Tuesday, October 3, 2023 Oct 3, 2023
88° F Dallas, TX

Exterior Decorating

Thirty-two great things to do to your back yard, front yard, and all around the house.

1. All sorts of fountains – cornucopias, Greek goddesses, fruits and flowers, as well as less conventional shapes like smiling turtles and a work shoe – are available at Dallas Nurseries, 12501 Preston, 239-1331. Prices range from $15 to $250, depending on the style and amount of equipment. Bill Reed Decorations can whip up a fountain design for you – they created the pots-and-pans Santa Claus fountain that used to be on display at North Park at Christmastime – that will do more than just spray water. Bill Reed Decorations, 333 First Avenue, 823-3154.

2. The organic gardening craze peaked several years ago, and the virtues of barnyard manure over chemical fertilizer are now common knowledge. But beware, says Art Lee of Dallas Nurseries: During the first year, the decomposi-tion period, ma-nure actually takes nitrogen out of the soil. And a truckload hauled in from the country will probably be full of weeds you never knew existed. Wolfe Nurseries sell 40-pound bags of composted cow manure that’s weed- and odor-free for only $2.29. But Lee prefers cooked and sterilized sewer sludge. The best-known brand is Milorgro, which gets its name from its point of origin, Milwaukee. Dallas Nurseries sells just plain Orgro (SO pounds for $2.99); it should be just as good, since there’s no reason to believe that the wastes of Milwaukee are more nutritious than anyone else’s. Sewer sludge is one natural resource that’s in no immediate danger of depletion.

3. Garden sculpture doesn’t have to be plaster gnomes. Carol and T. G. Mecaskey, owners of 1912 Stained Glass Studio in Olla Podrida, 661-8109, create three-dimensional free-form sculptures of stained glass set in concrete. There are no restrictions on size, and cost is determined by design.

4. Exterior lighting is a sensible idea for security reasons, but it doesn’t have to be naked floodlamps. John Watson is an internationally recognized authority on outdoor lighting who pioneered the field 28 years ago. Even Watson’s basic security lighting systems are attractive and flattering. His mercury vapor lamps emit a blue light, simulating intense moonlight. Burning an average of 10 hours per night, each lamp should last about six years. An effective security system, using only one light, can be installed for as little as $300, and the monthly cost is less than that of operating one burner on an electric stove-about 70¢ a month. John Watson Landscape Illumination, 1933 Regal Row, 630-7751.

5. The most seductive piece of lawn furniture we’ve found this year is the Floating Chair by Homecrest. It can be used with a specially designed tripod stand or can be hung from a sturdy branch. $206.90 with stand at Freed’s Contemporary Store on LBJ. Freed’s also has the city’s largest selection of king-size umbrellas. The Inside Out Shop, 5730 West Lovers Lane, also has a great selection of lawn furniture, and features the Brown Jordan line, year in and year out the most consistent manufacturer of tasteful, high-quality lawn furniture.

6. If you heed the Dallas News’ holiday admonition to “Fly your flag,” you need a flag – maybe even a flagpole. The Betsy Ross Flag Girls, Northwest Highway at Jupiter Road, 328-3254, can make your yard a patriotic center with a three-by-five-foot flag – $16 cotton, $23 nylon. If you want an 18-foot steel pole, that’s $23 if you install it yourself (flagpole planters charge $50 an hour). The Flag Girls sell flags of all 50 states and every member nation of the UN. They’ll make custom flags with your family crest, your company logo, or whatever, for $160 and up.

7. Some items for you backyard Bocuses: PanHandlers (5946 Royal Lane, 369-8067) has a set of metal pins with images of French chefs on the top. There’s one each for rare, medium rare, medium, and medium well, and when your steak reaches the desired degree of doneness, the chef’s hat pops up. It’s guaranteed to work: $15.00 for the set-ask for the Redi-chef. They also have little net umbrellas to keep flies away from the food and something called the Party-Brater ($35), an alcohol-burning ceramic warmer /cooker that’s great for keeping things warm after you take them off the main grill. The Cookery at the downtown Neiman-Marcus has a hot pad glove that doubles as a hand puppet, so you can entertain the kids while you’re waiting for the chef’s hat to pop up-$5. And if you’re accident-prone, Sanger Harris has asbestos vests.

