In Seattle, a haven for garden whimsy

  • By Cedar Burnett Associated Press
  • Wednesday, May 30, 2012 12:40pm
  • Life

SEATTLE — I feel like Alice in Wonderland. Sprinting past an alligator drinking a soda pop and a T-Rex playing guitar, I lean toward a family of colorful metal toadstools that come to my knee.

“Aren’t those great?” asked Jim Honold as he ushers me through a forest of recycled oil drum statues at his Home &Garden Art store.

I’ve come to this Disneyland for gardeners seeking inspiration for easy ways to add whimsy to gardens, and Honold is giving me the rundown.

“Adding art to your garden is an extension of your identity,” he said as we brush past a murder of concrete crows. “You decorate the inside, why not the outside? Any personality, any hobby, can be represented — classical, funky, seasonal — you name it.”

Looking around, it appears he’s right. There’s the giant metal umbrella coat-stand for a classy infusion of humor; a multitude of hobby-inspired birdhouses; 4-foot metal lobsters for fishing enthusiasts with no attachment to subtlety; and an old tricycle planter box aimed at the nostalgic set. Everywhere, whimsy abounds.

But how do you actually start adding lawn art to an outdoor living space?

“Instead of throwing stuff in the attic or garage, put it out in the open,” Honold said.

He suggests displaying old garden tools, metal toys, or wine glasses and decanters. Chipped plates can find new life in concrete stepping stones, and wooden kid-size furniture always adds a nice touch.

“Focus on what’s readily available or representative of your area,” Honold said. “Coastal areas might have fishing nets and glass floats, and places close to rural communities will have farm equipment.

“People bring us old saws and ask us to laser-cut their name or address on them, he said.”

For a big splash, Honold recommends an artistic gate. Whether installing custom wrought-iron doors with elaborate scenes on them or simply taking a can of bright red paint to a basic home-store model, gates can reflect personality and set the tone for the rest of the house.

“Think about all the things a gate can say,” Honold said. “‘Stay out!’ or ‘We’re fun people!”’

If the message you’re trying to send is “We’re magical,” find ways to add fairy elements to your garden. For kids and anyone with more than a passing fancy for Harry Potter, there’s nothing quite as charming as coming across traces of pixies in the yard.

Greenspirit Arts’ Sally Smith knows the power of a good fairy house. She creates high-end custom ones in her studio in Wadhams, N.Y., that have inspired a calendar and greeting card line.

While most of her houses aren’t made for extensive outdoor use, she says her calendars and online tutorial often serve as inspiration for people to create their own more durable models.

“Making a fairy house is something we all innately know how to do because of the child in us,” Smith said.

For a do-it-yourself fairy house that can stand up to the elements, Smith suggested working with stone as a base, and attaching a stick and moss roof and a wooden door. Decorations can be found objects — beach glass, pine cones, welcome mats woven from grasses or pine — even tiny dollhouse furniture.

And what about the garden itself?

“Plant choices can add whimsy to the garden as well, or simply complement the art you’ve chosen,” said New Albany, Ohio, landscape designer Nick McCullough.

He suggested incorporating climbers like clematis, honeysuckle, roses or golden hops to vertical art and trellises, then adding lower plantings at the base.

“Climbers add a mystique to the garden,” McCullough said. “They make the garden feel established.”

For other art, McCullough recommends thinking about scale and complementary colors.

“If you’ve got a bunch of pink flamingos, you could go big and bold,” he said, suggesting plants like catmint, Rozanne geraniums, Phormium Pink Stripe and torch lilies to surround the birds and “add a taller, architectural element.”

For smaller pieces, such as fairy huts or little figurines, lay down a base of moss in a small, shallow trough. Thyme, armeria, succulents and sedums also offer a great base for delicate art, and can provide a border to a bed of pebbles and colored marbles, a touch sure to delight children.

Colorful bursts can be achieved with black lace elderberry, dahlia “Knockouts,” coleus and canna, among other plants. Canna “Tropicanna” and King Tut Papyrus offer a bold structural base.

“There’s no right or wrong way to do it,” McCullough said. “Gardens are so personal — you can use them to express yourself in any way.”


Home &Garden Art

1111 NW 85th St.



Greenspirit Arts Environmental Sculpture

Talk to us

More in Life

Everett comedian Taylor Clark performs stand-up in 2023 at The Triple Door in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Mike Bryk)
Comedian Taylor Clark to film first special Friday in Everett

The skateboarding funny-man will record an hour of his stand-up at the Historic Everett Theater.

Local musician Alex Johnston, whose newest album "Daylight Fooldream" pairs with short film he made with help from his partner Mikaela Henderson, sits with his morning coffee on Friday, Sept. 15, 2023, at Narrative Coffee in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Folktronica musician shoots 37-minute visual album on iPhone in Everett

Alex Johnston, 31, describes his music as ”if Coldplay and Bon Iver had a love child.”

Flowering knotweed Persicaria amplexicaulis firetail in the morning light.
Save for one infamous variety, fleece flowers are easy to fall in love with

This long-blooming, easy-to-grow perennial comes in many desirable varieties. But watch out: One is an invasive knotweed.

A view of King Street Station in Seattle, Washington from an Amtrak Cascades train to Portland, Oregon from Everett, Washington on Wednesday, May 24, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Ride the rails on Amtrak Cascades from Everett to Portland

Make new friends and let Amtrak do the driving on this 5-hour trip past sea, city and forest.

From left, Elora Coble, Carol Richmond, David Hayes, Karli Reinbold, Giovanna Cossalter Walters, Landon Whitbread in a scene from Edmonds Driftwood Players' production of "Murder on the Orient Express." (Dale Sutton / Magic Photography)
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

Edmonds Driftwood Players opens its 65th season with Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express.”

Some collectibles are found in nature; some imitate them. If it weren’t for the attached figure, this Royal Dux porcelain vase might pass for a real conch shell.
This shell-shaped vase would make a fine souvenir of summer fun

It may not be a real shell, but this art nouveau piece could still evoke fond memories of days at the beach.

Arlington Garden Club celebrating its 90th anniversary

The club has monthly programs for north Snohomish County gardeners and awards scholarships to area students.

Spouses Franchesca and Don Simpson talk about their baby girl’s “chubby cheeks” and “button nose” as Kelly Fox RDMS RVT performs a live-view 3D ultrasound on the expecting mother Saturday, August 26, 2023, at Wonder Baby Ultrasound Studio in Everett, Washington. The Simpsons are expecting their first child in October. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Glamour shots in utero? Everett studio offers HD ultrasound keepsakes

For curious parents, these glimpses are exciting, but not medically endorsed.

An Oxford White grille with red “BRONCO” lettering signifies the 2023 Ford Bronco Sport Heritage Limited Edition model. (Ford)
2023 Ford Bronco Sport has two new Heritage Edition models

Design and paint treatments pay homage to the original Bronco introduced in 1966.

Most Read