When Is It Too Much?


This title could refer to many surpluses in life, overeating, overworking, overages of all sorts. Let us hone it down to garden surplus, garden art and geegaws to be more precise. Cute containers and metal sculptures, concrete creatures and ceramic birdhouses, stake finials and mossy birds, when does it exceed the limits of good taste or even rational thought?


Sitting in the lazyboy, tip tap typing the keyboard, the allure of the garden seen through the triple panes of the glass sliders in the addition calls out to us again and again. This view includes less than one third of the back garden, but since it is the numero uno place to gaze out and dream of … improvements! Sorry, that is the way my brain works, always in motion, always thinking of a better way to do things, always…always. There are to do lists in notebooks, scratch pads, index cards, there are email drafts that will never be sent, only updated, the newest way to keep track of those loose thoughts and ideas that pop up when relaxation allows the luxury of leaving the assigned task for a moment or two.


Combine the gazing, the hyperactivity with a love of crafts and what do you end up with but a myriad assortment of garden doodads, dohickeys and what some prefer to call art. There are purchases, gifts and do it yourself projects, all placed with loving tenderness on any patch of open ground. There is no end to it. Like the addition of plants, there can never be enough, but can there be too much?

October 2002


Wooden objects like tobacco baskets, chairs and benches made from prunings, did you know Japanese privet is an incredibly dense wood?, become riddled with insect and water damage and return to the earth to enrich the soil. Metal and stone based materials are much longer lasting and can be made and remade into various shapes with various form and funtions. Copper wire in particular is prized and saved, hoarded for its usefulness to hold things to one another. Rusty wire fencing and reinforcing wire has been put to use as trelliage, tomato cages and anti-critter digging protection. Rebar and threaded metal bars make wonderful stakes for tall spindly plants and keeping lightweight art projects from blowing around in a stiff wind.


Containers are useful for growing special plants that otherwise might be lost, unnoticed or have special soil and/or watering needs. Colorful glazed pottery is our container of choice along with the hypertufa troughs of assorted shapes and sizes. These provide year around interest whether planted with evergreens, annuals or are left empty. They are the knick knacks of the out of doors. There are many pots, most of them blue, in the front and back gardens, semi-permanent additions to the property. And yet, whenever a nursery is visited there is one section that must always be perused, just in case there is yet another container on the shelf or better, hidden in some dark corner that will add just the right touch, fill a niche, meet a need. The above shot was taken at the 2008 Inaugural Garden Blogger Spring Fling in Austin, Texas at Natural Gardener Nursery.


The need for more is at the core. When is it enough, if ever? The acquisitiveness of youth has somewhat given way to the embrace of the less is more philosophy in all aspects of our lives except in the garden. Why is that? We have jettisoned posessions, furniture, clothing, even shoes in the effort to streamline. Our home was downsized, our life style simplified. Things have been eliminated left, right and center. But not in the garden. The garden is sacrosanct. Or is it?

Frances

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31 Responses to When Is It Too Much?

  1. Sue says:

    I struggle with this too. How can you visit a garden center and NOT find something new to add to the collection!?!? Hubby laughs because there is always some new clay pot I just have to have……even though there are stacks of them in my garden shed. (He is this way with tools, so neither of us judges the other!)

    Hi Sue, thanks for adding to the thoughts here. If every time we get a new pot, when, or how will it end? With clothes in my closet, the rule is new one in means an old article out since there is finite space in there. With the garden, it is not quite filled, but getting there! πŸ™‚
    Frances

  2. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I am always purchasing something for a “focal” point. My DB always asks “How many focal points can you have in the garden?”. My answer is never too many. How can one resist the color of pots or the quirkyness of some garden objects? Can’t be done. Just relax and enjoy it I say. What else is there to do?? I don’t know of any Garden Anonymous groups.

    Hi Lisa, there seems no end to it, does there? I like your philosophy, relax and enjoy. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  3. Carol says:

    Is the garden sacrosanct? Sometimes taking away adds as much to the garden as adding something to it.

    Hi Carol, you are so right. Thoughtful editing is good for outifts and gardens, it is just so dang hard to do! πŸ™‚
    Frances

  4. Sylvia (England) says:

    Frances this is a concept that I struggle with. Like you I have one view that is gazed upon frequently and always dreaming about what to move where or is there a gap there. But I don’t buy the junk, ops Garden Art! Don’t get me wrong I am happy with it and I can always find room for it. What I do is enjoy it in the winter and let it disappear amongst plants in the summer. My Granddaughter loves finding all the ‘animals and characters’. Pots and containers I find much more attractive and find it difficult to keep to a theme. But I only have my self and family to please, no one else sees the garden and we are happy with it. I think yours is lovely and certainly your blue pots brighten up the winter scene (note to self need more blue pots) I don’t think you need to worry, yet!

