Got Whimsy?

– Posted in: Garden Design, Miscellaneous

Oh yeah, I got it. Geegaws, doodads, tchotchkes–yeah, I got whimsy. I think whimsy should be a part of every garden. Gardens are about many things, but they are certainly about delight, about fun, about creating a treat for the eyes. Actually, they should transcend those simple goals and be a treat for all the senses–including the sense of humor.

Whimsy is an easy way to get there. While I understand the notion that plants can be whimsical, in my run-amok garden, which lately borders more on being a plant zoo, there are lots of oddly sculptural or Dr. Seussical kinds of plants, so I lean more to using objects to create whimsical vignettes. And whimsical objects, to me, represent one end of a continuum, the other end being, say, some Dale Chihuly glass scuplture or frolicking Italian stone cherubs–Art, with a captial A. A gnome, for example, is whimsical-even if it’s a Gnome Chomsky-while a massive Haddonstone urn is, hopefully, captial A Art. Whimsy at its best has a folk art quality. It’s homemade, humorous, and clever.

Like Fran, I too see faces. Whether it’s my multi-visaged pot topped with a fiber-optic grass fright wig. I like having human type elements in the garden, especially those that have some kind of quasi-mystical, primitive Idol quality about them. I got zillions of ideas about these kinds of elements from my travels in Indonesia, where occult guardian spirits protect virtually everything from rice fields to family compounds. They inspired my “Brothers From Another Planet”, which I chainsawed from a fallen tree-heck, it was easier than carting off the whole trunk.      

I also saw some stickmen, who seem as if they may be related to my “Brothers” in Eve Thyrum’s Wilmington,  DE garden, a place that’s full of whimsy.

How about Eve’s fish chairs?

Or her crazy bird nest with its big blue egg?

I’ve got thing for birds too, and like to see my little Mexican toucan perched among our tropical plants. I thinks he’s a cheery companion, plus he reminds me of my travels and adds, in his own small way, to the idea of the imaginary country in which my garden is located.

Placing objects in a garden–whether they are Art or whimsy–is often challenging. I like to use them as players set into a tableau of plants, using the living materials as a kind of stage for the inanimate. But the best piece of advice I ever heard about using ornaments of any kind in the garden was simplicity itself: Position them so that you can see only one at a time.

Yes, as the garden below suggests, there is such a thing as too much fun.

Steve Silk

Steve Silk

Steve Silk

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Dee/reddirtramblings July 13, 2008, 10:49 am

Whimsy is so very good isn’t it?~~Dee

Hi Dee–Whimsy is very good indeed–as long as you don’t get too, well, whimsical about it.–Steve

Lisa at Greenbow July 13, 2008, 11:59 am

I enjoyed seeing some of your whimsy. I love the bird with the blue egg too. I would invite that bird into my garden any time.

Thanks, Lisa. I love that bird too. I’m just waiting for some inspiration from that scene to settle in my mind so I can do my own spin on something along those lines.–Steve

our friend Ben July 13, 2008, 3:50 pm

These are great, Steve! Though, admittedly, when I saw the shorter, squatter of your “Brothers” I thought you’d put a statue of Teddy Roosevelt in your garden. (Maybe it’s just coincidence—I’m reading a bio of the young Roosevelt right now—but then again…) And of course I loved Eve’s art. What a sense of whimsy indeed! Thanks *so* much for sharing these photos and ideas. Perhaps we’ll add our own version of an Indonesian guardian spirit to our garden here at Hawk’s Haven thanks to you!

Yes Elly, but my Teddy doesn’t carry a big stick, he is a big stick! And Eve’s garden is chockablock with fun, quirky objects, yet it never veers toward cutesy.–Steve

Frances July 13, 2008, 8:14 pm

HA to that communal whimsy meeting at the end. Delegates from all categories in one place, I love it. The brothers, stick men and fish chairs along with the bird and egg are all perfect garden companions. Imagine the stories those could tell.

mss @ Zanthan Gardens July 13, 2008, 9:00 pm

I like “whimsy” but not “cute’. Defining the difference is the hard part and I bet everyone’s measure is different. I live in a very offbeat neighborhood. Although I admire the style in my neighbors’ yards, I wouldn’t do it myself. I bet one gardener’s whimsy is another’s junk. Your photos of whimsy all look pretty up-market.

I’m sad to say that the purple house in this second link has just been torn down. So goes the ‘hood.

Hi mss–Yeah, one person’s whimsy is another person’s too cute. It’s all subjective. But that’s what’s fun about gardening-it can be all about expressing your personality in whatever way you choose. But you know, the mosaic-covered toilet is, thankfully, one-of-a-kind–I hope!–Steve

Mr. McGregor's Daughter July 20, 2008, 12:55 pm

I wish I had some homemade whimsy. Mine is limited to stepping stones, so I have to make due with purchased or found objects as best I can. I love whimsical gardens & would love to do something whimsical with plants, but that is just too challenging in a climate where things can die of cold or shrivel in the heat.

Homemade whimsy is the best kind. You can find stuff on a walk in the woods, a stroll along a river or whatever. As for plants, what’s wrong with a one-season–or even just a part of a season–whimsy? Have fun out there!–Steve

Tina Ramsey July 21, 2008, 11:29 pm

At first the stick men were my favorite until I saw those cool fish chairs. Definitely whimsical and super fun! That is gardening at its best.

Linda July 23, 2008, 2:43 am


Thanks Linda, glad you liked it.–Steve

Shady Gardener July 24, 2008, 10:39 pm

Wonderful array of “Whimsy!” I love the originality. 🙂

Thanks so much Shady. Out in the garden, it’s gotta be fun.–Steve

Jon July 28, 2008, 3:16 pm

Thanks for some very clever and cool ideas. Y’all really know how to do “whimsey” as opposed to “tacky”, which it becomes if not done just right.

Jon on 7-28-08

Thanks Jon. One person’s whimsy is another’s too tacky. It’s all in the eye of the beholder–Steve

SHARON January 16, 2010, 9:20 pm


Missi June 19, 2016, 8:12 pm

Was wanting to know where I can get the plans for the fish chairs ? Thank you Missi

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