8. Here’s a sweet idea: bee-keeping. There’s no problem keeping bees in Dallas as long as the hives are three feet away from the property line. Earl McCoy of Irving (255-2822) is the man to see about bees – he’ll set you up, hive and all, for about $90. Assuming that you’re into bees for their honey, you ought to know that the way you get it away from them is to blow smoke into the hives. The bees think the hive is on fire, so they get ready to depart with their valuables. Meanwhile, the beekeeper makes off with the honey. If that’s too much bother, McCoy will sell you fresh honey for $1.25 a pound.

9. The most romantic touches for a garden are to be found at the Wrecking Bar, 2601 McKinney, 827-1717. Specializing in antique architectural trim and fixtures, the firm regularly stocks wood and marble columns from one to sixteen feet tall, iron urns from England and France, both domestic and imported iron benches, antique stone capitals, French wall fountains and shell basins, ornamental lions heads, and cypress doors.

10. This one won’t win any design awards, but we think nobody should be without an old-fashioned clothesline. You’ll thank us when you get the DP&L bill this August and see how much electricity you save. Or when the Maytag goes on the fritz and you find that the repairman has died of loneliness. Anyway, they’re perfect for hanging out rugs and heavy blankets, and nothing smells as nice as sheets and towels that have been hanging in the sun. Preston Hollow Fence, 11634 Harry Hines, still sells the old-fashioned kind with two metal posts, crossbars, and four galvanized wire lines. Sears has the new-fangled single post “outdoor dryers” that look sort of like the skeleton of an umbrella: $36.99 through the catalogue.

11. You can also commission some romantic touchesat Potter Art Metal Studios,4512 North Central Expressway. They can design asolid copper street lamp fora touch of old New Orleansor any type of hand-crafted,custom-made metalsculpture, from porch railings to scrolled drivewaygates (such as those thatgrace the Caruth estate).One of Dick Potter’sspecialties is the topiarydesign-metalwork shapedinto animal form and filledwith shrubbery-which isfound in many Europeangardens. 826-2524.

12. If you want backgroundmusic outdoors, you can always put your speakers in the windows and turn up the volume. But Angus Wynne III, the director of Audiotronix sound company, says there are more sophisticated ways of piping your sounds outside. Wynne has installed underwater speakers in swimming pool walls, designed floating speakers to toss right in the pool, and camouflaged speakers as pieces of outdoor sculpture. The turn-table, tape deck, and amplifier can be located in the house or a cabana, or built into a rolling module to be moved from the house to patio or poolside. A professionally installed system ranges from $300 to $30,000. There are do-it-yourself kits, too, but they’re usually not as reliable-or as imaginative-as Wynne’s. 747-9933.

13. One of the more curious backyard money-making schemes of recent years is worm farming. But Gallagher’s Worm Farm, which has been in the business since the time when there weren’t enough worm salesmen to justify a section in the Yellow Pages, doesn’t hold out much encouragement for backyard worm ranchers. It’s true that each worm has both male and female sex organs, so it’s not unusual for 1000 worms to turn into 1,000,000 in a year. The problem is that there may not be a market for a million worms in your neighborhood. The most popular breeds are the red wiggler and the African night crawler. The night crawler does just that – on rainy nights he/she packs his/her bags and leaves, putting the farmer out of business by morning. Anyway, Gallagher points out, most worms aren’t really happy unless they’re kept in the house. If you’re still interested, you can call Gallagher’s at 285-8636.

14. If you’ve got a little imagination, some of the neatest backyard furniture and decorating touches are to be found at antique shops and flea markets-especially those specializing in first class junk: pickle barrels, wash pots, duck decoys, bucksaws, telephone cable spools, plows, wagons. The best outdoor scavenging is at Big D Bazaar near I-30 and at Fischer’s Antique Village (take the Collins Road exit from I-20).

15. The hottest contemporary look is “HighTech,” industrial designturned to domestic purposes. Williams-Sonoma,8405 Pickwick Lane,696-0348, has bistro tablesand chairs made of roughwood painted green-arefreshing change from thetraditional redwood picnicset. A rectangular table is$90, a round one $75, andslatted chairs are $32.50 each.

