Gardening Surprises
May 25, 2004 9:43 AM   Subscribe

Ok folks, show me your whimsical side. My wife is quite a gardener and she's always out there bending down, pulling weeds, digging, etc. I thought it would be fun to occasionally stick things under the plants for her to stumble upon. Star Wars figures having tea, little elves napping, Lego construction crews, small billboards with cute signs, etc. I want to make it look like there's a little community of miniature garden people living in the dirt. I know she'd appreciate the effort. I need more ideas.

[MI] What would be appropriate action figures, toys, signs, and other things to put down there? I want to keep costs down and I'd rather not go mail order as she might wonder what all the UPS shipments are for. There's plenty of stores nearby where I can buy things. And yes, I have way too much time on my hands.
posted by bondcliff to Home & Garden (36 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Doozers. Not sure if you can get them at a store though.

(This idea makes me want to kidnap your wife, dress up like her, and take over her life just to see what you end up doing. Maybe you should take pics so I don't go to jail.)
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 9:50 AM on May 25, 2004

Jabba the Hutt figuring reclining in a slug beer-bait dish?

Perhaps some of Andy Goldsworthy's work might inspire you (definitely browse his books, as there's nothing truly comprehensive online).

There's a dirth of laser-carved pebbles out there with cutesy messages.
posted by silusGROK at 9:55 AM on May 25, 2004

I'd go a completely different route - -

Get a really good fake rubber hand. Bury it so just a couple of fingers are sticking above the ground, under a big leafy thing like broccoli or something. Good times . . .
posted by yesster at 9:58 AM on May 25, 2004

I'm stealing this idea. I will take credit for it. Don't tell my wife.
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:58 AM on May 25, 2004

I was going to suggest Doozers too, you can probably find them at Hot Topic or on ebay.
posted by drezdn at 9:59 AM on May 25, 2004

Get a bunch of those Lego skeletons, and make it look like the long-lost ruins of Atlantis or something. Start with the castle sets, and gradually make the technology level go higher and higher.
posted by furiousthought at 9:59 AM on May 25, 2004

it's a really cute idea :)

if it were me, i'd leave behind hints of civilization but no actual figures.. dollhouse lawnchairs, pop cans, clotheslines, etc.. little footprints in the dirt. make it look as though they live there and she's just missed them again, darnit!
posted by jheiz at 9:59 AM on May 25, 2004

Spell out words with pebbles, like SOS or RESCUE US! or something completely different.
posted by mbd1mbd1 at 10:01 AM on May 25, 2004

Response by poster: Doozers: Good, but my wife is a few years older and wouldn't get the Fraggle Rock reference.

Hand: Hmmm. We have one already but she might notice it missing form the kitchen.

Andy Goldsworthy: We have one of his books. Brilliant stuff but I'm not artistic at all.

Lego skeletons: Excellent.
posted by bondcliff at 10:06 AM on May 25, 2004

A convoy of smurfs. Maybe a whole smurf village behind the peonies.
posted by cardboard at 10:18 AM on May 25, 2004

Playmobil is fun. I bet you could even set up a tiny garden within her garden.
posted by MegoSteve at 10:22 AM on May 25, 2004

You could pose He-Man or G.I. Joes trying to pull out flowers/plants and whatnot. Make it look like that kung-fu grip is really being put to the test.
posted by Ufez Jones at 10:27 AM on May 25, 2004

Pro wrestling figures. You can set up little Garden Death Matches, and most toy stores have these available.l
posted by jeffmshaw at 10:28 AM on May 25, 2004

As a culmination, you could leave a treasure map, which would direct her to some special treasure, like new earings or a romantic candle-lit dinner or something.
posted by me3dia at 10:31 AM on May 25, 2004

I don't know if this relates, but.......

My daily morning dog walk takes me into the woods behind my house. One day, along the path (and right behind my yard - the path I take goes goes further, behind other people's yards as well), I came upon an assembly of branches arrayed in a pattern - obviously human made - which was reminiscent of those creepy Blair Witch Project props.

I took it personally and devised a counterstrike. Advancing to a nearby crook of a tree about four feet high, I arranged carefully selected branches in the crook so as to radiate out in all directions and, on top of these and embraced where they came together, I placed a single smooth stone about the size of my fist.

My luck, so far, has held. So my counter-taliesman worked, I guess.

You could "arrange" things in non-random patterns like this. But, it could drive your wife mad.

How about taking to writing tiny, lascivious propositions to her - placed only where she might see them - spelled out by carefully cut pieces of grass ?


