Home & Design

Green Acre #382: Color Up!

Whether a fantabulous Indian patio umbrella from Etsy, right, or a classic piece from Home Depot, a sunshade can add shelter and color to the garden between blooms.


By Stephanie Cavanaugh

MUCH HAS improved in the garden since last week. The river-rock path flows cleanly to the garage, as intended, and the weekend rains, plus a dose of fertilizer, have perked that which had drooped from neglect. I can get under the porch to a neatly organized potting shed, and the plants that were languishing in too-small pots have found their bit of summer soil. 

Those ladders still tilt adorably against a wall, but I suppose I can’t have everything. 

Now that it’s cleared, I notice it’s a rather dull time in the garden. The tulips are gone, as are the cherry blossoms. The peonies are breathing their last. It’s very . . . green out there. 

In another month the hydrangeas will be in full bloom, the trumpet vine will climb the wall, and the rose of sharons will come into flower, one with red and white blossoms along the porch rail like a cheery umbrella at a café in Capri, another down below, a moody purple for that tropical jungle look that pleases me in the midsummer heat. 

This would not be the optimal time to sell this place, should we decide to sell, which is a perennial question—though less so as the rest of the country roils with political and environmental angst. Washington DC is looking pretty damn good as a place to settle down and age-on in place. 

That said, the garden is in a between time when things other than flowering plants are needed to provide a little perk. 

  1. Colorful chairs and benches stand in quite well for blossoms. Our metal rockers are currently peach, though I’m thinking of painting them something more shocking, or replacing them. I like the aged look of these patio chairs, near right, from Wayfair—and they fold, which is a neat trick if you’re looking for extra seating.
  2. Perhaps a park bench, above right, instead of chairs. A red one, perched in the greenery. The door to our garage is turquoise. What a blast that would be. 
  3. Pots can be as fanciful as flowers, and are frequently more colorful. I do love Chinese pots, center right, in gorgeous soft colors, the chili-pepper heat of Mexican ceramics, near right, and those from Mackenzie Childs, far right, with their Alice in Wonderland air. Or paint your own: Fine Gardening has a fine tutorial.
  4. Speaking of Mackenzie Childs, birdhouses can be a delight. If someone gifted me one of their aviaries, below right, it would be a clutch-my-pearls-and-grab-the-inhaler moment. 
  5. Chandelier trees. Grab some twinkle with crystals dangling from tree branches. If you don’t have a stash try these:  https://www.kinsmangarden.com/product/Chandelier-Tree.
  6. More tree sparkle? Don’t we all have stacks of blank CDs gathering dust? Friends of ours, a pair of architect luminaries, just to emphasize their design bona fides, tied 50 or so to a tree branch and created a glittery waterfall beside the garden door. 
  7. Plant stakes needn’t be so utilitarian. I saw some around the corner walking the granddog yesterday, four pale wood stakes, like legs that badly need the beach, supporting a beauty of a clematis. How about these metal fiddlehead ferns,  far right, instead—with clear fishing line instead of twine. They’d work for tomatoes too, instead of those ghastly wire cages.
  8.  Who needs flowers when they can hoist a spectacular Indian umbrella? Great snob appeal— and another clutch -your-pearls number. You won’t find these at Home Depot. But if you don’t care to wait (India is a ways away), Home Depot does offer classic market umbrellas in a range of primary and sherbet colors—and black and white stripes, for your Parisian fantasy. Bonus! If you have too much sun for a shade-loving plant, a parasol will do the trick. 
  9. More do-it-yourself? Make like designer Tony Duquette, unmatched for flamboyance even 22 years after his death, and spray-paint a felled tree branch (just check out the curb after a storm) a brilliant, shiny coral. He was mad about the stuff. Plonk the branch anywhere, let vines twirl ’round; pretty much instant, and nearly free, exhilaration. 
  10. Grab a book and sack out on the porch. May I suggest the 44 Scotland Street series from Alexander McCall Smith? He’ll have you laughing so heartily that you won’t give a hoot about the garden.  

5 thoughts on “Green Acre #382: Color Up!

  1. stephanie Cavanaugh says:

    Carol — happy to just lie about and read with you…

  2. stephanie Cavanaugh says:

    Bonnie – how fabulous that would be in your garden!!!

  3. Bonnie says:

    If I could afford one of those Indian umbrellas, I would clutch my pearls! Thanks for the fun suggestions for coloring up the garden.

  4. Maggie Hall says:

    Nothing to do with injecting color into the back or front yard (loved your suggestions)….but one of your asides caught my attention: nodded with 100% plus approval at your comment about staying-put in DC. As someone who has made that decision I know exactly what you mean.

  5. Carol says:

    Chuckling in Ohio, relishing reading a book among your garden delights!

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