In defense of wacky garden stuff

Over at Garden Rant, a fierce defense of painted garden furniture (indeed, garden furniture in general) has sprung up after Elizabeth ranted about magazine advice like painting a bench to match your hydrangeas. As it turned out, quite a few readers love slapping paint on furniture to match, or contrast with, their garden. Susan followed up with an ode to the Adirondack and a defense of what looks to me to be very tastefully painted Adirondack chairs.

At the risk of offending those with delicate or traditional taste in garden accessories, I decided to mount a defense of painted furniture, of using colors that riot and clash, of trashy yard art, of going a little nuts in the garden. Whoo-hooo! I’m having fun in my garden. Are you?

I love colorful furniture . . .


Purple Adirondack chair


Red wicker chairs


Red table next to purple door


I even like junked-up painted furniture, like this peeling red motel chair.


Remember Deborah Hornickel’s cerulean bench beneath the lemon tree? I posted this photo from her garden tour back in October.

I love colorful sheds . . .


I painted my shed and attached greenhouse a grapey purple with a red door and stuck a folksy bottle tree next to it.


Hey, someone else loves purple greenhouses. I took this photo at the Antique Rose Emporium last fall.


My mother’s own pink-and-purple shed. Hmmm, I wonder if this deviant color preference runs in the family?

I love colorful pots . . .


Colorful pots line a shed wall at Natural Gardener nursery.

I love colorful yard art . . .


Scrap-metal mariachis in my garden


I found this in Decatur, Georgia.

And regular readers will have noticed by now that I tend to prefer colorful flowers. Hot pinks and oranges, tempered by blues and silvers, mix it up in my front cottage garden. While I enjoy restful, green gardens at other people’s houses, at my own I go for color strong enough to hold its own against Austin’s relentless summer sun. So maybe it all comes down to geography. I live in the South, therefore I prefer hot colors and tacky yard art.

Maybe. Or maybe I’d be this way even in the chilly, pastel-dominated northeast, melting the snow off the garden with those hot, hot colors.

10 Responses

  1. Eliz. says:

    I would kill for a lemon tree.

    You’d be surprised by some of the stuff in my garden. Very few of us practice what we preach–not wholly anyway. For example, I’ve got a sculpture that makes those mariachi dudes look tame. It would totally kick their asses if, god forbid, inaminate garden objects came to life and decided to battle each other.

    Don’t sell us northerners short–a friend has a complete set of garden furniture made out of discarded shopping carts.

    Lovely garden! The bottle tree has a spiritual connotation, does it not?

    Thanks for dropping by, Elizabeth, and for inspiring a lively discussion at Garden Rant and beyond. I’ll have to look through your site for a photo of your bad-ass sculpture; have you bravely posted a photo of your trashy garden art too?

    I wouldn’t dream of selling northern gardeners short. Anyone who can wait out the bone-chilling cold of northern winters and then feverishly create gorgeous gardens like the ones I see in blogs all the time is a gardener worth his or her weight in compost.

    Thanks for the compliment on my garden. I put up a bottle tree more for the color, height, and regional connotations than anything else. But, yes, I’ve read that bottle trees do have a spiritual—or, more correctly, supernatural—raison d’etre. I talked about it on a post last fall. —Pam

  2. susan says:

    Deviant or not, it’s all fabulous and just what I needed to see on a dreary winter day. Thanks!

  3. r sorrell says:

    Having seen your garden (and its art) in person, I think it looks great. I don’t have anything colorful in mine, but I do have a concrete pig and Saint Frances. If I had my way, I’d put some colorful crystals up in the pin oak in my back yard, but I don’t think my husband would go for it. Anywho… It’s MY garden, and I’ll do what I damn well please with it! (Nevermind that it looks like crap right now.)

  4. Carol says:

    Wonderful pictures. I love your gardens. You’ve inspired me to add more color and go out on the proverbial limb in my own gardens this spring.

  5. By Austin standards would your garden be considered the epitome of retraint and good taste? It is that “keeping Austin weird” thing I am referring to. You don’t come close to weird. Joyful would be a better description.

    I certainly have a penchant for unique objects in the garden, including a rusty green folding metal chair, but a bit of a love/hate relationship with color. In the tropics color can be a non stop year round assault on the senses in a kaleidoscope of unmatching colors.

    The first word out of most clients mouth before any other thought or consideration is “Color”. Green and Brown are not colors anymore.

    It depends on which part of Austin you’re talking about. South Austin (Zanthan’s neighborhood) is considered the epitome of “Austin weird,” but other funky neighborhoods like Hyde Park and the 37th Street neighborhood (of the insane Xmas light displays) pull off their share too. I live in north-central Austin, which while liberal in politics is not particularly so in landscaping. It’s pretty sedate around here, mostly St. Augustine lawns and tidy boxwoods, but certainly no lawn police. Out front I’m more restrained than in back, though we did paint some trim on our house purple a couple of years ago. Probably the weirdest thing about my front garden, in my neighborhood, is that it exists at all. That is, there’s no lawn. So, in answer to your question, no, I’m not doing that much to keep Austin weird. But I do appreciate Austin’s weirdness where I find it. —Pam

  6. Yay, Pam! It looks wonderful in real life, too… and I can vouch that the red wicker chairs are comfortable, not just decorative.

    Your garden has a very clear and defined structure, while you yourself are very artistic. It seems to me that as a result, your design appears, as Christopher says, ‘joyful’, but the same elements used in your garden could leave a different impression if they were plunked down in an overgrown grassy back yard, without hardscape, edges and borders. That kind of garden is also seen in Austin, and might be what people think of when they hear the word ‘weird’.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  7. Colleen says:

    Pam, I am loving your shed and greenhouse!! I’m going to second Carol here….you’ve inspired me to add more lively color into my garden this year. It should go just perfectly with the whole cottage garden thing I’m planning. Thank you, thank you, thank you for posting these!

  8. Pam says:

    Thanks, everybody. Yea, color! I’ll look forward to seeing more color in your garden photos, Carol and Colleen, later this year. :-)

  9. [...] A recent comment by a new blogger led me to visit his site, Dirt Therapy. Wow, the doctor is in! Phillip Oliver, a gardener in Florence, Alabama, and his partner, Michael, have transformed a typical suburban lawn into a riot of color and fantastic garden rooms. Some of their creative structures really caught my eye, including a hanging chandelier planted with coleus and the purple wall pictured above. As you may know, I love color in the garden, and Phillip knows how to tie the color of his plants (see those purple irises?) to the color of his garden structures. The scene above looks very “secret garden” to me, and I’d love to explore this colorful room in person. [...]

  10. I LOVE your garden accents! A lot of fun – very tasteful – and Your Mom’s shed is wonderful!

    Thank you, Shady Gardener. I love my mom’s shed too—so fun. —Pam