Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Garden Variety

In the spring it's tempting to race to your local home improvement store to get all new stuff for the patio. But wouldn't it be more fun--and economical--to shop for one-of-a-kind garden delights at your local swap meet? You can outfit your whole backyard in just one trip, and it will look like you spent years carefully collecting your garden treasures.

Easy Chairs
We see all kinds of patio furniture at the flea market throughout the year. But as the weather gets warmer, we see more and more. On this trip, we spotted a turquoise wicker sofa and chair. Kitty was drawn in by the color, but when we checked them out up close, we could see they were missing some of their curlicues and had some mildew staining. Although they could easily be cleaned, it would be hard to repair the broken wicker spirals, so she passed.

We found dozens of wrought iron patio chairs, something our friend Margaret was on the hunt for. Last year she bought a vintage glass table that seats six, but it didn't come with chairs. So since then, she has been buying the chairs one at a time, mixing and matching their designs. She intends to tie the whole set together by spray painting them all lemon yellow. This trip she picked up a café chair with oak leaves in the seat back for only $20. The same seller had a classic Adirondack chair with a worn paint finish that we all admired. He said the chair was invented in the early 1900s and that if you found an original made by Harry Bunnell, it could cost more than $1000. We all agreed that an Adirondack chair just feels like summer. Makes you want to lean back and sip lemonade!

Sculpture Garden
In springtime, nearly every booth at the flea market has a backyard Bambi or stone squirrel begging us to take him home. This trip seemed to have a pond theme because we saw several cement frogs, a huge turtle, and two glorious swans--and that was in the first hour! Kitty gushed over a three-foot copper heron that would make a regal sentinel standing guard over her vegetable garden. But the seller wanted $275, so we kept on looking. Later in the day, we saw a kooky cast-iron statue of a mermaid. She'd be a riot reclining on a chaise in the backyard. Jennifer managed to keep her cool when she asked the price. $150? Sold! It's a good thing flea markets have heavy-duty carts you can borrow. That mermaid weighed a ton!

Hot Pots
We both have a bit of a green thumb, so interesting planters were on our list. One vendor had wooden window boxes for $25 each. They were super weathered and would look at home hanging on a wooden fence. Another had a six-foot-tall wall planter perfect for trailing plants--and also perfect for privacy. We laughed that $175 is a bargain if you have nosy neighbors!

Just a few aisles over were a pair of concrete Grecian urns like the ones we had by the pool growing up. Our mom liked the classical drama they added, especially with giant scheffleras planted in them. Cement urns get a gorgeous patina as they age, and the ones we had in Florida were always covered in a pretty green moss. Our reminiscing convinced Margaret to buy two! The booth next door was filled with shabby chic pieces, including a flower cart straight out of My Fair Lady. Jennifer wanted to turn it into a portable English garden, but the dealer wanted $195. Too bad the mermaid ate her whole budget!

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