The outdoor Artist’s Garden at Garfield Park Conservatory has been rezoned as residential property for fairies this summer. Nearly 20 spritely homes are ensconced among the flowers and shrubs for the delight of visitors who ranged from the stroller set to middle-aged couples on dates on a recent sultry Saturday afternoon.

A limited number of laminated home tour maps are available to borrow at the garden entrance, but part of the exhibit’s fun lies in poking around the foliage in search of hidden fairy cottages. Though no one has reported seeing actual fairies in residence, peeking in the wee windows reveals miniature decorative delights complementing the often ornate yards featuring everything from colorful stones to a tiny blacksmith anvil.

Because the conservatory caps the number of visitors via timed entry reservations and a $5 surcharge for the Fairy Garden tour, there are ample opportunities to survey these magical homes up close. Architectural themes include a small inn for when the in-law fairies visit, a tree house on high and one home that remains magically covered with snow even in the July heat. There’s even a fairy apartment building complete with balconies. Here’s a video preview.

The Fairy Garden exhibit is a great excuse to visit the gorgeous 1908 conservatory and check out all it has to offer, including an indoor fish pond with yellow Dale Chihuly glass lily pads in the iconic Fern Room, as well as a room brimming with cacti of every imaginable shape, the humid Palm House and 10 acres of outdoor gardens. The pleasant gift shop even sells honey harvested at the conservatory, a unique made-in-Chicago gift.

The Fairy Garden exhibit runs through September 17 at the Garfield Park Conservatory.

Photo by Frank Sennett