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Gardening & More: Cultivate curb appeal, through blooming windows

IN BLOOM — Bruce Marzahn decorated his home with these ordinary screens that he painted, using acrylics. If you cannot paint something as intricate as these stunning daylilies, you could do a simple daisy shape.
SPRINGVILLE — The pictured screen was painted by a professional artist, but the technique could be used by beginners, to add a splash of color and a bit of privacy to a home. While artist Bruce Marzahn painted his screen freehand, there’s no reason you couldn’t use a pattern or simple, geometric shapes.

I saw this screen, as well as several others, at Marzahn’s properties at 165 and 167 Prospect Ave. in Buffalo, during Garden Walk Buffalo. Garden Walk Buffalo is the largest garden tour in the United States and will be held, this year, from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, July 27 and 28. It is just one of 15 garden walks scheduled, during the National Garden Festival.

The painted window screens are an East Baltimore folk art tradition, according to Marzahn, who is retired from teaching at Buffalo State College and Daemen College and also taught briefly at Canisius College.

The screens were popular from the 1930s – the 1960s, when people didn’t have air conditioning. To try to keep cool, you had to keep your windows open and your curtains pulled wide apart, but that left you with little privacy.

Painting the window screens makes it difficult for people to see inside your home, but still allows breezes to drift in. The screens are decorative, too.

Marzahn simply cut a piece of black plastic screen about 4 or 5 inches larger than the window frame. He painted the flowers on the screens, using inexpensive, liquid acrylic paint. When the artwork was dry, he inserted the screen into the frame.

After several years, the sun is fading the paint. If you have triple-track windows, you can remove the screen, during the winter.

While he identifies himself as a painter, Marzahn said he now does more digital media.

He is also into outdoor living spaces and has built a creative, entertaining area in his backyard. The area also includes a deck, which was built around an existing lilac bush. A couple of low walls make the space feel more like a room.

At one end is a sink. A hose supplies the water and the liquid drains into the ground. Just above the sink is a window frame, hung with curtains, and above that is a trellis that has been decorated with plates.

The other wall is three-dimensional. Wooden chair backs, grates, hoses, decorative wood pieces and mechanical parts are collaged onto the wall. A coat of black paint helps gives the piece uniformity.

Another collage was created in the concrete patio. Objects pressed into the concrete include a brush too stiff to use, a metal cross, keys, machine parts, bottle caps, marbles, shells, spoons, perfume bottles, tools, small tiles, hinges and dice.

These collages are other artistic techniques you can try, in your own yard.

Connie Oswald Stofko is the publisher of Buffalo-NiagaraGardening.com, the online gardening magazine for Western New York. Email Connie@BuffaloNiagaraGardening.com.
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