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I love this time of year. Spring signals rebirth and new life, as this part of the world awakens from winter’s sleep. For me, spring is gardening season, as plants awaken as well.
In my Backyard Garden Series, I’ve shared information about various types of plants, tips for gardening and ecological hacks. Today I add to that series with this post, Six Ways to Personalize Your Garden.
As important as the flowers, herbs and veggies are, it’s the personal touches that make a garden uniquely yours. That backyard paradise, patio garden or window box full of herbs becomes a canvas to create upon. No matter how large or small the space, the garden is your opportunity to tell your story.
What Story Do You Want to Tell?
These ideas, grouped into six categories, are merely suggestions to spark creativity. There are endless ways to create gardens, whether they look formal, look wild or fall somewhere in between.
It’s fun to plan a garden. Choosing which plants to grow, what layout to use, whether your garden has a theme or not is just the beginning. After all the planning and planting comes stamping your garden with your unique style and personality. Choose ideas from one of the categories below, several of them or all of them.
Features provide a foundation for the garden, designating certain areas for particular purposes. When planning the garden, decide what you’d love to include in this outdoor space. This is your sanctuary so make sure whatever you add is a reflection of you.
For me, a fire pit, seating areas and a secluded space for meditation and contemplation were important initially. I’m now in the process of upgrading the meditation area and adding a water feature and electricity for lighting. And I’d love to have an inviting, bohemian style hammock in the shadier north side of the yard.
- fire pits/fireplaces
- patios/seating areas
- water features
- secluded areas
- outdoor rooms/kitchens
- speakers for music
With the foundational areas designated, and plants in the ground, now is the time to play creatively. Do you paint? Create garden art. Sew? Make cushions for chairs, swings or the patio in your favorite patterns and colors. Whatever your creative passion…building birdhouses, pottery, macrame, stained glass, metal work…bring your artistic abilities into the garden.
In the house, I create vignettes that tell stories. I do the same in the garden, grouping items together, using unusual containers for plants and coordinating fabrics in my signature colors.
- paintings on metal or wood
- wind chimes
- birdhouses/spider houses/toad houses/bug hotels
- fountains/birdbaths/bird feeders
- fabric pillows/cushions/hammocks/tents/throws
- signs/inspirational sayings/poetry
- plant markers
- decorative fences/trellises/obelisks/sundials
- statues/decorative concrete
This is, without a doubt, my favorite thing to do, inside and outside the house. I love finding new ways to use existing items and if they are vintage, that’s even better . My garden is full of metal buckets, wash tubs, tool boxes, wire baskets and leftover wire fencing panels. The containers typically hold flowers and plants. One of my favorite pieces, an old minnow bucket, holds a fat candle.
I’ve used a variety of wood pieces in the garden as well. And while I love how the old doors, chairs and boxes look, they just don’t hold up well. Eventually the elements rot them away, no matter how well I paint or treat them.
Use your imagination. If something grabs your interest or sparks an idea, no matter how unusual, try it out in your garden.
Repurpose these items in the garden:
- metal pieces such as buckets, trays, canisters, wash tubs, tool boxes, metal tables, metal drawers, minnow buckets, gates
- metal tools such as old cultivators, vintage wheelbarrows, rakes, shovels
- wire baskets/wire trays/wire boxes/fence panels
- vintage brick/stone/concrete/paving stones/building materials
- wood pieces such as chairs, drawers, boxes, dressers, screen doors, signs, baskets – with the understanding that the wood will eventually rot
- kitchen items such as colanders, strainers, kitchen utensils, storage bins
- farm pieces such as chick feeders, water troughs, watering tubs, vintage sprinklers, signs, posts
- odd items such as box springs, tires, sinks, bicycles, vintage metal baby strollers, vintage toys, trucks, automobiles
Some of the most precious items in my garden belonged to family members who have passed on. My Aunt Annie’s red wooden box graces my covered front porch. It holds eight clay pots, full of begonias. My cousin’s wash tub holds vinca this year. Grandpa Bill’s rusty old cultivator is covered with clematis. My mother-in-law’s wind chime sings in the breeze. And the butterfly my stepfather painted years ago brightens the garage wall.
