For those who love Asian design and spirituality, Tibetan prayer flags are a fun and affordable way to add meaning and bright color to gardens. They can be seen draped in villages and base camps on documentaries featuring Mount Everest. A string of them is a beautiful and thoughtful way to add color and festive looks to off season gardens when flowers are limited. At well under $20 for a string of them, it’s a great solution for renters that comes with you if you move. Prayer flags may be printed in the original Tibetan or in English to make them more meaningful to the west. Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia about the lovely spirituality behind prayer flags: Traditionally, prayer flags are used to promote peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom. The flags do not carry prayers to ‘gods,’ a common misconception; rather, the Tibetans believe the prayers and mantras will be blown by the wind to spread the good will and compassion into all pervading space. Therefore, prayer flags are thought to bring benefit to all. By hanging flags in high places the “Wind Horse” will carry the blessings depicted on the flags to all beings. As wind passes over the surface of the flags which are sensitive to the slightest movement of the wind, the air is purified and sanctified by the Mantras. The prayers of a flag become a permanent part of the universe as the images fade from exposure to the elements. Just as life moves on and is replaced by new life, Tibetans renew their hopes for the world by continually mounting new flags alongside the old. This act symbolizes a welcoming of life changes and an acknowledgment that all beings are part of a greater ongoing cycle.
At the end of the season there are always stalks and branches to be had. And when these are used in the right setting they become a valuable tool for exploiting color, form and contrast. Nowhere is this more doable than in the southwest when the agaves send up their enormous stalks to flower. Some types of yucca do the same and dasilirion, also known as the desert spoon is another contender. All too often these architectural byproducts of plants are chipped, crushed and thrown into the garbage, but if dried and preserved they make outstanding free outdoor decorations. This beautiful example of repurposed agave stalks illustrates how leftover paint can be put to good use. Note the turquoise window trim on the upper right of this photo. The paint left over was used to create a “wash” over well dried agave stalks. A wash is created with ordinary latex paint thinned down with water to create a more semitransparent stain-like application. If the stalk was simply painted, it would be far too uniform. The aged look shown here allows the original surface with its flakes and peels to show through. That is an artificial patina that can be created on any kind of twig, in this case to lend the Santa Fe look when set against a solid colored wall. This high contrast approach is the perfect way to add interest to nooks and crannies of architecture.
Your awesome photos of flowers and gardens can save you big money come holiday season. The trick is to know how to get started turning a so-so photo into a fine work of art. The image below of a stunning cottage garden has long been one of my favorites for making cards. I did a few simple tricks with Photoshop Limited Edition that are easy for anyone to do just as well. Below is the original photo from which this art image was created. Here’s what I did: Crop into a long, wide format like a painter would use. I also cropped out all but the best flowering plants. Increase the color intensity so the flowers pop out. Increase the brightness so there’s not so much dark range as the original shot taken on on a cloudy day so the colors won’t bleach out and few shadows are visible. Use the “Ink Outline” filter in Photoshop to give it the hand-painted look without sacrificing the crispness of a photo. I like to print this one onto canvas sheets you can buy for your printer. I cut out the images and tack them onto a blank card so they can be removed by the recipient to use in other ways. Our just frame yourself and give for pennies compared to buying something for the art and flower lover in your world.