Or, this : find out the names of past residents of your house (if indeed there were previous residents) and write the name of one, with a short cryptic message, on the back of a few of the rocks that line the garden. Make the writing on one of the rocks protrude a little so that it's visible after you have watered the garden (especially the rock) a bit.

Create a mystery. The "rock seer" will seem to know about your wife in a vague sort of way but with a few sharp details that stand out (to her). Something about her childhood.

The rock seer will forecast happy things, things not impossible, things which your wife would hope for but considers unrealistic or unattainable.

Be careful to use age-appropriate techniques. It might be best, rather than using inks or paints, to scratch writing directly into the rocks. You can get - or borrow - a tool for this from a gravestone engraving business. Then, "weather" the rock a bit to age the engraved messages.

If she tells you about it, just give her skeptical sidelong looks (unless you're afraid of impending insanity on her part, of course) and pretend you think she's pulling your leg. Play along with it. Come to believe in the prophecies yourself.

If the experiment starts to go awry, engrave a rock - addressed directly to her - with a snippy comment about some mundane household dispute, and sign it "Love, the rock prophet".

Leave it on the kitchen table.

If the secret holds out and the devious plan works, don't confess a word of it 'till your dying day - and then tell her it was an expression of your love (which, in fact, it would have been).
posted by troutfishing at 10:36 AM on May 25, 2004

(Doozers were the first thing that came to my mind as well)

I like motion detecting frogs for a little audio action.
(not nearly as cool if you have real frogs)
posted by milovoo at 10:38 AM on May 25, 2004

Response by poster: This thread is working out very well so far.

I should add that she's often out there with my two year old son so it might be fun for them to go on regular treasure hunts together, once she gets used to this idea.
posted by bondcliff at 10:42 AM on May 25, 2004

I'd love to discover charming little Alice in Wonderland vignettes, such as

a mini Cheshire Cat with his bong resting on a leaf
a tiny Mad Hatter's tea party all laid out under a fern
a little painting the roses red scene
tiny playing cards in a mini croquet game
Alice chasing the rabbit down a hole

and lots more. Alice in Wonderland totally lends itself to this kind of thing; so much of it takes place in gardens and woods, and it doesn't get much more whimsical. Granted, it would take a lot more work than Lego skeletons, but we're talking about stuff she's going to be bragging to the grandchildren about, if you do it right. Your idea is very sweet, and charming.

Alternately: a scavenger hunt - one that takes all summer to complete, with some kind of fantastic payoff at the end.
posted by iconomy at 10:46 AM on May 25, 2004

Make a little scene with those green army guys. (You can get a bag of them on the cheap too, which is a bonus). You can glue/tie/attach a bunch of small twigs and make little forts for them to reside in, and a little wall of stones to hide behind. For added effect, a little flag made out of a heavier card stock attached to a stick. If you've got sturdier vegetation in the garden, a few army guys could be lowering themselves down off some "rope". This could get pretty ornate depending on the size of garden bed you have to work with.
posted by jerseygirl at 10:49 AM on May 25, 2004

Oh, this is a topic right out of my own quirky, unsettling passions. If you want to go cute and charming, check out these photos from a "fairie habitat" workshop. If you want to go creepy, try reading some short stories of Arthur Machen to get inspiration for sinister items she might find.

And please consider keeping some kind of online record of what you do! I'd get a tremendous kick out of it, and I'm sure I'm not the only one.
posted by Fenriss at 10:52 AM on May 25, 2004

a mini Cheshire Cat with his bong resting on a leaf

You're trolling, right? Well, just in case you're not, the caterpillar had a hookah; the Cheshire Cat had no smoking implement of any kind.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:53 AM on May 25, 2004

Some things you could bury if you know she's going to be out weeding include:

Fortune Cookies

A rope that leads to buried treasure.

A time capsule dated one year in the future.

A line of magician's handkerchiefs that are tied to the roots of a weed.

A miniature graveyard for The Littles, Fraggles, Doozers, etc.

A skeleton made from the bones of a fish and chicken.

Plastic plants. Upside down.

A disposable cell phone, buried hours before she starts her work, that can be called up when she gets near. Extra points if you can have the caller ask for you, talk for a bit, then hang up by reburying the phone.

A pair of pants with "Property of Jimmy Hoffa" on the tag.

A sealed wooden box with "Property of Pandora" written on it.

Twenty dollars worth of replacement Monopoly money. If she asks you about the stash, break down and claim that you've been cheating at Monopoly all these years, that you're so ashamed, and that you'll give the money back. Spend the rest of the afternoon mailing said monies to friends and family.

A sturdy balloon filled with helium. While it'd likely pop, I think it would be amazing to see a red balloon leap out of the ground and fly off.

