Designs, Tricks, and Schemes

Garden Flag Reveal!


My most recent post about garden flags included muslin garden flags that I tie-dyed and the promise to show readers what they look like hanging in my garden, where they’re supposed to not just look pretty but screen some bad views. So here’s the view from my back garden toward the interior sidewalk and neighbor’s storage area beyond. It’s not perfect, but I’m liking it.

The view from the sidewalk.

The view from the sidewalk.

One imperfection is that the pink is supposed to be burnt orange, to go with the dragon hanging on my shed and the fall colors on the Fothergilla and Oakleaf Hydrangea in this min-border. Not to mention the largest block of color in the whole garden, the roof of the shed, which I hadn’t even noticed when assessing the dominant colors in the garden.

The roof I didn't see.

The roof I didn’t see.

So why did the burnt orange dye I used turn out pink? Because I used left-over dye mix that had been sitting in my frig too long, believing what I’d read that they could be stored for weeks. Turns out, the dyes weaken every day they’re stored.

Oh, well. I like pink and it goes great with purples and chartreuse.


And I MUCH prefer the resulting colors over the primary colors used traditionally and to this day in prayer flags. (It was my complaint about those colors in this first post that led to the suggestion I make my own flags.)


Now for the front yard, where another batch of flags, dyed all the same color and then stenciled, are now hanging. They help screen the view of a parking lot, but they’ve already faded a lot since this shot was taken a month ago. I’ve learned my lesson about dyeing with Rit or, for even shorter-lasting results, vegetable dyes.

Reviewing the Options

In the final analysis, dyeing my own flags has been a TON of fun and a creative outlet over winter, but it’s also been a TON of work, and it’ll be an on-going job to adjust placement, replace torn flags, etc, etc.


A more effective, better looking screening solution and the least amount of work in the long run would be a small amount of lattice – say 3 feet tall, mounted at 4 feet above the ground in this case.   Horizontal (not diamond-shaped) lattice would nicely complement the iconic banding on our 1937 International Style homes.

Lattice would also be preferable to screening with plants. As much as I (obviously) love plants, I’m not crazy about the ‘Emerald Green’ Arborvitaes I planted here – they’re very slow-growing, and get dead spots where they don’t get enough light. Plus, in tight spaces, tall hedges usually create more problems than they solve.

If lattice were allowed by my coop, you better believe I’d be using it, instead of these flags or the evergreens that have died on me and the ones that might still.

Posted by on April 1, 2016 at 6:45 am, in the category Designs, Tricks, and Schemes.
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11 responses to “Garden Flag Reveal!”

  1. anne says:

    Love the flag idea. These ideas are coming perilously close to hanging laundry out to dry :). It’s just a matter of perspective, how beautiful it is, right? We could start with our prettiest sheets, dresses and skirts, so as not to upset the neighbors….

  2. Catherine says:

    I can’t believe that in 20 years of thinking and writing about garden design I’ve never come across this idea before! So clever, so pretty and so simple and gets around all those difficult bylaws about built structures. And I agree with Evelyn – the added magic of watching them flutter in the breeze means they’re not just blocking an ugly view – they’re creating a beautiful view in themselves. I’m thinking like Chris suggested that, as I’m not the most artistic person in the world, I could try something like this using an already printed outdoor fabric.
    Thanks for a great idea Susan.

    • susan harris says:

      Nice to see other applications! A local friend of mine is also customizing the flag idea – hanging thin (6″ wide) strips of curtain fabric she found for cheap. Can’t wait to see.

  3. Chris says:

    “…it’ll be an on-going job to adjust placement, replace torn flags, etc, etc.”

    Yesterday I was sitting on the deck while it was sunny working on obtaining the straight of grain by pulling threads on some light weight silk before hemming and turning into mobius scarves (only need a third of a yard, working on gifts for sisters). The silk threads were taken away in the breeze to be caught by the bushes and trees.

    It is nest building time, I seemed to have provided some material for the birds (whose mating calls can be heard at four in the morning). I thought about your flags and how when they fray you will also be providing colorful nesting materials for the garden birds.

    For those who do not want to dye, or replace faded fabric, there is lightweight nylon flag fabric (just a store that I know about, it should be available where outdoor fabrics are sold):

  4. Your flags are much lovelier than the store-bought ones, Susan. Have you heard from any neighbors about them?

    I imagine the fact that they move in the breeze adds life to your garden and might therefore feel different than a lattice screen. But it’s too bad your co-op board cannot come up with some approved hardscape screening that will allow residents more privacy if desired.

    Thanks for sharing all the stages of your experiments and their results.

  5. Laura Munoz says:

    I like the flags although I don’t have time to dye my own.

    Using lattice to block a view, for me, would be far more costly. I’d have to hire someone to frame the lattice and put it up. (Listening to my handyman’s strong opinions while keeping my mouth shut can be a problem sometimes.)

    Modern-looking horizontal lattice doesn’t go well with the style of my home and using tall shrubs against the wood fence might prove to be a maintenance issue.

    If it turns out I need to block the view of my neighbors when a deck is built on the house next door, I’ll probably turn to cheap bandannas used like the flags.

  6. Sue Land says:

    I loved reading about flag-making! And I lov the resulting barriers. I like the primary colors too! What fun!

  7. Marcia says:

    Not a fan, either, of the arborvitae. I use a couple of Nellie Stevens hollies to block my neighbors on both sides. Of course, I also have two native American hollies and my neighbor has three enormous ones, so I’m covered as far as using the native hollies.

    Nellies grow pretty fast, especially if fertilized right now, though in shade have a bit more of an open feel, and if you put a bird feeder next to it, the birds will flock to its branches to eat the seed you offer them. They produce berries without a male. (The male Edward J. Stevens is hard to find.) Easy to prune to keep short if desired, deer tend to avoid, and you don’t have to go out at 1 a.m. to knock off the wet snow to prevent breakage.

    Unfortunately, this cultivar is the holly of choice these days, but if you need a screen and if you like the birds, this is a great choice.

  8. Annie Shaw says:

    Hugely pertinent subject for our cooperative. Love the look of the horizontal “lattice” and it does match the style of our homes. Sigh.