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Help me tone down the creepy and turn up the whimsy!

Posted by curlylindsay 6 (My Page) on
Wed, Apr 20, 11 at 16:38

I bought a home this fall that has a fantastically gigantic tree out back (It looks very much like a live oak, but we're too far north and the leaves don't look right, so we're thinking mulberry)

It has a nice usable area underneath, but the grandness of the tree makes just a few pieces of wicker look like folding chairs in a cathedral. I got inspired and put this old mantle I found in the barn out there, bolted to T-posts. But although I see potential, I think it just made it creepier!

The 1920's house and adjacent gardens have a very Alice In Wonderland- feel and I'd like to continue that over to this area. Any suggestions on how to frame, fill in, and otherwise cheer up this area? (The wicker must last another season unless I find a great deal but it is getting a coat of paint today.)

Creepy Seating area under a 100+ year old tree

For a little better idea of the scale of the tree, a winter shot:

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Help me tone down the creepy and turn up the whimsy!

Spray paint the furniture with a car colour, gold or silver or shiny blue leave the mantle as is but move it and jam it in under the lowest branch fill the gap with a mirror (cracked is good). If it is a mulberry, and I can't tell, this is not a good place to site chairs. Can I see the house? DO NOT TAKE DOWN THE TREE.

RE: Help me tone down the creepy and turn up the whimsy!

LOVE this tree- as long as it's healthy(ish) it stays. It's got limbs going so far they are propped up with beams, but it kind of adds to the charm.

I've been here for 6 months, so not through a summer, but I'm pretty sure it's not a producing mulberry. (Either too old, or not close to a pollinator) There are a few more shots of the property in my flickr feed: flickr

RE:HHH Help me tone down the creepy and turn up the whimsy!

lindsay you have come to the right place with those horses I have a feeling this is going to be a fun thread.

RE: Help me tone down the creepy and turn up the whimsy!

What a great tree! (I got distracted by the horse pictures in your link though... That leopard Appaloosa is amazing. Do you Event yourself or is a family member the eventer?)

I like Ink's idea of the mirror. I think I'd also look for one of those ornamental cast iron inserts as another alternative. Perhaps there's a way to combine the two... I could also see trompe l'oeil trellising fitting into a scene like that somewhere to give the impression of a long path or corridor leading off somewhere with something interesting at the end of it - perhaps even the fireplace would make an interesting end point - shades of Harry Potter! :-)

RE: Help me tone down the creepy and turn up the whimsy!

I am so glad you posted this tree - its amazing. How old do you think it is?

My suggestion would be to move the wicker seating area under the low branch. Then put the mantle right next to the right side of the tree. The furniture needs to relate more to the tree.

Are there shoots or branches coming off the tree in the first ten feet of height? I would prune those off - even though you may need to do it every year it will lessen the "spookiness" factor. Planters with annuals will really brighten up the area- placed next to the seating area and the mantle. also a low planter on the wicker table.

Beautiful - thanks for sharing !!!

RE: Help me tone down the creepy and turn up the whimsy!

That's an amazing tree! Normally, to ID a tree, one should post a close-up of a branch, showing at least one leaf and the arrangement of the leaves on the branch. But since you're pretty sure it's a mulberry, posting a variety of leaf shapes would be a good idea. Either the Trees forum or the Name That Plant forum would be your best bet.

I like ink's car color idea for the furniture (strong colors, high-gloss, maybe some metallics). If you end up painting a lot of objects to put in the garden, you might want to pick one or two main colors to repeat that would tie everything together. What are the house colors?

If you lived near here, I'd steer you to a particular used furniture/junk dealer with a large assortment of old -- and some very unusual -- doors. Whether you use them as doors/gates, canvases on which to paint or stencil, or backgrounds on which to mount other items, doors are relatively large-scale to match your huge tree.

If you like birds, consider decorating with birdhouses that fit the style of the garden.

For inspiration on whimsical garden decor, browse the photos on the Garden Junk forum (okay, probably not the garden totems).

RE: Help me tone down the creepy and turn up the whimsy!

What I like about this tree is that it is in THE RIGHT PLACE. In a yard, not over a roof or a sidewalk or near a foundation. In YOUR yard, not your neighbour's.

As to whimsey, I'm out of my league there!


RE: Help me tone down the creepy and turn up the whimsy!

Is it possible that the seating is actually too close to the tree so that it is dwarfed by the trunk and might relate better a bit farther out into the canopy so that the surrounding space itself somehow can become part of the total scale of the arrangment? You might get some ideas on this by taking some long-view photos of different arrangements and then of course, sitting there, since there is the "photo" perspective re: what it would look like in a magazine vs. how you experience it under the tree. By all means maximize the experience if you really hope to sit there, vs. maximize the "artfulness" if it serves more as a view from the house or patio.

RE: Help me tone down the creepy and turn up the whimsy!

  • Posted by bahia SF Bay Area (My Page) on
    Sun, Apr 24, 11 at 1:21

I don't know if there is a branch in the right spot to hang a candelabra from to be centered over your existing chair layout? It might also be kind of cool to plant something with reddish or orange colored grassy/flame-type foliage within the area of the hearth of the fireplace mantel. Would a dwarf Berberis thunbergeri atropurpurea keep its color in that amount of summer shade? Or maybe some orange/bronze tinted Carex testacea combined with some Begonia boliviense planted in with it, or maybe Acorus gramineus 'Ogon' or Hakenochloa. I could also see the mantel looking more rooted if it had some taller ferns planted at each side, and maybe introduce the idea of a "carpet" by planting a rectangle of contrasting Ophiopogon japonicus nana in front of the table.

Do you really want to leave the wicker furniture out during the winter? Why not make it last longer and just put it out for warmer weather use?

RE: Help me tone down the creepy and turn up the whimsy!

Make a gravel or pavers-on-sand sitting area to anchor the furniture to the site. Right now it's just in a batch of worn grass.

A chesire cat figurine on the branch, some small topiary shrubs marking the seating area, brighter colors for the furniture (and it's really BAD to leave wicker out in the weather, it's porch furniture)

Hang solar lights in the tree

RE: Help me tone down the creepy and turn up the whimsy!

The worn white chairs look a bit like skeletons... the fallen leaves on the ground make me think of a deserted graveyard. So yes do change the color of the furniture and give your living room a "carpet" and a large-flowered clematis wouldn't hurt either.
Example of carpet (OK this is too literal but) -

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