Put Your Garden in the Pink

Plastic ‘pink flamingos’ still an easy way to add some mid-century kitsch to your yard
Fridays on the Homefront
Is it time to let your flamingo flag fly?! We're talking old-school plastic pink
flamingos hanging out in your garden—like the scene above. Eichler Network publisher Marty Arbunich says, "Go for it. They're an important part of my garden.
I love their look—and they put a smile on my face whenever I pass by."
Fridays on the Homefront
Fridays on the Homefront
Pink Flamingo creator Don Featherstone. Courtesy Featherstone Estate
Fridays on the Homefront
Photo: Joey Parsons

With the arrival of summer comes the occasion to spend more time in the yard, and perhaps the urge to spruce it up a bit.

Then, after about 90 seconds of vigorous weeding in the heat, you head to the refrigerator for a cool one, muttering, "There must be an easier way."

And there is. You should do it. You know you want to—it's so easy. Just give your yard the bird.

Now, if it's the front yard we're talking about, you do run the risk of neighbors giving you the bird in a more aggressive manner, because they may not like your home's new pink-feathered friends from the mid-century, the ubiquitous plastic flamingos.

Of course, if all you get is the finger for letting your flamingo flag fly, you're getting off much easier than Doug and Ellen Henry did in 2000. They gave roost to a couple of the rosy icons in front of their Lawrenceville, Georgia home in apparent ignorance or defiance of the codes, covenants and regulations (CCRs) of their homeowners association.

Neighbors felt they had less of a leg to stand on than their single-limbed decorations. Worse yet, when the Henrys sold their home a few months later, their realization was about as pleasant as bird poop: the association put a $3,400 lien on the sale based on fines of $25 a day!

The graceful bird itself would scoff at such pettiness, being a very social animal that wades peacefully with thousands of its kind in tranquil colonies. Nor are you likely to find many people calling them tacky in the Bahamas, where flamingo is the national bird, or Madison, Wisconsin, which proclaimed the plastic replicas as its official bird in 2009.

The iconic pink lawn accouterment was designed in 1957 by a native son of the Fitchburg, Massachusetts area, artist Don Featherstone. Working for local manufacturer Union Products, he modeled the design after photos in National Geographic.

According to Wikipedia.com sources, Featherstone himself was fairly colorful himself, displaying 57 of the birds on his own lawn and dressing in matching clothes with his wife Nancy for the last 30-odd years of the 20th century.

By 1987, his idea was being knocked off more often than an endangered and neglected species. They stood, usually in pairs, proud and placid on millions of American lawns. This was especially true in Florida, author Kevin McCarthy told the Associated Press, noting, "The flamingo is an icon of Florida, and harkens back to a past when there were wild flamingos in large numbers in south Florida."