    Best wishes Sylvia (England)

    Hi Sylvia, thanks for joining in. It does make for a more interesting view in the winter, when there is little else to gaze upon, those pots, etc. I like the thought of the plants covering things up during the growing season, you are a wise woman! πŸ™‚
    Frances

  5. Randy Emmitt says:

    Frances,
    I know exactly what you mean. The chair in the garden one would not dare sit in. We are loosing the two person steel glider along with the matching chairs. Meg’s daughter just bought a house and they’ll look good in her screened porch.

    Ah, Randy, the passalong to the kids solution, I love it! I do the same with furniture inside as well. But then feel freed to shop for replacements. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  6. Gail says:

    Dear Frances, I’ve been thinking the same thing about my garden~It’s still springtime bare and the doodads do seem to stick out more! What can be added are more eye catching/attention holding containers and bulbs! Oh yes and those ever important evergreens! xxoogail PS Those blue containers across the garden wall look wonderful.

    Hi Gail, thanks for thinking along with us. The spring garden fills in quickly here, only one day into spring even! Looking out, there seems to be so many non-plant items, garden decor, and on the to do list is the making of yet more. More more more! Should there be an end to it at some point?
    xxxooo
    Frances

  7. Valerie says:

    Garden Centres can make your head spin. There is so much choice with plants, accessories, furniture, fireplaces etc,etc. I love the colourful pots as they can be quite lovely if placed in a dark space or just in the middle of a flower bed where there is a temporary hole. V

    Hi Valerie, thanks for visiting. Most nurseries seem to have clued in that there is good money to be made by selling non plants! It is all so attractive, I cannot ignore the stuff, especially large glazed containers that might be blue. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  8. Laurrie says:

    Oh my, we all struggle with not enough and too much in the garden! At my stage in life, I am hard to buy for, so gifts wind up being kitschy things for my garden and I love them all and want each and every one where I can see it. But…. is it too much? Most certainly. Especially if it was someone else’s garden.

    Thanks for that Laurrie. We too are the recipient of garden art gifts, and plants. I am always on board for dark chocolate, if anyone is interested! πŸ™‚
    Frances

  9. Nancy says:

    Your query reminds me of a long-ago cartoon in New Yorker magazine. Two men stand on a sidewalk gazing into a yard overflowing with rows of ducks, with gnomes, with toadstools, gazing balls, flamingos, etc. One man says to the other, “You ought to see it at Christmas.”
    Downsize plants? Impossible!

    HA, Nancy, that is a good one! Plants have been on the safe list for some time, although we have removed those that did not perform to expectations for whatever reason. But the search for more continues… πŸ™‚
    Frances

  10. Layanee says:

    I also have this issue in mind but then I put away the doodads most winters…this one, some stayed in place and I find them a comfort. I do rotate doodads, statuary, and obelisks but the garden is a reflection of the gardener and I like to see some doodads in a garden. It gives me a clue to the whimsy and sense of humor of the gardener. I love your topiary bird and the sleeping maiden…of course since here twin resides here.

    That is such a good idea, Layanee, rotate the art! I sometimes do that with stuff in the house. The best time to dust is when redoing a table top vignette, the only time to dust around here. The doodads are nice to look at in the winter, a better time to notice details. Sleeping Maiden TN says hi to her twin sis in RI! πŸ™‚
    Frances

  11. Barbara H. says:

    I blame my endless collecting of all things to my zodiac sign (yep, I’m a Moon Child). A few years ago when walking the yard I realized that the outside was becoming a reflection of the inside! Yikes, is there no end to it? Somehow an empty space just calls to be filled…

    Hi Barbara, the empty space that needs filled. A therapist could have a field day with those urges, thank goodness I am not of that bent. HA Endless… says it all. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  12. Cindy, MCOK says:

    I had to laugh at the multiple to do lists … we are kindred spirits there. I have notebooks, notepads, postits, torn off calendar pages … I’m still in search of my pink multisection notebook. Maybe it’s at your place!

    Hi Cindy, a pink notebook did you say? That definitely sounds like something that could be laying around here, I will keep my eye out. Thanks for stopping by. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  13. Janet says:

    I love the bright blue of your glazed pottery, I am too cheap to buy some of those beauties. OR I haven’t found the best place to buy yet! πŸ™‚ Am toying with the thought of doing a hypertufa container project. As for fun stuff in the garden, why not?

