Austin – Tchotchke

Lucinda Huston Garden

I learnt a new word in Austin – tchotchke.  I think it is a Jewish word and it means a small object that is decorative rather than strictly functional, a trinket.  Just as when I visited gardens in San Francisco, I was intrigued by the amount of objects some of the gardens contained.  I don’t think this is particularly a trend in the UK.  We have statues, garden ornaments and water features, and maybe the odd decorative metal watering can but I don’t think we display objects in the same way.

Colleen Jamison Garden

I wonder if it is something to do with the climate. The warmer temperatures in both cities lead the inhabitants to use their outside space far more than we do in the UK.  We talk grandly about garden rooms but, really we are just not in the same league, which you realise when you see gardens which have outside kitchens, pizza ovens and grills. Anyway, I suppose if you spend a lot of time outside and you don’t have rain as much as we do  then you start to think about your outside space much as you would a room and why wouldn’t you want to add various trinkets.

Colleen Jamison Garden

Just as I when came back from San Francisco wanting to paint my shed orange (rest assured I didn’t it wouldn’t have looked right) I came back from Austin wanting to tchotchke up my garden. Whilst, I don’t think I will ever be in Lucinda Huston’s league, I have included a few ideas that I have taken home from Colleen Jamison, Pam Penick and Jenny Stocker’s gardens.  All of which would work back here in the UK (see above and gallery below).

Before I come to Lucinda Huston’s garden and knick knacks (that’s what we call trinkets in the UK) I wanted to share with you two of my favourite things from a garden whose name I can’t find as I have lost my itinerary, but they were just so different and too big really to fit in the tchotchke category but they did make me smile

You see lots of bottle trees in the US.  Apparently they are meant to ward off bad spirits or catch hexies – I’m not sure – but they generally seem to be made up of blue bottles but in this garden we saw a lovely subtle green bottle one and then this confection which is just so outrageous you have to smile.

But the Queen of tchotchke has to be Lucinda Huston and her tequila garden.  Whilst the house and garden are small they punch well above their weight in impact.  These photos are just some of my favourite bits, there was much much more, all in bright colours.  I found it quite overwhelming but as you start to take it all in you notice that everything is carefully thought about and arranged.  This isn’t some random collection of stuff; there are themes and everything is displayed to its best advantage.  I have to admit that I was stunned at how tidy it all was.  If you just take the cabinet at the top of this post – if I had such a display cabinet in my garden I can guarantee that it wouldn’t be that neat, it would have old leaves and bit of grit on the shelves and in her house, which has as much if not more on display, it is immaculate, not a bit of dust to be seen.  It made me feel exhausted just thinking about all the work Lucinda must put in to keep it looking so pristine.

So no sooner had I got back to the UK than I was digging out the couple of garden ornaments I have and putting them out in the garden – understated but a start.


10 Comments Add yours

  1. Anna says:

    What fabulous displays and such imagination required to come up with them Helen. I’m sure that any attempts from me would be untidy and no doubt things would topple over and the odd snail would wander in etc. I wonder how you pronounce’ tchotchke’. A new word for me too.

  2. March Picker says:

    I generally am a practicer of art restraint in my own garden, but it is fun to view the displays others come up with! Thank you for sharing.

  3. I stopped at the creeping jenny plant in the white water pitcher. Very cute

  4. Renee says:

    The hippo and super colorful bottle tree are from the Donna Fowler garden in Hutto! I remember being amazed at how well the bottle tree caught the light. Here in the desert, it would probably set something on fire… But I took away other inspiration! Are you going to add a hippo to your garden? They were cute!

  5. I love your theory about weather playing a part but let me assure that even up in the cooler and wetter Pacific Northwest there are plenty of tchotchkes in gardens. Sometimes so many you can’t even see the plants (I am generally not a fan). Interesting that this is an American thing, I had no idea.

  6. Jenny says:

    You made an interesting observation about the difference between the UK and USA. But have to say we once visited a garden in the UK where they did have a lot of tchotchkes. All kinds of plates hanging on the walls of the garage and other small things around the garden. But most of the large gardens I have been to In the UK have such incredible structure that they don’t need to invest in any other decoration. Beautiful gateposts and long views to a ruin etc. a church, or lighthouse at the end of the view. Hedges to drool over. And there are statement pieces like large urns, stone troughs, lead cisterns, sundials (the beauty at Snowshill) and Charles Wade gave me the ideas for my little sayings above the doorways. And yes I sometimes wonder if we don’t have too much of this and then you visit Lucinda’s and think you don’t have enough. And the other thing too is that I find myself taking lots of photos of the tchotchkes and wondering what the garden would look like without them. I clearly have taken on an American mindset.

  7. I love the look on that hippo’s face! It’s very nearly a grin!

  8. tonytomeo says:

    I thought we just have bad taste. I did not attribute the abundance of junk in the garden to our lifestyles that allow us to live outside more than in other regions. San Francisco is a relatively cool climate, with damp fog through much of summer. Yet, being outside is pretty normal for us in most places. We can even be outside through much of winter. It does not rain much, and does not often get uncomfortably cold. Nor does it get too hot.

  9. Loved your comments (and Jenny’s) on this subject as I am a very restrained gardener when it comes to non-plant additions to my garden. Usually after I add something, I decide it doesn’t work and quickly send it on to a new home in someone else’s garden. Even where I live with extremely long and cold snowy winters, people really use their outside space in the warm weather.

  10. Gerhard Bock says:

    Great post and photos. You paid a lot more attention to the details than I did – I was fairly overwhelmed with the gardens as a whole.

    Bottle trees seem to be a Texas thing. They’re not common here in California.

    Tchotchke such a useful word, isn’t it?

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