Monday, June 25, 2018


When I started my first garden in 1973 all the ideas came from my own head. I had a Better Homes and Gardens loose leaf book and that was it. It was very basic. I never thought of looking for gardening books at the library or even buying garden books or magazines. Around 1998 I began visiting a few gardens on my travels and buying garden magazines and books, many of them at charity shops in England. By the year 2000, when we started this garden, I had quite a file of ideas snipped from magazines; garden styles I particularly liked; plants that I thought would do well in Texas. It was time to start incorporating some of these ideas into my new landscape.

The front of our house has 4 square high windows. As I looked from outside up at those windows  I remembered an idea I had seen in Sunset magazine years ago.  I found it in my file.

What could be more perfect than to replicate those high windows on the front wall of the garden. It would just add some permanent interest to the wall which looked particularly bare before there were any plants.

David built the boxes and stained them the same color as the front gates.

But the box of mirrors had 12 pieces and sometime later I decided it might be fun to have some on the inside of the curved wall in the front courtyard. This time we used grey stain. This week I caught sight of the reflection of hesperaloe and American beautyberry in one of the windows.

I have seen mirrors used in gardens before. Hung directly on the wall they add another dimension sometimes creating the illusion of another garden beyond and the mirrors seem to remarkably resistant to damage. Some of mine have had to have the wood replaced because of rot and from time to time I clean off the beak marks of the cardinal and mockingbird who see themselves in the glass. It is hard to find the right size of wood and unless you have a router, and when ours died David had to use two sizes of wood to create the inset for the mirror. It would probably work just as well without the mirror being inset as long as it was well sealed.

Another recent project gleaned from a magazine, and squirreled away in my file, was the sliding shutters in both the side entry garden and the English garden. I was trying to work out how we could add shutters to those openings when flicking through my file I came across this sliding shutter.

Another great Sunset magazine idea. David built the shutters and hung them on sliding barn door hardware. The first one he made was for the opening in the side entry. Wind-driven rain was a problem at the side door. This was the perfect solution. It works. No more wet shoes and doormat.

And one thing led to another. "Wouldn't it be nice to have similar shutters in the English Garden?" I asked him. A similar problem exists there with rain and wind from a different direction. Not only are they functional but they add interest to another very dominating wall. What would Dick Clark be saying about this?

Then there are my little sayings. Remember this one above the side entry? I'll be honest I didn't make this one. I actually bought it for $1 at a garage sale with the intention of stenciling my own saying on there. I hunted for a stencil that was the right size and gave up. In the end I thought the saying wasn't such a bad one after all. But the idea to have some writing on the wall came from a garden I visited in England.

At Snowshill Manor in England there is a passage from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Charles Wade might have said that of his own garden and I agree with him.

To make some for myself I found I had to make my own stencils by printing out the letters and cutting them out. One for over the Sun and Moon Archway.

I also saw this idea in a garden shop in England.

And using some wood from the old compost bins I made a similar one to place just by the side entrance.

And those of you who came to the recent Garden Bloggers' Spring Fling might have noticed this one I made to guide you through the front gate and around the side into the other gardens.

I saw this simple theatre at Holehird Gardens, home of the Lakeland Horticultural Society, in the Lake District, England. They have taken the idea of an Auricula Theatre and used it to display miniature hostas. If you want to see an amazing display of auricula theatres then just google the words.

My theatre is for cactus and succulents and replaces a, difficult to water, hayrack planter.

Holehird gardens was another source of one of my garden projects. My trough planter.

But in making this large one I realized just how much material is needed and mine ended up being more shallow and not so thick. And of course alpines are out of the question here so I chose succulents.

And then came some easier planters to make from styrofoam boxes seen on the Hypertufa Gardener They can be made in next to no time and look just as good.

And my largest project of all was my first one and that was the dry stone wall for which the English Garden is named. They abound in the part of the country I grew up and you can see one behind the troughs in the picture from Holehird.
Here's mine.

Then sometimes I have my own ideas as in the stock tank water feature set in a raised bed.

But then recently I saw this idea in a British garden program and filed it away because if my stock tank ever springs a leak, and it will, I will try this idea.

I'm always on the lookout for little things to bring interest into the garden.  I watch gardening programs from England, Australia as well as the US. I watch videos, read magazines, and books and troll Pinterest. There is such a wealth of ideas at our fingertips these days! No one should be short of a source for garden design.


  1. I love this post! It's fun to read where your ideas have come from -- I'm similarly always collecting ideas and materials, even if I'm not sure yet where they'll end up in the garden. Thrift shops have been a favorite source for me lately. It seems like they're always full of metal wall art I can spray paint and repurpose... I even found an old wrought iron gate recently! Now to figure out where it goes...

  2. How wonderful that you not only save ideas, but that you implement them too. So often people don't. My sister always talks about how how pintrest is where she save things she will never make and recipes she will never cook.

  3. I saved magazine clippings for decades but, as I've accumulated some 200+ garden books and I don't know how many Pinterest boards, I now rely mainly on those, although I still subscribe to a couple of garden magazines. Blogs (like yours!) are another source of ideas, as are garden visits. My visit to Sherman Gardens in Orange County led to the creation of my (much, much smaller) lath house. It's funny how an idea gets planted, then bounces around in one's mind, until finally morphing into something uniquely yours.

  4. So many good ideas...I am going to try the styrofoam boxes! Btw, I get my ideas from visiting gardens and posts on the internet! xo

  5. You are a natural designer! And then to be so creative as to adapt and make ideas that you find--your own...such talent! I admit I do that occasionally, too, but I'm so impressed with your tips and tricks. I remember years ago, my grandmother would gather ideas from magazines--very simple ones that she would apply with grace and creativity to her small apartment and her small garden. She was a painter and an artist, and had such an amazing ability to visualize and "see" the possibilities. Thanks for your continued inspiration, Jenny!

    1. Thank you Beth. Sometimes I think I spend too much time resourcing and not enough doing. I really have to force myself to start a project but once I get going then it gets done, however long it might take.

  6. I have a few old books of magazine clippings, my style has changed so much over the years though, I mainly look at them and wonder “what was I thinking!?”

    You’ve certainly put your own fabulous spin on the projects you’ve completed. I’m curious why you’re certain your stock tank will eventually spring a leak, prior experience? You’ve got me a little nervous about mine!

    1. We have 3 stock tanks outside collecting rain water and one of them has already rusted through and has pin holes all around the outside. The inside is coated with rust. I don't know if it was a different manufacturer whose galvanizing was not up to snuff but this one failed in just a few years. In fact if I remember we already took one back because of some strange happenings on the inside and this was the replacement, probably from the same manufacturer. So it does happen.

  7. What a wealth of ideas here! I so enjoyed reading about you cutting ideas out of magazines - I used to have quite a file folder of just such cuttings. Fun to see how you incorporated them in your beautiful garden. What creativity!

  8. I love how you put your own spin, to adapt to your garden and climate, on the ideas you saw in magazines or other gardens. I very much enjoyed touring your garden and seeing all these unique touches throughout. Gardeners are artists!

  9. Such great ideas... And it is lovely to see how you put your own spin on things! Like Danger Garden - I like looking at my old ideas that I didn't use and figure out what I was thinking (and how I might use them now!)

  10. The "auricula theater" is such a great way to display any collections. I still have a difficult-to-water hayrack planter -- unlike your clever adaptations, some ideas like the hayrack are just dead ends!


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