To tchotchke or not to tchotchke

As in life, so am I when it comes to garden ornamentation: a relativist. (Even in my relativism, I’m with my pal Petronius, who said: All things in moderation, including moderation.)

Purists have it in for tchotchke, knickknacks or bric-a-brac in the garden. Let’s say, they have a low QQ (Quirk Quotient). As a relativist whose QQ borders on high, I say, if you like cute, go for it. It isn’t the what, but the how that counts.

My friend L-A has the right idea. She likes cute ornamental birdhouses. But rather than scattering them around the garden, she has a) created a cohesive collection, and b) grouped them for impact on a feature wall.

The effect is charming. It does what a good ornament in the garden is meant to to: draw the eye and give it a place to rest. It also makes a virtue of a long stretch of fencing beside her pool.

By contrast, in an otherwise attractive garden I saw on a recent tour, cute little oddments were regularly inserted every couple of feet; a mini inukshuk beside a Victorian-style plaque beside a smiling pottery frog. Unfortunately, this bitty approach distracted from the lovely garden. It was a bad case of bric-a-brac-arrhea.

Nobody’s perfect. For instance, it’s possible to cram way too many plants into a garden. I raise my hand here; yes, I am a plantaholic, working hard to curb my impulses. With plants, as with the rest of our garden décor, we’d all be wise to keep these verbs in mind: unify, edit, arrange – repeat.


  1. I tell ya… I'm not much of a tchotschke person in the garden, but that trailer birdhouse is too darn cute! That thing would be welcome in my garden any day!

    I like the idea of clumping birdhouses together. Not sure I would do it, but I think it would be a better way to display a collection for those who collect them.

  2. I'm a total non-tchoschke person in the house, but I have plans for the garden. Nothing yet. Of course, I'm just over my head managing the yard itself, let alone decorating it.

    All in time, I tell myself.

  3. I came here after seeing your last post that was next to your comment on Kathy's bindweed post.

    I just had a snack, and now need to go back to the cupboard I am cleaning out, and have to figure out what to do with the containers with no lids, and lids with no containers.

    As for tchoxchkes in the house and garden, I think I am the queen of filling spaces. At least I have the need to try. My husband is pretty good about placing my finds here and there in the yard, too.

    I am also still finding holes that I'm buying more plants to fill. Yesterday, I decided to pot up some annuals, and a few perennials I dug from the yard to place here and there as I notice more holes, or create them when I trim back deadheads.

    I love the bird houses on the fence!

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