By Carole West

Gardening with flair begins by expressing our creativity. In my new book, Startle Garden I have an entire chapter dedicated to adding garden flair and it was probably the most fun to write because it’s where inspiration comes to life!

Don’t get me wrong; I love establishing a garden, planting and caring for a space, but when the garden is resting between the seasons I also enjoy looking at something that lifts my soul during those dreary days.

Think about it, an empty or resting raised bed is kind of depressing. I’m going to show you how to dress up planting spaces so they inspire even when they’re resting.

On our farm, we have a fenced-in cozy backyard, I call it the animal-free zone. A few years back I made these trio planters from reclaimed wood. This project was so easy to build and I loved that it came together using leftover wood from previous projects. Those building instructions can be found here.

After a couple years, these planters needed a little pick up. With spring here and summer around the corner, the rose is reaching out with new growth, the pansies are blooming for joy because they made it through winter, and the scabiosis is just excited because it loves spring in Texas.

With this activity, each box offers promise for natural beauty to blossom. But those planters were missing something, so I decided to give them a little “startle.” I did this by making a couple wooden signs using stencils. This is an easy project and something anybody can implement to their garden space.

I started with scrap wood because we always have additional pieces lying around. This was a combination of cedar fence boards and pine planks. Any type of wood will work; just keep it simple.

The following list of supplies can be purchased online or at any craft store like Hobby Lobby or Michaels.

Stencil Supplies

  • Black chalk paint
  • Letter Stencils – Any Craft Store or Online
  • Painters Tape
  • Stencil Brush – I love Martha Stewart Brushes
  • Piece of wood – for paint pallet
  • Screws and nails for sign assembly

Making the Sign Details

  1. Cut the wood to the desired length.
  2. Sand each board if necessary.
  3. Stencil the boards with something that inspires.
  4. Attach both boards together from the back side using screws.
  5. Continue reading because I’m going to walk you through the stencil process.

How to Stencil

Stenciling signs is fun; the main thing to remember is this: “Less is best!” Now let me explain in the following steps.

  1. Begin with a small wood pallet and dab it with paint.
  2. Load your brush and then stroke off the excess paint onto the pallet.
  3. Meanwhile, secure the stencil to the wood by using painter’s tape.
  4. Lightly dot the area you want to transfer and reload the brush when necessary.
  5. Remember: Less is best. This will keep the transfer from bleeding through.
  6. When the transfer is complete, remove the stencil.
  7. I would also recommend doing a practice stencil if this is a new skill.

With this project, I was using paper stencils from Waverly. These are very inexpensive and if stored correctly can be used several times. I stenciled each letter, and before I knew it, the word “Garden” was transferred correctly.

On the Startle board, I stenciled the back board first. Additional tape was necessary because I wasn’t using the entire stencil and didn’t want the other parts to transfer. This is a helpful tip as sometimes stencil cuts are close together, making it easy for the brush to bleed through.

When I was finished stenciling the back board I followed through with the word “Startle” just as I did with “Garden.” Within minutes I had two signs ready to display!

Installing the Signs

Installation is a breeze because all we’re doing is taking three finishing nails and hammering these signs directly to the planters. I recommend starting the nail into the main board first until it’s almost through and then connecting it to the planter.

Garden Flair is Complete

Beginning with “Garden” you can see this simple sign made from scrap wood adds a level of interest that wasn’t there before. It’s like a new planter box!

By enhancing this quiet space with garden flair, these “Startle Garden” signs offer an element of surprise year-round. This is a fun way to stay inspired and remind us that gardening always lives on.

Startle Garden is a guide to growing your best garden, it’s that one book that gets you moving forward from the foundation up; and it’s complete with workbook pages. Whether you’re a beginner or seasoned gardener this book is full of advice passed down from one generation to the next.

About the author:

Carole West lives on a small farm in North Texas with her husband. She is a freelance writer, author of Quail Getting Started, Startle Garden and Sponges on a Vine. She shares advice about gardening, raising quail, and building projects on her blog








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