In late March and early April, the flowering pink and white dogwood trees in East Texas rank among the state’s most beautiful attractions, and now they’re also home to the forest’s tiniest creatures, the fairies.

The Fairy Gardens, Palestine’s newest addition to the Texas Dogwood Trails Festival, have magically attracted hundreds of visitors to Davey Dogwood Park, beckoning them to park their vehicles and stroll through the forest to view the tiny homes nestled among the flowering dogwoods.

Volunteers built the tiny gardens from natural, biodegradable materials, such as popsicle sticks, branches, dried flowers, pine cones, rocks and pebbles. During the project’s first year, almost 40 miniature cottages, gardens, tree houses, and other structures appeared along the Fairy Garden trails. The peak time to visit the park is the last two weeks in March and the first week in April, when the dogwood trees are in full bloom.

Tourism Director Mary Raum started the project in 2019 to encourage people to get out of their cars and explore the park. The roads wind through the park for more than five miles, but many of the most beautiful trees cannot be seen from the road. The project won first place at the Texas Association of Convention and Visitors Bureau’s Idea Fair for Tourism Promotion last summer.

Some gardens were built by local individuals or families and others by organizations. A contest with cash prizes boosted the project’s competition and creativity.

Contest winners included students from Elkhart High School, who built a garden they called Elkadia. They painted a windmill in their school colors of red, white and blue. Other designers used more natural hues for their palette, fashioning tiny doors on tree trunks to signify entrances to fairy homes. Many of the designs feature delicate details that only fairies can fashion.

New gardens with a variety of themes appear again in 2020, but some of the tiny homes are placed along a flat trail to allow visitors with mobility issues to view the gardens.

With a few gardens hidden behind stumps or logs in the forest, visitors of all ages have opportunities for magical encounters with woodland dwellers.

Davey Dogwood Park is open during daylight hours every day of the festival, March 20 to April 5. For information about the Texas Dogwood Trails Festival and events, call the Palestine Visitor Center at (903) 723-3014 or visit www.visitpalestine.com.

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