Painting A Fountain


I placed this 19th century American cast iron fountain in a client’s existing terrace pool 6 years ago.  Last fall, she was ready for a change. A rectangular pool much larger than the original circular pool was installed, and a steel surround was built to finish that new pool.  The overgrown boxwood was removed, and additional stone was added to the terrace. 

A picture frame opening was left in the stone, and planted this spring with isotoma fluvialitis.  The steel surround was painted in much the same color as the original fountain.  The surface of the steel was only primed in patches, so the surround would rust in the same manner as the fountain. The design of the surround was taken literally from the lower part of the base of the fountain.  More recently, she decided that the color of the fountain and surround was too light; she wanted to tone down the color of both pieces. 

Working with color outdoors is challenging.  But I knew I would be developing the finish in stages.  A pale blue gray would be applied first.  Though this is a pastel color, it is distinctively blue.  Successive coats would reduce that blue to a trace. 

A darker brown-black coat was applied over the blue, to tone it down.  The pool surround got its first coat of blue gray.  Like the blue, this very dark color applied to the fountain would eventually be barely visible. 

I sanded the entire surface of the fountain at this point, to bring some of the blue back up, remove some of the black, and expose some of the cream-white of the original color.  Working on the color with the fountain in place is necessary.  It is much too difficult to imagine an entire environment, and how light affects the surface.  Needless to say, I spent a lot of time on a ladder.

The sanded version has a lot of contrast-more contrast than what I wanted. The intent of the finish color is that it will reflect the predominant colors on the terrace, without standing out.  All of the furniture and containers on this terrace are of subtle and restrained color.  Much of that color is a result of age and exposure to the elements.  To replicate an aged finish is by no means easy, and my experience creating them is limited.  On my side-I had the time to let the finish develop. 

 The sanding brought color contrast to the surface.  The gray wash which came next toned that contrast down.  I liked the close relationship between all of the colors, but I knew I needed a gray that was a little darker, and less blue for the finish coat.  

Over the gray wash, a darker, gray/brown wash. At this stage, I was wiping off as much paint as I put on.  Though the fountain pool would prevent anyone from being this close to the surface of the fountain, It was my intent that the color be best described as gently faded. 

Every color layer is represented, to greater, or lesser extent.  The final coat of gray is dark enough to make the fountain sculpture blend gracefully with the rest of the terrace.  Subtle does not have to mean sleepy; up close,  there is plenty of visual interplay between all of the colors. 

This afternoon, the concrete interior of the fountain is to be painted black.  This will make the surface of the water reflective of what is going on in the sky.  It will also change the feeling and appearance of the color on the fountain.  In a perfect world, the fountain sculpture color will need no adjusting.  If it does, I’ll be ready. The finish color on the surround will be much influenced by the black interior.  I hope to finish that part of the painting this afternoon.

 By early next week, I hope to be able to fill the pool with water. The final step?  The water plants.

Late afternoon update-the interior of the concrete pool is painted, and the surround is one shade darker.  What a huge difference the black makes; the fountain looks darker to my eye.  It must be that no more light is being reflected onto the fountain via the pale gray concrete. I am thinking a lighter gray wash over the dark surround color is all I need to do to finish.

Limelight Time

You have heard plenty from me over the past few years about hydrangeas.  OK, I am crazy about them.  I am reluctant to address the topic once again-but the summit of my summer is all about the coming of the hydrangeas.  Hydrangeas figure prominently in any American garden.  I do not plant Annabelle hydrangeas anymore.  Their ball shaped flower heads flop to the ground, unless they are rigorously staked.   Love the Annabelles?  Plant them on top of a wall-their drooping stalks and flower heads will soften that space.     

Limelight hydrangeas are a hybrid of white blooming hydrangeas that require much less of your time and effort.  They stand up straight, they bloom in August in my zone for what seems like months.  The blooms acquire a pink tinge as they begin to age; they may deepen to rose pink in the late stage.  Here, they happily fill in the space between the densiformis yews, and the tall evergreens. This entrance is very inviting on a summer day.   

Limelight hydrangeas are strongly growing shrubs.  They soften the evergreen structure of a landscape.   They adapt to almost any pruning style.  I have pruned them to within 14 inches of the ground, and had good flowering, and shorter height.  All they need is a good set of buds above ground to develop.    

Lots of hydrangeas available now in nurseries local to me are shy bloomers.  Pink or blue hydrangeas in my zone-sometimes they oblige, and sometimes not.  I so love hydrangeas blooming in the summer, and I favor those varieties that perform.   Should you be looking for a considerable summer show, look no further.  The greenish white blooms compliment any color scheme you might have in mind.    

The Limelight hydrangea panicles are tall, and cone shaped. They make a big statement, planted in blocks, or rows.   

This hedge of Limelights is three staggered rows, planted 30 inches apart; it has been pruned lightly.  Most of the pruning is done on the top branches, so the side branches still get enough light to flower.  I so love those plants that ask for so little, and deliver so much.  Not interested in a garden extravaganza such as this?  One Limelight is equally as effective.     

It is high summer in my zone.  I have 2 big blocks of Limelight hydrangeas on my small property.  Those blocks are making a very big statement today.  They grow so fast-buy little ones.  Plan and plant them wherever you need a plant 5- 7 feet tall.  Plant them wherever you need some summer romance.  I can promise you this-Limelight hydrangeas will endow your garden with a little late summer magic.

At A Glance: The Shop Garden

The gardens at the shop?  What fun!  Coming up on the middle of August, so much color.       

The Front Yard

Whew-what a busy week last week.  A project that needs my hands on attention was punctuated with three landscape design presentations.  I did work both days of this weekend, as today I am scheduled for jury duty.  This is a first for me; I have no idea what to expect.  Except that I am committed to three days, at the least.  But last night before dinner I was able to take some pictures of the front yard.  The Limelight hydrangeas are finally coming into bloom.   

It seems like they are really late this year.  I have been fretting about them-the water, that is.  My drip irrigation watered both my big yews, and the hydrangeas.  For a month, neither got any water, until I could split them up.  What was the thought anyway-yews and hydrangeas on the same watering schedule?

The heat has suited my annual plants just fine.  The trick has been to check the water two times a day, instead of just once.  Some of those 96 degree days meant that water was evaporating out of these relatively small pots at an alarming rate.  The abutilons suffered some singed edges on their leaves, but they seem to be coping just fine.
I will leave you with the rest of my pictures from last night.  I am sure I will be able to get back to writing fairly soon.