16. The perfect touch for arenovated house in EastDallas or Oak Cliff mightbe a white picket fence.They’re not extinct – though in some of the suburbs they’re illegal. Dallas says front yard fences are fine as long as they’re not more than four feet high. If you’re interested, call the Preston Hollow Fence Company, 11634 Harry Hines, 247-3193, and ask for Tom. He’ll build one for $6 a linear foot, plus $30 for each gate. Tom uses western red cedar, the best readily available outdoor wood.

17.Stone walls do not aprison make, but they domake a garden more attractive. Cedric Bragg has been ,building stone walls for 23years. You can call him inFort Worth at (817) 927-2590, or leave word for himat Dallas Pool Company(233-8662). Bragg normallyuses sandstone fromWeatherford, for which hecharges $5 a square foot,but he’ll use any kind ofrock you’re willing to payfor. Brick walls start at $7 asquare foot (that doesn’t include the concrete base andsteel bars).

18. Cedric Bragg also buildsfish ponds, complete withpump and waterfall, for$800 to $1200. The BoutiquePet Shop and Aquarium, 9015Garland Road, 321-1219, will recommend a pond builder as well as advise you on the care and feed- ing of the fish you stock the Pond with.

19. Anybody can barbecue burgers or steaks. But Dale Bard, patio gourmet and marketing manager for Falcon Gas Grills, has more ambitious ideas, like barbecued rattlesnake: Carefully remove the skin from the rear three-quarters of the snake. Cut the sections of the body into portions approximately 2 inches long. Carefully crack the rib bones so the section may be laid out flat. Soak in mild salt water for at least six hours. Barbecue at medium heat on the upper cooking rack of the grill, brushing the sections liberally with melted butter, lemon juice, and a sprinkling of garlic salt. Barbecuing takes approximately 15 minutes. If you can’t find a fresh snake, Antone’s, 4234 Harry Hines, 528-5291, stocks frozen strips at $8.95 a pound.

20. If you’ve got an odd bare spot in the back yard that needs an instant transformation, you might put a boulder there. You can get a whopper from Home Servicing Co. of Dallas, 2525 Irving Blvd., 638-8457, for about $100. It’s Featherock, a lighter-than-it-looks volcanic rock imported from California. Home Servicing will deliver up to three tons of boulders anywhere in Dallas County for $12.

21. A few gardening gizmos: Sears has a wheelbarrow that rolls on a ball instead of a wheel, so it doesn’t get mired down and track your lawn ($38.50 in the catalogue). Black and Decker’s Jack Rabbit Hand Pump eliminates the dangerous gasoline can by allowing you to pump gas directly from your car to the lawnmower ($12.95 at Black and Decker Sales, 1808 North Industrial, 741-6401). The Toro Lawn Dolly makes it easier to move heavy bags of grass clippings-or heavy bags of anything ($24.95 at Circle Equipment, 8221 Preston, 368-8480).

22. Most swing sets that come from department stores not only require a degree in mechanical engineering and the temperament of St. Francis to assemble, they probably won’t withstand the combined onslaughts of a five-year-old and the Dallas weather. A.better bet is Keeton’s Playground Equipment in Kennedale – southwest of Fort Worth, across the highway from the 23. The railroad tie is probably the most versatile gardening item since gravel. Ties can be used as retaining walls, for ground level decking, for steps, for borders – you name it. H and W Enterprises, at the intersection of Berry and Loop 820 in East Fort Worth, 429-0822, hasa wide variety of used tiesfrom $5 to $12.50 – depending on quality. DallasNurseries, 12501 Preston,has ties for $6.95; HomeServicing, 2525 Irving Blvd.,sells them for $6. Quality isimportant if you want themto look good or to meetflush. New ties are available at Texas Tie iand Timber for $11 apieceif you pick them up inDenison; they’ll deliver atruckload for $92.

firehouse. Keeton has allsorts of backyard climbingapparatus, with monkeybars, slides, swings, andcrawl-through barrels. Theprices are reasonable, considering that Keeton usesonly heavy metals that willtake a weld. Large rigs sellfor $65 to $120. Keeton alsodoes custom work and willmake anything you candraw for him. (817) 478-6483.

