Home & Design

Green Acre #153: 10 Garden Ideas . . .

PERHAPS YOU’VE noticed the air space in your garden. That’s the area above the flower border and below the roofline, or the back wall, or under the tree. Something needs to go there, something that’s breath-catchingly beautiful, and maybe a little witty.

Just as ceilings are a canvas too often neglected, that mid-space—between five and seven feet up—needs a bit of pizzazz.

Of course, we have a few ideas about filling in the middle.

There’s a world of umbrellas out there, and one of them belongs in your garden.

  1. Umbrellas. You don’t even need a flower if you plant a fabulous umbrella over a table, or on the patio. Umbrellas from Bali, Thailand and Japan are the bailiwick of Oriental Umbrellas, a UK importer of garden parapluies blooming with color and fringe and elaborate ornamentation. A big one will set you back $400 or so (and probably as much again for shipping). But oh! The effect. There are smaller ones as well to just jab about the garden.

The Iyanna Market Umbrella is almost 9 feet wide and is on sale for $82.99 at Wayfair.com. It also comes in aqua, lime green and tan.

In the more modestly priced, hundred-bucks-or-so range, Wayfair has market umbrellas in shades such as acid green, mango, flamingo pink and Tiffany blue. Some of the umbrellas even have lights installed on the underside, making dinner feel like a trip aboard a UFO.

Solar Umbrella String Lights can perk up a patio at night. This set is $19.99 at Bed Bath and Beyond.

Already have a perfectly good umbrella but think it would look cool with lights? Amazon has battery-powered ones that string under the canopy, and Bed, Bath & Beyond offers solar lights that drape over the top. Either of those will cost less than a single Harriet Tubman.  

LEFT: A chandelier adds a nice element to a garden. This four-arm wrought-iron candle chandelier is $37.99 at Houzz.com.
RIGHT: The world is awash in picture frames, big and small, new and used. Pick a pretty shrub and “frame” it by hanging a frame in front of it.

  1. Chandeliers. A crystal chandelier is always a stunner, but you’ll have to retrofit it for candles unless you have it under a roof. Consider a black wrought-iron chandelier from Houzz. They have a four-arm number for just $38. Pick up some fishing line at the hardware store and tie it to a tree branch. With candles lit at night it appears to be floating in space.

    LEFT: Flameless “candles” are the ticket for evening patio fetes. Available just about anywhere.
    RIGHT: Edison bulbs are overdone, but these LED versions are dimmable and come in warm white, daylight white and frosted daylight white at Amazon.com, packs of six for $24.79 to $26.99.

    3. Faux candles. Flameless battery-operated candles have come a long way from plastic discs with plastic flames. Now they’re covered in wax, in about any hue you can think of, and have ingenious lights that seem to dance and flicker like real candlelight. Stick them in trees, in niches, wherever, with no fear of setting off a conflagration—though I have always found firemen to be extremely cute.

  1. String lights. Oh my, these are nearly overdone. But LED Edison bulbs still bring a smile when strung over tiny gardens and narrow alleys; they bring café style. They’re also gorgeous in the winter months when everything is dead, or even better, covered in snow, like in this photo from Potager on  Instagram. There are approximately a zillion string-light options online, including starbursts, curtains and even tent-scale canopies—most so cheap that anyone can afford to play. Look for warm or soft white to avoid glare.
  1. Picture frames. With all of the Marie Kondo-ing going on, there are probably plenty of fabulous frames right now at the thrift shop or in a yard sale. Snap one up and suspend it in front of a particularly gorgeous plant or in front of a statue or other garden ornament, for a 3D effect (that fishing line does it again).
  1. Statues. Right.
  1. Pillars and posts. Ah, for a Corinthian or Doric column. Sink one or maybe have two flanking a walkway and topped with a flowering basket of something or hoist your gargoyles atop the pillars.  
  1. Hanging baskets from trees. Some trees grow spindly, with foliage and flowers confined to the top; I’m looking at you, Rose of Sharon. Hang a basket of flowers or ferns from those limbs and create interest along the stem.

    Round paper lanterns are always welcome in the garden. These are from the online Paper Lantern Store.

  2. Solar Chinese lanterns. Garden lanterns have been around so long now that they’ve gone from cool to overdone to cool again. At the Paper Lantern Store they have them in a range of sizes, from a wee eight-inch number to huge 48-inch rounds, in paper or in nylon in a range of colors and patterns— though we like white for the ethereal moonlight glow.

    A birdcage with a stuffed bird inside hanging in the garden. Why not? / Photo by Stephanie Cavanaugh.

  3.  Birdcages. A wonderful bit of whimsy I came across a few years back was an antique birdcage suspended from a tree with a stuffed cockatoo on a perch. Even sillier? Glittering glass goldfish ornaments swimming in the air.

Speaking of fish. Last week I mentioned that somehow our feeder fish, the cheap sort you’d usually buy to feed your anaconda, all went belly-up in a mysterious tragedy. They have been replaced. My Prince sprang for 10 of the 32-cent fish, as opposed to the 18-cent fish. I’m sure this was a torturous decision for him and I’m glad I wasn’t along for the ride.

—Stephanie Cavanaugh

LittleBird “Stephanie Gardens” also has ideas about gardens, hers and yours. She shares them on Thursdays.


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2 thoughts on “Green Acre #153: 10 Garden Ideas . . .

  1. Carol Roger says:

    I think that you should plan a backyard party, in your delicious backyard, and invite me!

  2. Lisa says:

    I especially enjoyed the Harriet Tubman detail.

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