Garden Bloggers’ Design Workshop – Garden Whimsy


Blue bottle 'flower' (with boat augers and lamp fixture). Blue bottle tree in background.

A couple weeks after Nan announced this round of the Garden Bloggers' Design Workshop, Steve Orr's New York Times Q&A column in The New York Times (Picking Accessories for the Plants) offered good advice on garden ornamentation that applies equally to whimsy. His advice:

  • Don't go overboard.
  • Use found objects.
  • Use surprise.
  • Make ornaments focal points, but don't distract too much from the plants.

Even in a very lushly planted yard, a visitor’s eye usually will go straight to any nonplant feature. It’s best not to have several ornaments visible at a glance, competing with each other, since the most interesting landscapes have a little mystery. Place one object half-hidden in a leafy shrub and position another around a corner, so that its discovery is a surprise.

Did I mention don't go overboard? If I have a problem with whimsy in the garden, it's probably that my eye gets too accustomed to whimsical elements. Before you know it, my yard will be filled with crap. Hopefully I'll notice before the neighbors.

For those of you who aren't in the neigborhood, here's what I've got scattered around. (The camera exercise once again reveals to me I've got way more than I thought.) I'll also include some shots from other gardens at the end.

Floating bowling ball on bent rebar. Long story of the midnight bowling ball accident of 2003 from a previous design workshop post.

Sugar and flower canisters make great pots. So do olive oil cans.

How could I not buy a bottle of Chilean brandy when the bottle looks like an Easter Island statue? It was all I could do to drink the brandy. But I earned a container ornament for my efforts.

Jade checks out the happy turtle. Not so visible in the pot is an ancient hand-made Chia head that I remember from childhood. It split a few years ago so now I have two profiles looking up at me from the pot.

Someday I'll make a pilgrimage to the local pink flamingo factory and get a real one. But for now I like the one I have with its spinning wings.

Sloggers still work as hanging container for succulents. Back story and my infamous garden footwear review.

Spilled trough with hypertufa balls.

Glow-in-the-dark tree guy.

My mini-water-garden probably counts more as ornamentation than it does as whimsy.

I float blossoms in this old cattle waterer.

My friend Marcia has a pretty whimsical garden. She does it with a lot more class than I do. More pictures of her garden here.

Shirley G. has the best whimsical garden in these parts. Shirley is a member of our local Adirondack Chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society. The group toured her garden back in 2005, when I took these pictures.

A salvaged canopy bed that I picture now covered with vines.

The family.

Best shoe garden I've seen.

Shirley also had a cool heart-shaped water garden tub, a Wizard of Oz garden and lots of other cools stuff punctuated by some great plants.

Have at it. Just don't overdo it.

Print Friendly

Pings on Garden Bloggers’ Design Workshop – Garden Whimsy

July 30, 2008
May 10, 2009

Comments on Garden Bloggers’ Design Workshop – Garden Whimsy Leave a Comment

July 20, 2008

eliz @ 8:51 am #

I must have that brandy bottle. I don’t know if I’d put it in the garden, but I love it!

Pam/Digging @ 10:55 am #

I like to see folks having fun with their gardens. As always, I enjoyed your bottle tree and flowers, and I still remember the bowling ball story!

Robin Wedewer @ 6:04 pm #

Ah, some very good examples of whimsy. I’m not sure I’m on board with the bowling ball. But I will admit to making my own forest of Ents with faces on trees. And I just posted on Examiner about some cool flamingo stuff, so that’s all good.

Fun post!

Gardening Examiner

Anna @ 7:45 pm #

I never tire of seeing how things can be displayed in the garden. You’ve made it interesting and fun. I bet it looks just as interesting in Winter. Loved your friend’s garden too.

July 24, 2008

I had a flamingo like yours many years ago, but painters dropped a ladder on it. I loved it in all its tackiness. Your blue bottle plant is spectacular & just seeing the bowling ball reminded me of your post about it. You’ve inspired me to try to do more found objects (I have only reused glass chandelier shades), but then I have to consider your advice not to overdo it. There’s a thin line between whimsy & cheesy.

July 27, 2008

I love the shoe garden!

July 30, 2008

Nan Ondra @ 9:42 am #

A truly excellent collection of whimsy, Craig. A pink flamingo in your garden? I’m truly shocked – and delighted. And how fun to see that you have wonderfully whimsical friends as well. I apologize for taking so long to visit, but I greatly appreciate you participating in the Design Workshop again this month!

Lisa at Greenbow @ 3:43 pm #

I like your whimsy. It doesn’t appear that you have too much. I really like the bowling ball on the rebar. Does it swing in the wind? That would be a hoot. Your friend has even more things than I do. That says a lot to me.

July 31, 2008

Your whimsy post was a lot of fun, Craig – I had to leave a pair of heirloom concrete flamingos with my sister when we moved to TX – they’d already been repaired and that trip might have finished them off. Wish I still had them. When Felder Rushing came to Austin last year he brought his Featherstone flamingo along – you really do need one!

If you want to make your bottle tree sound more classy, Felder gives this genus the botanical name Silica Transparencii ‘Gaudi’ in his Tough Plants book.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

September 14, 2008

Liam Manchester @ 2:46 pm #

Looks like a lot of those statues are from They have many cool things for the garden. I own many!

Leave a Comment

Fields marked by an asterisk (*) are required.

Made with an easy to use WordPress themeLight, Silver skin by Denis de Bernardy (Adapted by EJC)