‘Garden on, girl!’
During this year’s Pioneer Days, a woman yelled this phrase out her car window as she drove by Melinda Moore’s house on Second Avenue in Marlinton. Moore was in the front yard tending to her multitude of flowers, house plants and succulent fairy gardens that surround her front porch.
For most of her life, Moore has been gardening. Growing up on Jerico Road, Moore helped her grandmother, Eula Moore, with her gardens.
“I always joked with my kids as we were driving and saw yellow mustard growing alongside the road because when we were kids, we picked that out of the fields,” she said. “My grandma and grandpa Moore always gardened. They had four or five gardens.”
Moore has always had a knack for gardening and about eight years ago, she started a hobby that has become popular online – creating fairy gardens.
A fairy garden is a container – anything from an old wash tub or ceramic planter to old rain boots – with small plants and miniature characters, animals, houses and supplies creating a whimsical scene.
After seeing fairy gardens online and coming home with a pair of succulent plants, Moore decided to try her hand at making her own.
“I brought these succulents home, and I learned that you can start them anywhere,” she said. “I saw ideas online and things like that. I did one for Jessica [Hefner] – she has it at her beauty shop. I made a horse themed one for a little girl for her birthday. I made a little camping scene.
“Sometimes a container will catch my eye like, ‘Hmm, I can make something out of that,’” she said. “Sometimes I see ideas on the Internet and go from there.”
The first fairy garden Moore made is in a large wash tub and contains a farm scene with a rabbit hutch, free range chickens, a farmhouse with gnomes inhabiting the space. It once had succulents among the items.
Moore bought a lot of the miniatures online, but has learned there are places in the county where she can find what she needs, as well.
“I drive down to Jack Horner’s at Seebert just to buy stuff,” she said. “He has these miniature animals down there.”
Moore finds inspiration everywhere she looks and continues to make fairy gardens, using everyday objects as planters for her succulents and other plants.
While the fairy gardens are self-contained, Moore’s love for gardening and growing plants has expanded from her front porch into the front and side yards of her house, as well as into a large garden on the adjacent lot.
“I have a big garden,” she said. “I never got into canning, though. I just share with the neighborhood.”
Included in her flower beds is an old toy Tonka truck filled with succulents, a small boat filled with flowers, a pond with a waterfall and a moon flower which only blooms at dusk.
When she needs help with the heavy lifting of constructing something large, like the pond, Moore enlists the help of her partner, Chuck Sheets.
“That was a lot of work,” Moore said, pointing to the pond. “It’s not too much to upkeep now, it was just getting it installed. I drug that pond from work. I work at the Beckwith Farm, and it was out in the garage. I ordered a waterfall box. When Chuck started – it had one big rock, and I wanted a waterfall box. We ended up with Mount Everest.
“It was like a mild divorce before we were finished,” she added, laughing.
Standing back and looking at Moore’s yard and garden, it looks like a human size version of one of her fairy gardens.
In front of the garden is a bench with a pair of jeans and boots in the seated position, filled with dirt and flowers. In the garden, CDs glitter in the sun as defense against pests, and in the front corner, a pole holds a former ceiling fan which Moore and Sheets turned into a windmill painted like a sunflower.
“I tried it with just the ceiling fan blades, but it would hardly turn,” Moore said. “So, I went to Glades and got some flooring. That’s what is on there now. It turns in a good breeze.”
Everywhere she looks, Moore sees project ideas and even has friends and family collecting items they think she might be able to use in either her life size garden or fairy gardens.
“That was a Nativity set,” she said, pointing to a two-story rustic fairy garden cabin. “My mom bought me that at a yard sale because she knows how I am. I had Chuck cut out the two-level story, then I made the second level.”
She even “threatens” to use items Sheets has brought home.
“Chuck dragged a flat bottom boat home the other summer,” she said. “I keep threatening that if he doesn’t use it, I was going to put it in the side lot and put a pond in it with flowers. Now, he has this junker cabin back here, and I said, ‘I’m telling you what, next spring, if that thing is still sitting there, I’m putting it in the side lot, and I’m painting it purple, and I’m putting flowers around it.’”
Moore hopes to share her gardening knowledge with the community by offering a class at the Community Wellness Center in Marlinton.
“I volunteer at the Wellness Center with the kids,” she said. “I’m thinking I might do a little class about seeds in the fall.”
Moore is happy to carry on the traditions she learned from her grandparents, as well as add to that knowledge with her artistic flair.
“It draws me in,” she said of gardening. “I enjoy it. I’d say my granny, Eula, is why. We grew up right around the road from her – gardening, seeding – I live for summer.”