Three ways to hide ugly items in your garden

plants disguise air conditioner
A fence and plants help hide the air conditioner. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

by Connie Oswald Stofko

What I want you to notice about these photos are actually the things you can’t see.

In the first photo, you don’t see an air conditioner. Instead you see a garden.

This was in the yard of Pat Noonan of Hamburg, who shared her landscape on the Hamburg Garden Walk in 2017. I stood right in front of this garden and didn’t know there was an air conditioner there until it was pointed out to me.

A small white fence surrounding the air conditioner is the first level of disguise. Then, planted in the garden bed, are ivy along the ground and a large fern in front of the fence.

Finally, a large pot full of annuals draws your attention away from what the gardener doesn’t want you to see.

The tallest plant in the pot is a grass called King Tut. There is an elephant ear plant with dark leaves and a caladium with multi-colored leaves. A yellowish-green sweet potato vine cascades over the edge of the pot. Noonan changes up the annuals every year.

bamboo screen hides utility boxes
The bamboo screen hides the neighbor’s utility boxes and the fountain boldly draws attention to the area. Notice how well this narrow space was used. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

The second photo was taken in the driveway at the home of Carol Case Siracuse and Tom Palamusa in the Elmwood Village in Buffalo. I saw their garden when GWA: The Association for Garden Communicators held tours as part of its conference this summer here in Buffalo. You might have seen this garden on Garden Walk Buffalo.

What you don’t see in this photo are the neighbor’s utility boxes. Instead you see a beautiful Asian-inspired bamboo fountain and screen. The screen can be opened when you need to get at the utility boxes. Instead of walking past something ugly every day, these folks found a clever way to incorporate it into their landscape.

Also notice that while there is only a very narrow space between their driveway and the neighbor’s house, the space is planted, not dismissed.

flower boxes on shed in Grand Island NY
A garden was created to obscure the electrical boxes. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko


I took the final photo from an angle so that you could see some of what the plantings were obscuring. The electrical boxes are less noticeable from the street.

This photo was taken at the home of Paul and Debbie Acquisto in Grand Island. You can see more photos of their landscape that I took during the Grand Island Garden Walk in 2013.

If you have something unsightly in your yard, don’t just hope that no one will notice it. Blend it into your landscape.

4 Comments on “Three ways to hide ugly items in your garden

  1. Hi Donna, you may not like my response. If there is a fire, we want the firefighters to quickly spot the fire hydrant and be able to hook up hoses fast. Grass that obscures their view or makes them take precious time to hack away tall grass is unsafe. If there is a particular view that bothers you, like from your front window, perhaps you could plant something between your window and the fire hydrant. Take some photos of your landscape to Mike Weber’s Greenhouses and see what they suggest.

  2. What do you recommend to mostly cover a big yellow fire hydrant right in the front lawn next to the street? I surrounded it with tall grasses, which is a big improvement, but the dead ones are so hard to cut out every spring…I use a hedge trimmer because the grasses are so thick. They also seem nearly impossible to dig out and every year they insidiously spread a bit further into the lawn. Thanks for your help.

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