Have fun in the garden with a flock of pink flamingos


Highlights

What is that grape scent in the air? It’s mountain laurel.

The stars of “Tanked” return to Austin for Austin Spring Home & Garden Show.

Christine Fail launches her Level collection of her Fail handmade jewelry line.

Away Spa offers 30 percent off discount for locals during SXSW.

GARDENING

Have fun in the garden with a flock of pink flamingos

Funky? Tacky? Retro? Or just good fun?

Most passers-by seem to enjoy the flock of pink flamingos decorating Nathan Griffith’s Central Austin front yard. Several dozen of the brightly colored plastic birds adorn the grass, with about 15 perched in a redbud tree.

On a recent day, a woman wearing a blue shirt stood by the curb snapping photos.

“It happens quite a bit,” says Griffith, 59, who’s retired. “I always see people stop and take pictures.”

Griffith, who has owned his Crestview home since 1995, says his collection started as an impulse buy at a home improvement store about four years ago. Years prior, he had seen a news story that such plastic flamingos would no longer be made in the United States.

“I looked at the box, and they were made in the U.S.A, so I bought a few,” he says. “I kept buying a few more,” a couple at a time, over the next few years.

It was around the holidays when he put the first ones in the front tree.

“I called that my Christmas tree,” he says.

Over the years, he says, friends would give him flamingos “as a joke.”

One flamingo is atop a large, old wagon wheel. One is by the front door, and a few flamingos have migrated to the backyard.

Another sits on a metal dog statue, which is covered in a Texas flag.

(Previously, the dog statue wore a Texas flag bandanna. One day, a package arrived at his front door with a Texas flag inside; a note — with no name — simply said to put the flag on the dog, which Griffith did. A few years later, after the flag had faded, a second flag arrived. No note was needed, Griffith says. He knew to put it on the statue.)

A few months ago, he wanted to buy a flamingo that was displayed at a home improvement store, but it had no price tag. The clerk gave it to him for free, so then he asked if he could have the other two flamingos there as well. And he got them.

Recently, he looked online and found a good deal (about $4 each) if he bought in bulk, with a minimum of two dozen.

“So I bought 24,” he says. Those flamingos are a darker pink; the older flamingos have faded somewhat. As well, some flamingos have slight variations in the length and curvature of the necks.

He leaves them on display most of the time.

“The only pain is when you have to mow,” he says. Also, at one point, he took down the flamingos in the tree. “I actually cleaned them,” he says.

Griffith says he has never had any problems with vandals or thieves, and he has not received negative comments.

Google searches, however, can find mentions from various places about homeowners associations’ restrictions on these yard birds.

Some businesses — such as Flamingo Underground serving the Austin area — deliver flocks of plastic flamingos as a surprise for friends or relatives.

The fake flamingos originated in 1957 in Leominster, Mass., “which bills itself as the Plastics Capital of the World,” according to Smithsonian magazine online. Later the pink pieces of plastic came to somewhat represent lowbrow pop culture. Then in the early 1970s, John Waters came out with the movie “Pink Flamingos,” which is described on rottentomatoes.com as a “darkly comic, no-budget parade of the perverse.” (Griffith says he didn’t know about the film.)

In Austin, some might recall many years ago a garden center along Bee Cave Road, noted for its numerous pink flamingos out front.

In Austin, you can get find pink flamingos as well as white, maroon and burnt orange at Zinger Hardware and General Merchant, which sells them for about $16 for a two-pack.

At the store, pink is the most popular color, says Herb Armstrong, general manager at Zinger. Though they sell year-round, he says, “You probably are going to sell more in the springtime when people are outside in the garden.”

Also, there is no typical customer for the flamingos, he says. “It’s kind of funny.”

Nowadays, people can likely spot an occasional plastic flamingo propped up in a lawn here or there. But lots of them together can catch the eye.

Overall, Griffith says, he enjoys the bit of spontaneous joy the decorations seem to give others. Recently, he saw a jogger stop and look at the flamingo-filled tree, and the jogger burst out laughing.

“I just think it is fun to do something nice,” Griffith says.

GARDEN

Go grape-scented in the garden with Texas mountain laurels

Anyone thirsty for a grape-flavored drink? If so, folks out and about have likely noticed the Texas mountain laurel of late. The flowers are known for the rich color and aroma, sometimes compared to grape Kool-Aid or grape chewing gum.

Also known as mescal bean, it is an evergreen shrub or small tree that is 10 to 15 feet — usual height at maturity — according to the plant database at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, wildflower.org. “The bluish lavender flowers, in 3-7 in. drooping clusters, are very showy and fragrant. The fruit is a semi-woody pod with bright red poisonous seeds.”

Texas mountain laurel (Sophora secundiflora) might sometimes be confused with the somewhat similar-looking wisteria. But the scent sets it apart.

It’s also drought tolerant and attracts the kinds of insects you want in your garden.

EVENT

Spring garden show returns with guys from “Tanked”

Almost four years ago, the guys from “Tanked” — Brett Raymer and Wayde King — first visited the Austin Home & Garden show. They will be back in town for the Austin Spring Home & Garden Show March 24-26, where they’ll talk about what their daily life is like. See them at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. March 25 and 1 p.m. March 26. You can also hear about home organizing from Holly and Andrew Maxwell of Tidy Techs Professional Organizing at 2 p.m. March 25 and noon March 26 and about energy efficiency secrets from Built Green Custom Homes 4 p.m. March 24 and March 25 and 2 p.m. March 26. $9.50. 2 p.m.-7 p.m. March 24, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. March 25 and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 26. Palmer Events Center, 900 Barton Springs Road. austinhomeandgardenshow.com

SPA

Get SXSW specials at Away Spa this weekend

Away at the W Austin hotel is offering a 30 percent discount through Monday for locals. And while you’re there, you can get a free piece of Kendra Scott jewelry if you have a pedicure and use a Kendra Scott Lacquer color. Away Spa, 200 Lavaca St. austinawayspa.com.

STYLE

New jewelry line from Austin’s Christine Fail

Austin jewelry designer Christine Fail introduced her new spring looks for her company Fail. The Level line includes geometric designs in 14K gold-fill, sterling silver, bronze and brass that has been hammered and shaped. Each is handmade for a unique look. Earrings range in price from $48 to $168, necklaces from $74 to $182. You can find them at failjewelry.com and in Austin at Aloe Skin + Body, Blanton Museum Shop, Hyatt Regency Lost Pines and Whole Earth Provision Co.



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