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Garden Art

After spending ten sunny days in a row, weeding flowerbeds and planting cold weather vegetable crops, after visiting Portland Nursery, Farmington Gardens Nursery, and Blooming Junction nursery, I’m getting antsy for one of my favorite days of spring. Since it’s the end of April and this is Tillamook County, so it’s raining, I’m probably a month early, but I can dream anyway. I can look over what I have in storage, look over what garden stores have to offer, and what Pinterest shows me I can create. I already sneaked a peek last night when I typed “garden art” onto the Google search bar. We already jumped the gun when we bought a pot, converted to a fountain, at Terra Casa in Damascus. Finding just the right spot in my garden for each piece of garden sculpture and art and then employing my husband and our wheelbarrow to help with placement is one of the most enjoyable garden activities of Spring and I am ready! 

So many memories come with each piece we set out. Where did it come from? What year was it? Did I make it, did a friend or relative make it, or was it a gift? What did it used to be and who crafted the recycled creation? Do we always put it here or are we trying something new this year?

Back behind Grandma’s French Lilac in our East garden is a surprise, not seen from the lawn, and that is a statue of a young woman holding a vase. I think she is supposed to represent plenitude. There’s a small hole in the vase where we could put a water hose and make her a fountain, but I like her as she is, a classical surprise amongst the phlox, gladiolas, hollyhocks, and wildflowers. At the beginning of the path on the way to her, hanging from the side of the house, is a mirror framed in red. It catches, expands, and reflects light and sky as well as the colors of hydrangeas, lilies, and columbines.

On the path to the water faucet, I’ve placed an enticement to look down, a stained glass mosaic stepping stone, an abstract design with shiny bits of red and blue. The penstemons lean over like they’re enjoying it, too. The older I get, the more I like shiny things!  In fact, in the past few years I have created several stepping stones, each one different in appearance and hopefully suited to its placement.

On the other side of the water faucet in the same garden is a small seating area where sits a flowery, red powdered steel table and chair. If one sits down and looks, one can spot a large, bobble-headed gnome under Grandma Georgia’s lilac. This purchased cutie looks just like my younger brother, so another treat to make me smile. I talk to him sometimes and like to think my brother hears me.

Over where I park, in the little triangle garden shaded by the Japanese Willow, tucked under the trellises by the Hens and Chicks, is my Fairy Garden. I have mosaiced a fairy dance floor, and the fairies there enjoy the tables and chairs I have placed out for them to sit. Another fairy sits on the bench by the front door, to welcome visitors as they pass by . We already jumped the gun when we bought a pot, converted to a fountain, at Terra Casa in Damascus

Maybe some of your garden art is re-purposed or recycled. In our back yard hedge row is a turkey made from old machine parts welded together. On the front porch is a wall-hanging plant holder made to resemble a female face, made of wood, old license plates, and used garden tools as earrings. My sister learned to weld and bought everything needed to fashion old everythings into art. I can barely wait to see what she comes up with! The artisans who can make something of delight from metal junk are nothing but foresighted geniuses. 

In nooks and crannies we have stashed birdhouses, most of them rustic and handmade. Some of our flowerbeds sport items on a post—suns, birds, ladybugs, and a flower made from a cup, saucer, and dinner plate. Several of these dish flowers I have created and strewn about our gardens. Where we plant sunflowers there is a huge rusted iron sunflower made from machine parts.  And where there’s a hole, or something isn’t blooming or as a focal point, we place a gazing ball. A couple of years ago, I made a gazing ball out of an old bowling ball. It’s shiny with mosaiced mirror, blue and turquoise half-marbles, and other tesserae. Close to that is the copper turned turquoise sundial sitting on top of an old fountain pedestal. I didn’t want to throw out the pedestal after the roofers broke the top of the fountain, so I re-purposed it, and it looks (and works!) just fine amongst the hops vines growing up the front pergola, next to our garden chairs where we sit and watch life pass by.

In the center of the vegetable garden is a square phlox and rose garden containing two chairs and a tall weather vane whose placement signals the beginning of the planting of the raised beds. In the very bottom of our property is an old sitting garden I’m renovating after years of neglect, with two turquoise chairs on a tiny stepping stone patio, a jasmine vine on a trellis, some creeping pink phlox and blue speedwell, daylilies, iris, and handfuls of wildflowers. When I finish the path from the lawn to this place of reflection and repose, I’ll add the three stepping stones that came from my friend Kay’s mother-in-law’s garden, still doing duty after all these years. 

Every garden should have a flamingo, and somewhere I found one which now looks out over the front garden, from behind the phlox, delphiniums, and Stonecrop Sedums.

On our patio walls is my collection of sun faces, their newly spiffed-up sunny selves reminding us to smile and enjoy the lovely outdoor space we have crafted. As if we need reminding when we’re outside.

I look for garden art at nurseries, garden art stores, big box general stores, outdoor markets and plant sales. In this second pandemic year, the last two may not be options, sadly. Friends have given me some lovely tall ceramic pieces to place here and there amongst the blooms. As many of us gardeners do, I craft garden art when I know how and want a piece of beauty somewhere. (More on this in another blog.)

A person’s garden art can tell you something about that person. One of the things I love most in the gardens of others is seeing how they have combined horticulture, landscape, architecture, and art to make a lovely vista, one that invokes peace, beauty, and whimsy—the kind of garden where you want to sit and spend some time, to read, or write poetry, to converse with yourself or a special someone, or to just BE, to feel gratitude for nature and all her creation, and that of garden artists, too.