24. Brock Hanna, owner of Accents ’n Wood, 2646 Allen, 824-3140, works with redwood and cedar, creating birdhouses, trellises, and drawbridges. He’s willing to try anything, including electrical and plumbing systems – a rose trellis that lights up or a bird house with indoor plumbing? – and dreams of creating a Japanese garden with self-cleaning running water or a multi-level deck structure for a pool or a creek.

25. Of all gardening chores, watering the lawn is probably the easiest. Now you can even eliminate the nuisance of remembering to shut off the water when you want to take a nap or watch the Ranger game. The Nelson Water Timer, which attaches to your faucet, does this little chore for you. It’s available at Lee’s Lawn and Leisure, 226 Abrams Forest Shopping Center, for $12.95. Lee’s also has the Swan Belted Radial, a kink-resistant garden hose in 75 foot lengths for $28.95, and the Cricket, a system with three sprinklers set 15 for corners row side yards. Sharp Hardware stores have the Sunbeam sprinkler, which can be put between hoses; the Melnor turret sprinkler that can be set to water a strip five feet wide and fifty feet long; the Flower Shower, which has a three foot handle to reach tall hanging baskets; and a gadget that fits over downspouts so rain water doesn’t rush out in a torrent but spreads out gently over the lawn.

26. A compost heap is a never-ending supply of rich garden earth. But the problem with just piling it up is that you have to dig down to get the good stuff at the bottom. North Haven Gardens, 7700 Northaven Rd., 363-5316, has a solution to this problem, the Rotocrop. Shaped sort of like a giant garbage can, the Rotocrop holds 17.5 cubic feet of compost, and you can get to the good stuff by simply sliding up a panel and removing the mature compost from the bottom of the bin. $54.95.

27. You’ve planted your vegetable garden and seeded your lawn, but you’ve just looked out to see a flock of grackles feasting on the seed. Don’t bother with the mail order scarecrows that make your back yard look like a used car lot. Design your own. The kids will be delighted to help you create one that looks like Darth Vader. The only problem with it is that it won’t scare the crows-just the meter reader. What you really need is a cat.

28. Paolo Soleri, the innovative urban designer, fashioned a variety of bronze and clay windbells now available at the Olla Pod Gallery in Olla Podrida, 239-0551. The bells are made near Arcosanti, Soleri’s prototype city being planned on 10 acres of an 860-acre preserve in Arizona. They come in a variety of forms and colors and give off unusual sounds – some of the clay bells have differing pitches depending on the dryness of the weather. Prices range from $7 to $300.

29.“Playhouses of Dallas” sounds like a chain of massage parlors, but it’s Jim Moody’s six-year-old business of making miniature wonderlands for kids. Moody creates all kinds of forts and playhouses, with cedar lumber, wood shingle roofs, and clear plastic sliding windows. There are elevated forts; forts with sandboxes underneath; elevated forts with beam extensions, sliding poles, and rope swings; and a three-story fort, 16 feet high. The most popular model is a replica of a frontier cabin. Prices, including installation, range from $319 to $670, but Moody will also custom-build from your own fantasies. One warning: Unless you’re really serious about buying one of these, don’t take the kids along when you look at the models. 10509 Harry Hines, 357-8964.

30. If your house looks like every other house on the block, maybe you need a sign to tell everyone you live there. Dos Escultores in Olla Podrida, 661-5469, ex-ecutes redwood nameplates for $6 to $9 a linear foot. In fact, they’ll make almost any kind of sign you want, as well as custom-designed mailboxes. One Richardson client who lives on Stagecoach Road commissioned a stagecoach mailbox with brass wheels.

31. If you can’t find the kids when dinner’s ready, hang an old-fashioned triangle dinner bell outside the back door and give it a jangle when you need to summon the family. Available at Sharp Hardware’s several Dallas locations, for $10.95.

32. Once you’ve got everything in shape, throw a par-ty. Bill Reed’s crew has turned backyards into Dodge City, Tahiti, a circus tent, a palace, and outer space. Recently, they designed a showboat party with a paddle wheel that appeared to be turning. They can also provide a volcano that actually works. The price for a party could run as high as $40,000 – including parking lot attendants, security guards, invitations and tickets, and whatever else a client wants. And there’s one more asset Reed’s staff brings to a party: a spokesperson claims, “It has never rained on one of our parties.” Bill Reed Decorations, 333 First Avenue, 823-3154.