Posts Tagged ‘decorating outside’


A friend is coming over to my house to gather some pine branches from the trees in the yard; an easy decoration to share when your garden thrives on random acts of pruning, and the occasional dose of neglect. We will probably have a cup of tea, I will bake something yummy, and, if it stays this cold, I will definitely warm the house up with the wood stove.

When I read this back, it sounds very idyllic, when really, neither of our lives are, but we are easily pleased, and we like spending time outside. She said, it’s more fun doing it together, and she is right; even if it is below freezing, and the pine trees are much less than perfect, it will be a happy few hours.

I never understood seasonal decorating until I came to New Jersey, and I realize now, that aside from it being a way to celebrate the holidays, it is a way of cheering us up when the days get really gray. Nothing grows, and by January, the color green feels like a distant memory that may, or may not have ever been true.

So, we decorate the outside, and we smile at the sparkly lights and the giant candy canes. We wait for the inflatable snowmen to pop up, and we find ourselves watching for the next burst of color down the street; perhaps judging just a little, but being secretly grateful for the distraction.
I am always amazed at how much work goes on to getting it just right; seemingly ordinary people spending weeks creating the most extravagant of displays, and coordinating lights in a way that would prevent me from ever flipping the on-switch. (I suspect there may be some math and technical skill involved, which could be why the whole process eludes me).

I love to see these homes, but my favorites are the more subdued displays; porches filled with red plaid, a wreath on the door, and oversized presents piled into an old sleigh. It feels like home to me (not that we ever had a sleigh on our front porch) but it looks comforting and warm, and when the day is so cold and gray, it makes you feel that you would always be welcome to stop in.

Decorating in the Winter isn’t about whether you choose to have a dancing Santa Claus on your roof, knit a scarf for your tree, or hang a wreath on your front door, it’s about adding a bit of color to the outside world, and putting smiles on the people driving by.

Wendy E. Wrzos http://wendyandthebluegiraffe.blogspot.com

The gorgeous Knitted Tree photograph is from: www.superforest.org

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We’ve been doing a lot of work around our house – work that involves moving furniture from one room to another (to lay carpet), taking down artwork (to paint), and removing accessories (so nothing gets broken in all the upheaval). And something interesting is happening to me….I find I’m not putting everything back. That might not sound like much, but believe me, it is!

While no one would (probably) come into my home and say it’s cluttered, there are certainly lots of things around – things I’ve chosen to go in a special location, things that have been given to me so I fit them into my decorating scheme, and some things that have been with me for a very long time so always find a home in my home. But now with some rooms almost empty and some rooms filled with the overflow, I’m finding the empty is really feeling good.

That doesn’t mean I’m becoming spartan in my decorating – far from it. But what is happening is I’m finally starting to live as I have always preached – if you don’t love it, lose it.

This started the other night when I was sitting on my screened in porch – the one place I have had as my sanctuary while the work has been going on. I’ve always kept it somewhat simple because I don’t want the furnishings to compete with the garden view just outside. But still I looked around asking myself “Do I love it?” And the funny thing is, there are several things I just don’t love anymore. Take the painted slate welcome sign with the white picket fence and fluttering birds – a very thoughtful gift, but just not me. Same with the very cute-but-just-not-me metal cat votive holder. Little things, yes. But things I don’t love – and in my favorite ‘room’ of the house!

So now I’m doing something I should have done a long time ago. As I put things back into rooms, I’m really thinking about each one. And if I don’t love it, it’s gone. No guilt, no second-guessing. And I’m really feeling good about the results. Anyone interested in coming to a rather large yard sale – you can pick up a really cute votive holder for a song!  Ann Anderson, www.roomsreborn.com

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Recently I fell in love with several pieces of sculptural artwork. Brazenly placed in abandoned fields, the images were surreal in their gigantic beauty. Whether you liked them or not, you could not deny the talent and the vision that created them. I have to confess that I took more photographs of these images than I did of the people I was with.

Growing up I never quite understood the use of decorative objects outside.  At the time, the only ones I had seen were gnomes with fishing rods, or strangely, flamboyant statues that lived in the grounds of old castles. 

Now, years later, I know the importance that art and shapes can play in revitalizing an outdoor space. The gigantic images that I saw overseas reminded me to have fun with nature, and that sometimes, a piece just exists for us to enjoy.

I have to confess I don’t have many decorative objects in my garden (my gnome prefers to live in the house) but I recently placed a squiggly thing next to my garage, and I love coming home to it every night!

My garage is detached from the house, so the door is flanked either side by white concrete. To the left I have a half-barrel with an apricot rose in it, and to the right I have a small, rectangular planter overflowing with mint. Above the mint I have a wild, white rose that I “help” meander across the top of the garage, but above the apricot rose there is just a white expanse of concrete. Every night it bothered me, the inequality of the two sides. Not that I wanted anything matching (been there, done that) but it just looked unbalanced, and the rose looked a bit sad and isolated. 

I had to fill in some of the area above the rose, but everything I tried just looked wrong. Eventually, I experimented with a 6 foot curly metal garden pole in my shed. I stuck it in the dirt, to the right of the rose, and it looked strangely perfect; tall, soft and unexpected. 

My meager attempt with a squiggly piece of metal cannot be compared to a 30 foot corrugated eyeball, but seeing those large pieces of raw beauty definitely became a wonderful teaching moment for me.  


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This time of year just begs for us to go outside. For me that means just another excuse to decorate! Before the daffodils have finished blooming my head is reeling with ideas and dreams of what I would like to see in my garden.

Not surprisingly, most of my thoughts turn to nooks; places to sit, read, sleep or eat. I covet outside rooms where I can be with friends or just sit and watch the day go by. 

My grandparents lived in a row house when I grew up. The garden behind the house was a perfect rectangle, about 20 feet wide by about 40 feet long. Little concrete paths leading to compact, tidy shapes that were filled with vegetables and flowers. A compost pile and a greenhouse were neatly placed at the very back, next to a wooden gate that led to the neighbor’s garden.

My grandfather would be considered a Master Gardener by todays standards; it came easily to him, and he knew instinctively how to combine the art of design with the necessity of function. I loved that garden. To me, it was crammed full of adventure, constantly changing and filled with places to explore.

In the middle was the perfect patch of mown grass, often scattered with daisies and the occasional toadstool (just enough to keep the fairies occupied). But, the most special part of all was the secret garden.
When you walked out the back door, to the left you were met with a rose-covered wooden structure. Another turn led you to an opening.  Inside the opening was a room completely filled with roses. I can still see the room in my head.

There was a bench inside, and I would sit and try to break off the thorns on the roses without hurting myself; when successful I would drop them on the ground, forgetting that later on one of us would probably step or kneel on them. When Summer was at its fullest the room was like a beautiful cave that transported you to another world. You were hidden from view, surrounded by the almost overwhelming scent of tangled roses. Winter made it harsh and cold looking, still beckoning, but not quite as friendly to small children.

All it takes to create an outdoor room is an idea. It doesn’t have to be literal, it just has to have a feeling. Think of what you would like it to be, then dream about how you will get it there.

(of course, if dreams don’t do the work for you, feel free to use plants, furniture or structural pieces)

Wendy Wrzos  www.thebluegiraffe.com

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