At the Annmarie Sculpture Garden & Arts Center in Solomons, Maryland, outdoor art hangs from trees, sits on lawns, and hides in a copse of trees. Annmarie bills itself as a “place where creativity thrives.” And I might add where fairies fly (mythical as well as wee humans).
The garden is nestled on a bucolic swath of land where the Patuxent River meets the Chesapeake Bay. Every variety of sculpture can be found at the Annmarie Sculpture Garden—carved wood sculpture, twisted bicycle frames, painted tree art, and abstract metal forms. It reminds me of a rural version of the National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden due to the abstract art installations.
Moreover, from April to September, come see the fairies at play in their huts and castles. This special exhibition features over 100 fairy castles. It is part of the museum’s annual “Fairies in the Garden 2021” outdoor installation. It is billed as “low touch or no-touch” fun. (Due to Covid, visitors are requested to wear their masks wherever they cannot keep six feet distant at the Annmarie Sculpture Garden.)
From the second I approach the turnoff at 13470 Dowell Road in Solomons, I knew that adventure awaits. It is noon on a Sunday. The garden gates are flung open to Annmarie Sculpture Garden & Art Center. On each side sits the glazed ceramic gateposts. The pottery features a design of trees and fields on the water’s edge—green, gold, and brown—painted in freestyle swirls.
Called The Gateway, it is “an architectural marker to signify the transition to a different spiritual space.“ This fluid and organic imagery is intended to suggest “a serene blending between the works of humans and nature.”
I drive my car around the circle past luxuriant beds of pink azaleas. Hulking metal sculptures line a broad swath of green. And a dense grove of towering trees a granite circle of stones. The Council of Rings artwork reminds me of Stonehenge, a Celtic shrine in Wiltshire, U.K. I park my car then walk over to the special summer exhibit.
The dense woods reminds me of visiting the grounds of the Biltmore Estate near Asheville, North Carolina. I love the opportunity to smell the spring flowers and touch the trees. But I really want to meet a fairy.
Come away, O human child! To the woods and water wild / With a fairy, hand in hand . . .W. B. Yeats
Land of Fairies
My mission is to find elfland. A village of tiny homes is located near the Arts Center. I peer into the world of fairies—pixie, elf, and spirit. They hide inside tree stumps, under rocks, and behind the wildflowers. And under cover of night, they scurry back to their wee homes or sleep under the stars on the grass. They are silent and unseen to most folk although children often spy on them. I videotape Elfland hoping to catch a fairy with my iPhone.
J. M. Barrie wrote that “when the first baby laughed for the first time, the laugh broke into a thousand pieces and they all went skipping about, and that was the beginning of fairies.” And laughter is a sound heard often at Annmarie—especially when a baby or toddler sees this make believe world.
Hidden Fairy Homes
Altogether, I count over two dozen plastic and wooden fairy homes clustered together at the Annmarie. They sit on a carpet of needles. Some are upended due to the breeze or perhaps the accidental kick of a sneaker. Fairy castles are also hidden around the Annmarie Sculpture Garden.
I feel like a child on Easter morning hunting for hidden plastic eggs. But these fairy castles hide among the groves of trees.
Suddenly, I spy a tiny bird house—covered in moss—resting on a log. Two shell scallops hang above the door. Cobalt blue and diamond white flat glass stones lie on the ground. Is there a gnome inside to answer the bell?
Naturally, a toddler can picture herself inside this home preparing a tea party for her fairy friends. She will wear a necklace of flower petals. And she would sprinkle pixie dust on the dirt floor. When she is tired, she will simply take a nap.
Child’s Play House
But the fun doesn’t end here. You can roam freely on the 30-acre art campus. Search for fairy and gnome huts hidden everywhere. On this warm April day, the birds put on a concert. Bees buzz around the violets and wildflowers. And dogs on leash prance across the lawn.
Although not pint-sized, I visit a two-story play house. I see wide vistas of the property from its second-floor windows. It can be a secret hideaway where a dress-up zinnia fairy can play.
Children will find an enchanted world at Annmarie because fairies live here. Author Cecily Mary Barker writes about the fairies of nature’s blossom in the Complete Book of Flower Fairies.
Gay and naughty in the garden / Pull me up – I grow again.Cecily Mary Barker
Now I can easily imagine the dandelion fairy with her yellow and black wings nestled in the windowsill watching the moon rise.
Next I wander over to the Fairy Lolly nature playspace at the Annmarie Sculpture Garden. Let the tiny actor, musician or dancer come to play in the bright lights of the forest. I watch a 5-year-old girl talk to herself as she swirls around. Perhaps she is acting out a scene from Disney’s Frozen movie.
Nearby I see a mother steer her toddler toward a swing set. Two little friends rush into an playhouse to pretend house sit. Or a child can step inside the tent for camping outside. And a parent will feel her own “inner child” emerge as she pretends to fly like a fairy.
Interestingly, the informal British definition of “lolly” is a piece of hard candy. But a secondary definition is “treat.” And unquestionably the Fairy Lolly is a sweet place for young children.
Children can also build fairy homes in the forest. Annmarie keeps yellow plastic containers stuffed with sticks. The “kid carpenters” can stack the logs after laying out the foundation. Pine needles make a good roof.
Wild Rumpus Run
The final hour of the visit might involve a big walk, skip and jog around the property. This is a good way to wear out your kid before the trip back home. I suggest you head for the Wild Rumpus Run.
First parents should read aloud the instructions which are written in bright pastel colors on the sidewalk:
Fly like a bee. Leap like a frog. Twirl like a fairy.Wild Rumpus Run
Next, the children will explode into the activity. The 4-year-old boy might raise his arms to soar in the air. Or the little girl will jump up and down looking for her lily pad. And this place must erupt in a commotion whenever a preschool class walks this path. Truly, Annmarie is a runway where children pilot their imaginations.
Other Kid Activities
Annmarie strategically schedules surprises throughout its garden. I constantly find myself coming eye to eye with a painted tree, a fairy home, and abstract art. Is the hand waving hello or goodbye?
In addition, Annmarie’s website recommends a few additional kid activities:
- find the hidden Dragons Nest
- search for the hidden tree pop paintings within the tree knots
- pack a picnic to enjoy in the park or enjoy Food Truck Fridays
- find the Creatures in the Garden
As a non-profit organization, Annmarie relies on donations from visitors. Visitors should leave $5 per person. The Garden is owned and supported by the Board of Calvert County Commissioners. TripAdvisor ranks Annmarie Sculpture Garden as #2 of 20 things to do in Solomons.
The garden’s 1/4-mile walking path meanders through the forest past permanent and loaned sculpture. There are over 30 works of art on loan from the Smithsonian Institution and the National Gallery of Art. Artists in the collection include Antonio Tobias Mendez, Barbara Hepworth, Cesar, Robert Engman, Jean Arp, Kenneth Snelson, and Fransisco Zuniga.