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Create the perfect garden with plastic, silk and more

Are you staying up nights worrying that you and your poor excuse for a garden are the laughingstock of the street? Put aside those feelings of horticultural inadequacy. Just remember the faker's motto: If they can't tell, it's not fake. To prove the point, we called on one of Hollywood's sneakiest gardeners, Danny Ondrejko, garden guru for some 40 films in all. He wired store-bought tomatoes to the vine in It's Complicated so Meryl Streep could pluck a juicy one on cue. He decked out the jungle scene in Michael Jackson's This Is It legacy video. And, Ondrejko's personal favorite, he practically made co-stars of all the topiaries in Edward Scissorhands. Chicago Tribune

Keep 'em moving. Since you'll be upholstering your greenscape with tricks aplenty, you'll not want guests to linger out of doors, nor get too close to all your sleights of hand. A clipped pace along the garden walk is all you'll allow. Even better? Restrict them to a view out the window. This is overarching rule No. 1.

Make sure no one bites the apple. Or the orange. Or whatever fruit you choose to dangle from your measly tree. Ondrejko is big on grabbing fruit from the grocery (or even Styrofoam versions from the craft shop) and sticking a hard wire through the bottom, straight up to the tippy top. Just make a loop and wire it onto any branch.

Don't scorn the silk. "We cheat roses, azaleas, all the time," says Ondrejko, who's not shy about hightailing it to the craft store and scooping up armloads of silks. He's tucked silk vines on fences where the ivy's looking thin. Even tucked azalea blooms on a holly bush. "Even if the leaf isn't going to match the flower, long as it's far enough away, no one's going to notice," says the master of faux. (See rule No. 1.) Mixing fakes into the real greenery helps fool the eye more completely.

No need to dig. You can dash out to the big-box garden center and haul home half a dozen flats of annuals (petunias, pansies, daisies, whatever strikes your fancy) and ground cover. Maybe throw in a few bushes. All for under 100 bucks, Ondrejko says. Just lay the flats on the ground, sprinkle mulch to hide the plastic trays or pots, stand back and admire. If you insist on sweat equity, dig the hole halfway, and then sink in the pots and trays.

Eye candy is everything. And that, says Ondrejko, means a big blast of color front and center, fading to pale in the background. "The eyes go to color," he insists, so put your effort where it counts: the front stoop, one cascading planter, the view framed by the picture window. One last cheat: Maybe leave a muddy trowel at the garden's edge, as if you've just been toiling the day away.

Create the perfect garden with plastic, silk and more 06/23/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 23, 2010 12:03am]
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