    Why not, indeed, Janet? It just seemed like there was too much stuff out there, and I am in the middle of scheming to make yet more, let alone what happens when those containers just jump into the shopping cart! Hypertufa is wonderful, you will love doing it. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  14. Leslie says:

    I have the same afflictions, the looking and seeing how something can be ‘improved’ and the rush that comes from seeing a new pot or birdhouse or…many things that I think would look good in the garden. I have begun to realize that there will always be nice-ish pots I like and am trying to buy only truly special ones. Unless it is at the thrift store in which case I have much less resolve.

    Hi Leslie, thanks for joining the conversation. Thrift store and roadside finds are so attractive to a tightwad like me, as are the do it yourself projects. I too have a thing for birdhouses. Free or the closest thing to it is hard to resist! πŸ™‚
    Frances

  15. Jen says:

    Each spring I need to get out there and do a good cleaning, and junk chucking. Some pots are damaged due to the winter. And then there is the catch all, the potting bench. I have many little hidden treasures in that baby.

    Having my garden on the patio means that I csn’t get away with much. It’s all there, and all on show.

    Your garden is has beautiful bones, even in winter.

    Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams

    Hi Jen, thanks for dropping in here. It sounds like you have a good handle on managing the stuff with that yearly clean up, and that you have to do so with the limited space. My garden is fairly large, since there is not lawn to speak of, lots of room for decor! Thanks for those kind words. Winter seems to have moved along here, but we may yet get a slap in the face goodbye from it. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  16. marmee says:

    good morning frances…i am constantly moving stuff around to find the exact right home for it. therefore creating new spaces that need something. it seems neverending. i lost several glazed pots in a storm a month or so ago and have not rushed out to replace them. i am “trying” to be more thoughtful of what i really need instead of what i “want.” the garden centers are so alluring. we are busy here making new raised beds…this time with seating. i am loving our spring so far.
    happy gardening.

    Good morning, Marmee, so nice to see you here! I sorry you lost some pots, they sometimes have problems here but the glazed ones have been good. Good luck with your new beds with seating, they sound perfect! πŸ™‚
    Frances

  17. Ah Frances, yes it is…to a degree. Looking at the garden in the winter, bare of cover to allow your garden accents to whisper for attention instead of scream yard sale, is what is at issue. During the winter, I find I have to store much of my garden art until the foliage returns. I slowly bring it out as the plants come back to life. This has saved me from many over-reactions to rid my memories of people and places I associated with every garden trinket. Soon, your pots and pieces of garden art will blend in the place you realized as the perfect spot. Or at least, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. H.

    That makes perfect sense, Helen, thanks! The garden will help minimize the impact of so many non plant items, as you say. I need to wait before doing any drastic removal of cherished gifts and mementos. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  18. Frances, I was thinking the same thing myself this morning. I bought that cute rooster and metal birdhouse, but now, I’m like, eeeek! When is it ever enough?

    Hi Dee, thanks for stopping by and joining in. When out shopping, it is so easy to be drawn to the things that speak to us. Is the concept of enough applicable in a garden, is the question. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  19. This is one of those things that is like humor, it’s entirely subjective. My rule of thumb is if it all fits into a cohesive whole, it’s not too much.

    So true, MMD. We all have our vision of what it is we want, or don’t want. I am not sure about mine, especially when shopping! πŸ™‚
    Frances

  20. Catherine says:

    I’m another one that sometimes wonders if I’ve got too much “decor” out in my garden. I used to limit it to the backyard, but it’s now making it’s way to the front too. I was thinking about gathering up all of the art/decor putting it on the deck and then redecorating with that pile. I figure that way I’m more likely to look at the leftovers and get rid of them rather than walking around the yard doing it. I do the same thing every so often in my house when I start finding everything cluttered looking.

    Hi Catherine, thanks for joining in. I have tried to declutter inside the house, but many would probably still think it quite full. The garden is the same way, quite full, and yet I still keep adding to the stuff out there. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  21. Ibrahim says:

    Wish you could move plants & pots around like furniture πŸ™‚

    Hi Ibrahim, thanks for visiting. It would be nice to be able to move those heavy pots. The hypertufa troughs need two strong men to pick them up, not much moving of those. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  22. Nell Jean says:

    I need someone to come in and ‘edit’ for me besides the dog who is a minimalist. She bit the head off a resin turtle. She carries off those little resing stones with words like ‘love’ and ‘inspiration’ and hides them. Surely knocking over faux fountains made of old lamp bases isn’t deliberate on her part, just an accident.

    How funny, Nell Jean! Your dog has very definite taste! πŸ™‚
    Frances

  23. Robin Ripley says:

    It’s definitely easy to go overboard. Your garden is beautiful, as always. My problem here in the open country is more one of scale. Big problems come with big price tags. Boo.

