Friday, May 15, 2009

Garden Accessory Projects (part 1)

As a 13-year-old, I was an amateur magician. I couldn't afford ANY of the tricks at the magic shop. Instead of purchasing those, I checked out every library book I could find on magic tricks and hand-built my illusions.

I once constructed a "magic" wooden box (with a little help and all the materials supplied by my Dad). With this special box I made things disappear and reappear (using lights, glass and a mirror). It worked well. But for all the work involved in its construction, my audience was impressed for...maybe...five seconds. I loved showing off that box but HAD to move on to the next trick. What made that "magic" box so special to me was my feeling of accomplishment after building, adjusting, and readjusting until the illusion worked just like the book said it would.

Writing this blog about garden/landscape projects is a lot like presenting my early magic shows. As a landscape magician, I may impress the blogosphere for a few seconds. What impresses an audience today, may not last until tomorrow. What appears simple, often isn't. However, if any project triggers wonder or inspires a reader's mind to try new garden possibilities, there is great reward in that.

How much research and pondering goes into a project before construction begins? How much additional time, money and effort are expended before the final product appears? A lot. But that's unimportant. I'd enjoy the fruits of my labor, and the construction process anyway. The bonus is in sharing them with others.

Today, I'm going to talk about a few simple garden accessories I've made. I think that what makes some items 'work' in my garden are: the particular spot I've chosen (the locus); what draws the eye (the focus); the seeming coordination with nearby garden elements (flow); the element of surprise (or contrast); and the multiplicity of the senses involved (sight, sound, color, and odor). Add in our dog and cat, visiting birds and squirrels (and racoons at night), fluttering and buzzing insects, and fish in the pond--all unpredictable elements, and our yard exhibits still another dimension: movement.

This garden is for people. It offers opportunities to gather, to relax, even to explore and discover.

My hope is that all the elements work together to make the garden a memorable place.


After looking at various gardening books, I decided a tower might be an appropriate focal in a corner of the garden.

I used what was available (my "lifetime" supply of 1 by 2 stock). I drew a simple sketch and played with proportions and spacings. My tower would be four-sided, so I cut and laid out the pieces for one side on a piece of plywood (form shown below).

Plywood pattern with spacings for tower rungs.

To make two opposing sides identical, I tacked spacers to the plywood and laid out the opposing side to match the first. Then, I changed the position of the rungs, keeping the legs in the same position so that the rungs on the two adjacent sides would not interfere during assembly. A cross-brace at the top and bottom will stabilize the structure, though aren't absolutely necessary unless you're transporting it on top of your car or something. (No, I didn't mean it to sound like you mount the thing to your car roof; I meant if you're building it at one place and want to move some distance to another.) To top it off, I cut a 5-foot cedar fence board into three even pieces and stapled them to the top.

Completed tower in a corner of the garden.


Hanging Planter (bottom view)

Hanging Planter (side view)

Another "easy" project if you have access to a 45 degree saw box (or chop saw). Make all your pieces of equal length and put a staple into each corner of 8 frames. Assemble the frames alternating 45 degrees as shown and add another four staples to each to stack them. a couple of strips on the bottom keeps the pots from falling through. I used "dog" chain to hold them, plus cup hooks (found in the kitchen department of major stores) to attach to the chain (see detail).


More tricks using lattice. I used a 7 by 11 spacing to match the grape arbor and kept this spacing for other projects. The little lattice "fence" by the grape arbor keeps our dog from stepping between the winter-flowering daphne and knocking leaves off. These are year-old plants and doggie shot-cuts was having a deleterious effect upon the plants.

New Doggie Deterent fence.

The longer lattice "fence" (shown below) helps keeps the basketball in the adjacent sport court out of this tiny side plot.

Step 1: dig post holes and place posts

Step 2: lay up latticed pieces and staple together

Step 3: level lattice frame at the top and screw the lattice frame to the posts


  1. wow. these are cool projects. i think that your garden must have about a billion layers now...and if you walk around as a newcomer to it, you'd discover new features behind others...etc.

    great post!

  2. "Oh...your garden seems so PEACEFUL."

    It was a warm afternoon yesterday. Susan and I were relaxing on the bench in the shade of the grape arbor when we heard that compliment from a friend who stopped by to say hi.

    Layer by layer it's coming along. More layers are in the works. In winter, it really looks bare when many of the perennials and annuals are missing, so some of the new structure will help carry it through.

    Yesterday, I placed 8 geraniums into the raised bed along with about fifty baby onions and two tomato plants.

    Today, I'll place a couple more tomatoes in there. I like to intersperse the pretty with the edible.

    Gotta get off the computer because I need to build a couple of potato plant boxes, too. Another VERY pleasant day to be outdoors.