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The Collecting Life: Garden Variety

The Collecting Life: Garden Variety

By Mary Randolph Carter, Country Living Magazine
Photos courtesy of Country Living

Okay, I admit it: My green thumb has more to do with a proclivity for growing collections rather than the garden itself. All my life I have loved creating environments using found things. With the purchase, almost three decades ago, of Elm Glen Farm in Upstate New York, those options expanded to decorating in the great outdoors. Before I even planted the first bulb, I began the hunt for garden accessories. Here, some of the finds that have taken root in my heart!

1.  Little Blue Birdhouse
This handmade find featuring my favorite faded shade of blue and adorned with a garden trowel makes the perfect welcome at the door of my tiny chicken coop-turned-garden-shed.

2.  Rusty Rooster
I discovered my garden sentry, a nearly 3-foot-tall rooster made in Mexico from stray pieces of salvaged metal, at a flea market in New York City. (You should have seen the look on the cab driver’s face when I hauled this plucky fellow in the seat next to me!)

3.  Harvest Tray
I take more delight in displaying my harvest than in cultivating it! There’s nothing as beautiful as a tomato crop ripening in this old green wooden box, which I “upgraded” with a makeshift metal handle and lined with a checked cotton napkin.

4.  Café Chair
Some might seek out spray-paint, but I’ve left this rust-spattered chair as is. I use it as a place to display an ever-rotating array of finds: cutout Victorian illustration, miniature bamboo-handled tools, and a pair of watering cans, one made from an old paint bucket

5.  Graniteware Planters
If you insist, like I do, on giving your plants a one-of-a-kind look, try planting them in old graniteware or galvanized buckets. I love the pretty-meets-rustic look of my zinnias, hollyhocks, and black-eyed Susans popping out of these humble vessels.

6.  Garden Gnomes
My soft spot for the bearded creatures started with a childhood fairy garden, where they stood guard over the sprightly figures. Today they are the magic guardians of me and all my collections!

For more of Mary Randolph Carter’s garden collection, visit

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