Kitsch, Naff, or just plain…. bonkers?

My pal Roger and some other North American readers were not familiar with the word ‘naff’.  If you aren’t, then here we are – it means something similar to kitsch, but the sort of kitsch that raises a shudder, or at least a twitch of dislike.  Ordinary kitsch can be quite fun, even make you giggle, and, if it’s just a small piece, buy it, put it on a distant shelf and forget about it.

In the garden, no plant can be kitsch (well apart from bedding begonias if the flowers are a yard across and pink).  No natural feature can be kitsch either.  It’s what we add to the garden, build for it, buy for it from the garden centre, that can be kitsch or nastily naff.  Obviously, there is no consensus about what fits what category.  Personally, I detest hanging baskets, however planted.  Others think they are the acme of garden good taste.  Hmmm…

concrete2Of course, there are garden features that set one back on one’s heels, not knowing quite what to say.  For instance, this charming concrete lion.  I think that’s great good fun, and rather cherishable  – especially the seedlings in his eyebrows.

But stand back in the same garden…. The lion is not alone. He is part of a concrete ensemble that encompasses Winston Churchill, several life sized sharks, giraffes, fairies, a flock of (charming) concrete sheep in a sward of Cerastium tomentosum (which is quite a good horticultural joke), and much, very much, else.


Ok, it’s not absolutely fun, but it’s not actually naff either, at least, I don’t think it is.  But then, I don’t think it’s kitsch exactly either.  Is it, then, bonkers?  It’s certainly not what most gardeners would want to look at every day, nor give each piece of statuary its annual paint…  It is most certainly exuberant, but rural, untutored and all that.

But strange things go on at the other, highly cultivated, educated, wealthy end of the market too.  How much, for instance, can the very silly building below have cost?  It’s exquisitely built, contains a seriously pretty sitting room….  But really, it is rich man’s kitsch.  Or is it naff?  Or simply bananas?


And, if you want to rent it (it’s not that far from Edinburgh), you can do so via the Landmark Trust.  It’s called the Dunmore Pineapple.


About david stuart

garden writer and journalist, and occasionally a designer, with a garden in the Scottish borders, and his pal's gardens in Edinburgh, London, and Lincolnshire. They keep both of us very, very busy. Books I've written listed on my website, and dozens of articles and garden and plant pictures. Currently working on several new projects. One of these was to return to painting - see the blog - and which is proving exciting! or, more fun, have a look at
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