    (All that hunting is fun though, isn’t it?)

    Hi Robin, thanks for visiting. A big space would change everything, for sure. We are very enclosed with the fences and slope, even though the garden is fairly large. I would love to work with your huge site, but might need some extra income for those extra large doodads! πŸ™‚
    Frances

  24. chickenpoet says:

    As long as each peice has a sentimental story behind it, either directly or indirectly, there will always be room for something more to love. It will be enough when you do not enjoy the view or the places the window visions take you. They do add interesting color when your garden is not in full force. Love

    What an excellent way to put it, dear Chickenpoet, room for more to love. As has been mentioned by others, when the plants all fill in, the non-plants don’t stick out quite so much. They are to be discovered while one wanders the garden, a good thing. πŸ™‚
    Love,
    Frances

  25. Gillian says:

    I think you have done a perfect job of adding non living things to your garden! I see this is important in a climate when all vegetation dissapears in the winter and those blue pots really seem to come to life then.

    Hi Gillian, thanks for visiting. Your words and those of others brought to light how different the non plant objects seem when so many things are dormant. As the garden comes back to life, the ornaments are disappearing into the foliage. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  26. Lola says:

    I feel there is never too much of plants or ornaments. I keep looking for more space to put something. Now I’ve turned to planting trees or shrub that provide edible fruit.
    I finally found the perfect spot for my Pink Muhlley. I hope it takes well to it’s new home.

    Hi Lola, thanks for stopping by. Hooray for any plant that feeds us, tiny or tree, and also for your siting of the muhly. It should love your climate, native there. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  27. Rose says:

    I’m still in the infant stage of adding accents to my garden, so this is not a problem I have to worry about yet. Instead, I’m always wishing for more…and leave not so subtle gift hints with my children:) I think as long as the garden pleases the gardener, then it doesn’t matter how many knicknacks or doodads you have. Looking at the views of your garden, Frances, I would say you can never have enough of those beautiful blue pots!

    Hi Rose, thanks for your permission to get more blue pots! I recently saw some light blue square ones in many sizes that called out to me! You are right of course about the garden pleasing the gardener. I am more pleased with it as the green leaves are growing from the tree stems and from the ground up. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  28. Pam/Digging says:

    I thought I recognized that nursery shot!

    I just went through this thought pattern with my mom, who is preparing to move. Her garden is absolutely stuffed with decor, pots, you name it, and my task recently was to help her clean it out. It was hard for her to let go of things because of their special meaning, but nothing in the garden is permanent and many pieces had decayed beyond saving. I’m sure she’ll fill up the next garden she makes, though I hope it’s much smaller!

    Hi Pam, how exciting for you and your mom! She will probably fill the next garden up, as you say, sometimes that is part of the fun, just like filling it with plants. She is lucky to have you helping her. Those photos from the Austin fling are among my favorites ever, oh the memories!!! πŸ™‚
    Frances

  29. Hi Frances. Your description of your restless brain and resulting scraps of paper and notebooks made me smile, albeit wryly – I suffer from the same condition! As to when is it too much, when it no longer pleases you would be my answer. Or, as with wardrobe (closet?) space, when there is no longer room for more you may have to get rid of some things to make room for new.

    Hi Janet, thanks for the knowing smile! When we remodeled the main house, the closet was made intentionally smallish to get a handle on my shopping problem. Now, something new in means something old must go. It works well. I only allow a certain number of hangers! HA The garden still has room. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  30. ilona says:

    It is probably a matter of taste- when your own sense is that it is too much creates a need to edit. I wonder if the inside trick of uniting a collection of “like” things gives a greater sense of order to the eye?

    Some of just like to collect πŸ™‚

    Hi Ilona, thanks for joining in here. It is up to the individual, as you say. My brain is undecided, but I am one who does like to collect. It is the placement that seems more difficult. The thrill of the hunt! πŸ™‚
    Frances

  31. gittan says:

    Hi Frances, too much decoration, is it when you see the decorations instead of the plants in the garden, where they sort of take over. As long as they are only accessories to the garden, I think it’s ok even if there are lots of them. Plants, however I do not think we can have too many “lol” And I completely agree with you that we can cut down on procurement of a lot of other things but not that! The garden is sacred!
    Kram gittan

    Dear Gittan, thanks for visiting, so nice to see you. I wanted to tell you that the Astrantia have returned and are peeking up out of the ground. Alive is all I was hoping for, perhaps there will be flowers someday! I think you have hit upon the truth about the decor, when you see it instead of the plants it might be too much. Might. HA
    Kram πŸ™‚
    Frances

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