When the Garden is Having a Bad Hair Day, Practice the Art of Distraction!
Every garden has its off days, usually when visitors are expected. So what’s a gardener to do when caught with his or her petals down? Inspired by the magician’s art of distraction, I suggest subtly redirecting the gardening hacks and tips visitor’s attention. Potted plants are the first line of defense. Placed in position where a plant has recently departed it might be taken as part of the design. The trick is to raise the pot the slightly, just above the plants around it, which might mean putting it atop an upside down pot. I’ve seen Chinese footbaths with water plants, water cabbage and even goldfish used this way. Decorative but empty pots are also popular although, I’m always suspicious of gardeners who make use of a massive, small mouthed jug, as a design element in a border. They look well enough. But no one could lift the jug to pour the water out and the viewer senses this. Garden statuary are other dodges. After trimming the dead or diseased foliage on a plant, I might tuck in a stone rabbit to hide the lack of foliage.
In the vegetable garden a traditional straw bee skep looks like it belongs. I have used one to cover a multitude of my sins, moving it around the garden to fill the space wherever a plant expired or was yanked out. I recently saw a snapshot of my garden on the back cover of the book, Garden Ornament. I had to laugh as I read the author’s rhapsody about my bee skep. If she only knew of the evils it hid.
Every so often a dead tree has to come down, and it’s no easy task to remove the stump. My answer is to camouflage the stump by growing vines over it or using it as a pedestal for potted plants until it rots and is easier to remove. A chainsaw-wielding friend has hacked a few stumps into crude chairs or tables, which, if they face a nice view, are humorous and practical for a time. Sometimes I’ve slip covered a tree-trunk chair with a vine. A potted plant or a basket of flowers placed on a stump, or even planted into a hollowed-out stump, makes the whole affair look more like it belongs in a garden.