Home & Design

Green Acre #196: Lighting Up the Garden

Once a discard, now a centerpiece in the Cavanaugh rear garden. / Photo by Stephanie Cavanaugh.

‘HOW MANY are too many chandeliers?” asked My Prince, admiring a new installation above the garden path.

This was a startling (and not particularly manly) question, I thought, though it gave me great ruffles of  pleasure. “I don’t know, but we’ll find out,” I said. 

The first chandelier I hung in a garden was a house gift for my friend Susan. It was a simple black wrought-iron number,  about two feet around, with five (maybe six) arms curved upward with flat discs for candles. The Prince and I found it in Tijuana, where we’d taken a day trip from Susan’s place in Los Angeles, a cottage near Venice Beach. 

Suspended from a tree branch by transparent fishing line, it seemed to hover in space. At night, with candles lit, the flames danced in the dark as though it had blown in from a Disney cartoon. 

Of course, I wanted one—but we weren’t driving back to Mexico for a damn chandelier. Or words (not mine) to that effect.   

Surely we’d find another. We didn’t. Sometimes, when you want something, you just have to get it. Regrets can molder even 30 years on. 

The new chandelier hangs from the Kwanzan cherry tree over the entrance to the workshop. But who knows? It may soon lord it over the pond. / Photo by Stephanie Cavanaugh.

Not long after, however, I found a chandelier in the local thrift shop, a place sadly shuttered when the neighborhood became too hoity-toity for such down-market emporiums. It was of gold-colored embossed metal, with dangerous wiring and missing crystals—but it was just a couple of bucks. 

I ripped out the wiring, inserted candles and draped the thing in some of the shiny magpie bits I collect: broken necklaces with colored stones, clear beads, a strand of silk ivy, bunches of purple and green glass grapes, and a big, crystal ball dripping from the base. 

For a decade or so it hung from a sturdy branch of the apricot tree, centered over the round dining table. When the apricot tree finally died (thank god and don’t ever plant a fruit tree in a small yard) the chandelier was moved to the back porch, where it hung for several decades more. Each spring, birds built nests in its arms, cawing in irritation if I dared to flop down on the couch beneath it beneath it to read.

The chandelier is lying under the porch at the moment since we’re in a (really exhausting—don’t ask) phase of redoing and there’s been no place for a hook, though it will be rehung shortly. 

The new one we’re admiring is dangling from a limb of the Kwanzan cherry that replaced the apricot: my Mother’s Day gift from The Prince. He found it on the sidewalk (we have the best sidewalks) sometime last week. It was a dainty wrought-iron fixture, white metal, and hung with a scattering of crystals. As it looked more suitable for a young girl’s room, I asked him to paint it black, which gives it gravitas and lets it more or less disappear in the leaves—here hoping for something of the effect of that Mexican number. 

We’re discussing moving it over the pond, which would mean hanging it from a telephone wire as there is nothing else to hang it from directly overhead. It’s light enough—lighter than the tree branches that shudder the wires when strong winds blow—so it should be fine. 

The pond is already a busy place, surrounded by ferns and flowers, with a large chunk of amethyst sitting on the moss growing over the base of the fountain—half a woman in a drapey gown, her torso sitting on one rock, her head on another. She’s broken a couple of times. But wabi sabi and all that. 

As I never care to leave well enough alone—well enough is never enough—the chandelier will move. Waterproof, remote-control tea lights are arriving from Amazon this afternoon, or so they say. It would be a nuisance to drag out a 6-foot ladder whenever we wanted to light candles. I’ll let you know how that works out.

Somewhere around here—maybe the garage, the basement, or the attic—there’s another chandelier that the Prince bought for me at Community Forklift, a used building parts place where he rummages for doors and windows, tiles, slabs of marble  and other fascinating victims of someone’s remodeling, which he brings home and puts away for projects that never seem to happen.

He bought the fixture as a project for me some years ago, but I never took to it, not needing another project at that moment.  Perhaps now, though, since it seems he’s already regretting the soon-to-be-empty air space above the garden path . . . a few baubles and bits and a length of fishing line . . .

How many garden chandeliers are too many? Well, let’s hang three and see. 

—Stephanie Cavanaugh

LittleBird “Stephanie Gardens” can never have enough stuff in the garden.


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2 thoughts on “Green Acre #196: Lighting Up the Garden

  1. Maggie Hall says:

    Can always rely on you to throw a welcome light into these lock-down days!

  2. jean b. gordon says:

    why not another one??? maybe painted an aqua to go with the door and window

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