And those are just a few of the family memorials gracing my garden. There are more. All of these items remind me of my loved ones, as they serve in my garden. They tell stories about lives lived and joys experienced and challenges overcome. I don’t use fragile family pieces in the garden. These are all hardy items that can withstand weather.
In addition, I have plants that came from family members. The lilac bush was a start from my grandfather’s. The creeping phlox came from Mom Moore’s garden. And irises from my aunt’s yard now bloom in mine.
Items that can be used as garden memorials:
- metal, wood, clay containers
- art including wind chimes, signs, durable paintings
- garden tools such as cultivators, rakes, shovels, sprinklers, watering cans
- ceramic tiles
- kitchen gadgets and containers
- wood boxes, signs and containers, if protected from the weather
- outdoor furniture
- statues/concrete art
- cuttings and transplants from their gardens
Whimsy is defined as “playfully quaint or fanciful”. I love whimsy. It appeals to my inner child, makes me smile and invites play. I make sure I include some whimsy in my garden. The rabbit statue, a nod to the rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, stands guard near a clump of ornamental grass. Herbs cluster in an apothecary garden.And a couple of years ago, I created a fairy garden in a vintage wheelbarrow.
Other whimsical touches in my garden include playful art such as the large butterfly, a bistro table and chairs and various candle holders. Special note, only place candles in fire safe items such as metal buckets or votive holders. I love sprinkling candle light throughout my garden by using candle holders from the garden and house. Soon I’ll have twinkling white lights in the garden too.
Whimsy is a state of being as well. When I’m whimsical I enjoy tea parties in the garden, make a bohemian tent to color in, stargaze or appreciate a crackling fire in the fire pit.
Add whimsy with these suggestions:
- candle holders
- gazing balls/birdbaths/bird feeders
- fairy garden/miniature garden
- child’s garden/vintage toys/lawn games such as croquet, badminton or corn hole
- playful statues/garden gnomes
- playground equipment/playhouse/treehouse
- garden swing
- bistro table and chairs
- wind chimes
- unusual plants/flowers
- apothecary garden
- secret garden
- koi pond/zen garden
Tell Your Stories
Your garden, as an extension of who you are, tells your stories. What stories will you include in your garden? One of my favorites is the pair of metal cranes near my contemplative corner. Read their amazing tale HERE.
These cranes tell part of my Scottish story. I christened them with Scottish names. Every time I look at those graceful birds, I think of Thirlestane Castle, in Lauder, Scotland, home of my ancestors.
The natural wildness of my garden reflects who I am, as does the candle light, the vintage brick patio and the many metal pieces scattered throughout the space. They all contribute to the telling of my tale. They all share aspects of who I am. I love that I can accomplish that with my garden. You can too.
Add these elements to help tell your story:
- garden style…formal, semi-formal, natural, wild, modern, vintage, eclectic, flowers, herbs, trees, vegetables, fruits
- family pieces/memorials/ancestry
- structures/outdoor rooms/kitchen/she shed/outdoor office/he shed/play area
- music/art/inspirational signs
- outdoor furniture
I hope these six ways to personalize your garden sparked fresh ideas. The garden is such a personal space. Make it completely yours.
If your garden area is tiny, find creative ways to fill it. After the Joplin tornado in 2011, I lived in an upstairs apartment for two years. My “garden” was a 3’X4′ balcony. An assortment of flowers and plants thrived on that balcony and brought me immense joy.
And that is the greatest benefit from gardening and allowing creativity free reign…joy. Oh the herbs and veggies and flowers are wonderful. However, it is the whole experience that blisses me out.
What stories will you tell, in your garden? What will you create there?
Check out these gardening finds, from Amazon:
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