen years, I only made my first fairy house on Sunday at noon to draw interest to a Family Hike scheduled for the afternoon. It’s amazing what can come together with sticks, leaves, cones, seeds, and a humble rock or two! So I was excited to see who would show up for the Family Hike, and what they would create!

Families collect materials for their fairy house constructions.
This fairy house has a fireplace!

Dry browns dominate the Arboretum palette in November, punctuated by bundles of evergreen needles or red fruits scattered about. But the ten families that showed up were filled with eager collectors who soon had piles of leaves (thank you, umbrella magnolia!), hundreds of cones, beautiful scarlet berries, a clod of compacted snow, and wispy strands of dawn redwood male pollen sacs. We entered the little redwood stand beside Willow Path, and the exuberance for construction began in earnest. Children and parents collaborated on their fairy houses, and every aspect of construction had meaning. A fireplace appeared, fashioned from fragments of a hornet’s nest and the fleshy warm colors of barberry fruits. A pathway emerged to connect a father’s house to his child’s house. A little fairy hotel was nestled into the low-growing bamboo, and the final joy came when girls called out for me to see the fairy:  a worm curled up in an acorn cap!

Our next Family Hike takes place on Sunday, December 16. Join us!

From “free” to “friend”…

Established in 1911 as the Bulletin of Popular Information, Arnoldia has long been a definitive forum for conversations about temperate woody plants and their landscapes. In 2022, we rolled out a new vision for the magazine as a vigorous forum for tales of plant exploration, behind-the-scenes glimpses of botanical research, and deep dives into the history of gardens, landscapes, and science. The new Arnoldia includes poetry, visual art, and literary essays, following the human imagination wherever it entangles with trees.

It takes resources to gather and nurture these new voices, and we depend on the support of our member-subscribers to make it possible. But membership means more: by becoming a member of the Arnold Arboretum, you help to keep our collection vibrant and our research and educational mission active. Through the pages of Arnoldia, you can take part in the life of this free-to-all landscape whether you live next door or an ocean away.

For more tree-entangled art, science, and writing, subscribe to Arnoldia by becoming a member of the Arnold Arboretum.