Otherwise, creating an elfin Stonehenge could be neat. If you put some work into the symbology, you could start leaving clues all over the place.

Or you could tie small jinglebells to the stronger, leafier plants.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 10:55 AM on May 25, 2004

Little rubber ninjas
posted by jpoulos at 11:01 AM on May 25, 2004

Troll? Um...I don't troll. I honestly thought it was a bong. Thanks for the correction. I think.

Fenriss, those photographs are absolutely gorgeous. Mmm. Must go make a fairy vignette. And I second the request for pictures, bondcliff. This is lovely.
posted by iconomy at 11:03 AM on May 25, 2004

Response by poster: robocop is bleeding has the right idea.

If I can pull it off, I'll post pictures. A lot of this will be done quickly though, so it might be hard to document it.
posted by bondcliff at 11:14 AM on May 25, 2004

I was thinking more about the underground balloon, and think it could be done.

First, locate a weed that you know will get pulled. Pull it yourself. Next, insert the root of said weed into a small hole cut into the center of a sturdy plastic/paper plate or cardboard circle that is slightly larger than the helium balloon. Secure the root in place with a small cross beam, string, and tape.

Now dig a hole that the balloon can fit in. If you like, you could even insert a small wastebasket or bucket to keep the hole from collapsing. Make sure the diameter is smaller than the diameter of your plate/disk. Insert helium balloon, cover with weeded lid, and then cover with dirt.

Hopefully, when your wife pulls the weed, she'll yank off the disk, thus releasing the balloon!

I bet this trick could be used to hold other objects besides balloons. Change the bucket to a shoebox with the weed attached to its lid and you could set up some of those underground scenes folks were talking about.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:27 AM on May 25, 2004

At the really cheap stores, (Dollar Tree, Everything's $1, etc) you could easily find children's plastic jewerly, mini tea sets, plastic bugs or other plastic animals.

Decorate some of her plants with the jewerly. Let her peonies wear pearls.

Set up bug or animal parties.

Get the cheap version of Barbi and Ken. Let her catch them in a private moment behind the roses.

You may even have a Christmas shop in your area open all year where you can pick up poseable elves or other small figurines. Also, a shop like that should have all sorts of additional decorative items.
posted by onhazier at 11:35 AM on May 25, 2004

Tangentially, this is sort of how the comic strip achewood got started. The author used to leave the house later than his wife, and before leaving, he would pose their stuffed animals in little scenes. She would get home first and discover them.

Nothing to contribute, just wanted to plug achewood.
posted by Capn at 11:36 AM on May 25, 2004

I don't know if this would work, but it would be fun to place a walkie-talkie -- or something else that can recieve remote voice broadcasts -- inside a character (a stuffed animal/action figure/etc). Then bury it near where your wife will dig.

While she's digging, hide somewhere and make the character talk. "Help me, I'm trapped under here." or "Please stop digging. You're ruining my underground home..."

As she digs, the talk will get louder and louder, until she finds the speaker.

The only problem is, I don't know if the earth will block the broadcasts.

When I was a kid, I used to play a similar prank on my mother. I got a tape recorder and recorded myself yelling, "Mom!" about once every five minutes with silence in-between. Then I'd hide the tape recorder under the sofa. My mom would go nuts trying to figure out where I was calling from.
posted by grumblebee at 11:41 AM on May 25, 2004

posted by nickmark at 12:36 PM on May 25, 2004


Toy soldiers.

Buried in perfect, seemingly-endless rows, like in the Chinese Emperor's tombs.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 1:15 PM on May 25, 2004

Get an old cigar box, fill with coin candies. Bury it someplace she'll find easily. You might want to seal it with wax to keep out creepy crawlies.
posted by borkencode at 2:44 PM on May 25, 2004

howbout a miniature landfill?
with doll's diapers, other trash, to follow?
posted by Peter H at 3:17 PM on May 25, 2004

Craft stores are your best bet.

There's a tradition in Maine, and maybe elsewhere, of making all natural elf/faerie habitats. Little houses and scenarios made of moss, bark twigs, leaves, shells, etc. My son and I built them in the woods every year on vacation.

Nothing says "magic" like a little glitter.

A tiny Zen garden with tiny rocks and raked (with a fork) sand.

If your grocery has those ripoff gum/toy machines, the plastic containers are translucent and very good for hiding treasure(s) in a damp place.

This is an excellent plan and I think your wife is lucky. We definitely want pictures. Have fun!
posted by theora55 at 6:18 PM on May 25, 2004

dogs worms playing poker.
posted by whatnot at 7:36 PM on May 25, 2004

the Borrowers!
posted by amberglow at 7:42 PM on May 25, 2004

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