I wasn't ashamed of my garden of prize-winning weeds until my eight-year-old friend Sarah showed me her "fairy garden." Bursting with ferns and bleeding hearts, it was positively humming with mystical energy. Soon after, I hooked up with Mary Gregor and became the proud owner of a garden gnome, a fairy altar, and a ceramic purple mushroom. Mary's been gardening professionally for a decade. She got into the racket out of desperation: She worked full-time, went to school, and single-parented a daughter. Gardening was the one thing that grounded and replenished her, and she fell in love with it. She received a degree in horticulture from Oregon State University, and later taught micropropagation at Mt. Hood Community College. However, Mary preferred growing plants in nature rather than test tubes, and eventually found her niche designing gardens that have an organic, somewhat wild feel to them. Planting a garden alongside Mary is an extraordinary experience. After the initial consultation, in which she inquires after what you like and how lazy you are, you go binge shopping at a nursery. She loves the clearance rack, where magically monikered Mystery Roses hang out with sad little plants that are too scraggly for most folks. But in Mary's hands, they'll be flourishing in no time, along with your green thumb! And with a little luck your humble yard will soon be teeming with fairies.

What is a fairy garden, exactly?

A fairy garden is filled with plants that are fairy friendly. Fairies love mist and shade. They love areas that are really well grown and not manicured. There are certain plants and flowers that they're especially attracted to.

For instance?

Foxgloves, fuchsias, violets, ferns, bleeding hearts, honeysuckles. They love long grass, too.

And this is an actual genre of gardening?

Oh yes. There are lots of books out there on the subject. I just read an entire book on tree spirits.

Are fairy gardens popular with your customers?

Yes! Kids especially love them, but adults love them too. Ultimately it's about respect for nature. As the environmental movement gains in popularity, so do fairies. Of course I do other kinds of landscapes as well.

Aren't fairies sort of unpredictable and mischievous?

Some people think fairies are evil little beings but they're not; they're nature's protectors. As long as you respect them they're actually very helpful. They work wonders in the garden. Everything will flourish. If you don't respect them, then they'll wreak havoc. Your keys will come up missing. You'll trip. Things won't grow.