August 03, 2022
When you arrive at a purple Victorian-style house on a Rainbow Row, with a dozen planetary-painted bowling balls tucked amid foundation ferns and coleus, accented by jewel-toned bottles on a bottle tree — well, you know you’re in for a tour of a fearless color-lover’s garden. Such is the garden of Jane and Duane Miller, which I visited during the Madison Fling in late June.
The couple lets their creativity fly, starting with the painted bowling ball collection.
On the porch steps, a white pitcher displays a metal flower-and-cattail bouquet, which ties in with the cat theme, perhaps?
This bouquet blooms all summer.
Keeping an eye out for the mail!
The charming front garden from the other side
When I finally tore myself from the front garden and headed into the back, I was stopped at the back porch steps by a luminous purple clematis.
And another metal flower bouquet — this one made of old spigot handles.
Polka-dotted bowling pins make a one-of-a-kind “bottle tree” along the back foundation…
…especially against a mirrored-glass mosaic on the concrete skirting.
The creativity of this garden extends beyond decor though. During the growing season, the Millers convert their angled driveway, which takes up most of the narrow backyard, into a patio garden by rolling out an arbor, white picket fence, and container plants — all conveniently on wheels!
Planter boxes at the base of the arbor and fencing sections make each piece stable and keep things from blowing over.
Inside the portable arbor and fence, the driveway is converted into a patio garden and outdoor dining space. A table draped in colorful oilcloth is shaded by a lime-green umbrella adorned with a festive oilcloth-triangle banner.
A row of jewel-bright glass vases displays pink and yellow flowers for even more punch.
Triangles of oilcloth on a string make a weatherproof and colorful fringe for the umbrella.
Crayola-hued bouquets say, Party time!
Potted plants on wheeled caddies are easily rolled in and out as the season requires. Off to one side, a white pergola is a permanent feature and faces the house. I’ll have pics of that in a moment, but let’s explore the rest of the driveway garden first.
Painted green and white and dressed up with flowery lace on sparkling windows, the garage makes a charming backdrop to the patio garden.
A plant-tag wreath with hot-glued faux succulents hangs on the garage, adding a dash of gardener humor. Now you know what to do with all those old plant labels you’ve shoved in a drawer. Get your glue guns heating!
A fairy-tale lantern glows green on one side of the garage, backed by painted, trompe-l’oeil brick siding and climbing ivy.
Potted plants throughout the garden are “mulched” with white seashells — a beachy touch that keeps soil from splashing about when watering.
A tiny strip of lawn and a shady border along the fence lead the eye to an arched arbor. Amid the hostas, a blue bottle tree with one twisting spire of red glass adds color beneath a moon-like nylon lantern.
Hugging the trunk of a tree, a ghostly form of a woman fashioned from chicken wire comes into focus.
Through the arch you see a secret garden tucked between two garages.
The Millers’ garage is painted cobalt blue, with more painted “brick” below. A beautiful arrangement of vases, lime-green topiary frames, and mirrored objects draws you in.
Even the garage window is part of the arrangement.
A face planter on the wall wears faux greenery tresses, and antlers give her a forest-deity aspect.
Tablescape and window decor
A potted coleus on a table adds more lime green against the blue wall.
A stained trellis atop a low concrete wall — given character with painted faux brick — connects the two garages and provides privacy. Another round mirror hangs here and reflects the secret garden’s seating area. Below, a birdbath display of shells keeps the beachy theme going.
A few posies stand in a shell-like vase in the center.
And it makes a good spot for a photo of a friend (hi, Cat!) and a hidden selfie.
So many lovely details in this small garden
Danniel of Botanica enjoying the secret garden too
Birdbath vignette outside the fence
And a sage-like head planter with a rock-star hairdo
Heading back toward the house, let’s take a peek at the white pergola just off the driveway. Old glass insulators — white, turquoise, sea-glass green, and cobalt — adorn the top beams. They must catch the eye when viewed from the upper windows of the house.
An upside-down birdbath topped with a concrete spire (I think?) wears a fringe of blue-gray river pebbles. Gray and blue pots and spheres below add to the color scheme.
Is that another bowling ball covered in glass beads, I wonder?
And here’s one covered in pennies.
A shiny blue cushion appears to be tossed onto the stone paving — and then you realize it’s a painted concrete stepping stone that leads into the pergola.
A few more concrete “cushions” lie scattered on the pergola deck as well. Blue bottles mingle with blue-and-white pottery and a white mirror for a focal-point display.
Along one side, a copper-and-green coleus container on a blue bench is backed by cobalt bottles in a leafy bed.
And a braided hibiscus tree is given a little beachy flair with vertical seashell mulch. What a creative garden that makes the most of a small yard with rollaway elements, a secret garden, and artistic decor!
Up next: The restful woodland strolling garden of Ann Munson. For a look back at the fantasy gardens and architecture of Epic Systems’ corporate campus, click here for Part 1 and Part 2 of my tour.
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