Seeding Your Garden With Whimsy
BOSTON — Your grass is lusher than the fairways at the British Open; the privet hedges are pruned in the shape of frolicking swans, and your paths are strewn with crushed Carrara marble. Or not.
But something's still missing. Your garden just doesn't seem complete.
Would a bubbling fountain in the corner near the fence make it right? Perhaps a statue of Apollo guarding the pool?
"Ornaments are the way we make our presence known in the garden - the way we claim it as our own," says Linda Smith, author of "Garden Ornament" (Smith & Hawken, $22.95). "They add a human touch, express our taste and personalities, and make us feel at home."
A Rodin or a Donatello may provide the je ne sais quoi you're looking for. But if you've got the Prince of Wales's taste and Ralph Kramden's pocketbook, not to worry. Almost anything qualifies as a garden ornament: clay pots, gargoyles, gazing balls, bird baths, a strategically placed rock, even a pair of tired, old work shoes sprouting petunias can add a touch of whimsy.
Quality statuary is available at many garden centers and antiques dealers. Terracotta or glazed stoneware pots often can also be found at garden centers or picked up at garage sales. You might even want to check your attic for an old rusted tool.
Although most will head for traditional ornament forms, Ms. Smith says that you shouldn't rule out the outrageous.
"If it fits your personality, have fun choosing an ornament...," Smith advises. "Old porcelain sinks and clawfoot tubs make great planters in a country garden. Old bed springs can form a trellis for sweet peas. Old galvanized tubs and buckets add a homey touch. Even things like old marbles or discarded bowling balls can be used as garden ornament. Anything goes."
"There is most definitely a renewed interest in garden ornament," says Alexa Melville, manager of Miss Trawick's Garden Shop in Pacific Grove, Calif. "We've been selling gazing balls, fountains, benches, and small statues like crazy this summer."
If you're in the market for up-scale garden ornaments, expect to break the bank.
The fountains and the marble and bronze statuary at Elizabeth Street Gardens in New York will set you back anywhere from a few grand to half a million. "We cater to people who want a re-creation of a famous work of art," says owner Mike Garden.
After you've got a garden gewgaw, where do you put it?
"Formal garden schemes often have a focal-point ornament that is large, beautifully crafted, and put at center stage - either in the center of a garden courtyard or at the end of a vista," Smith says. "These types of ornaments must have presence - the ability to attract and hold attention."
Smaller, less commanding ornaments can be tucked almost anywhere, often as the focal point of a single garden bed.
There are some rules, Smith advises: "Sundials should be in a sunny, open spot ... and most ornaments look best when softened by surrounding plants - not set on a flat, grassy spot."
If the ornament is fussy or ornate, give it a simple backdrop, like a clipped hedge or vine-covered wall. If it's plain, like a large terracotta jar, it can be surrounded by all sorts of plants.
Is there anything too tacky to place in your garden?
"I would say 'no', " Smith says. "A garden is a personal space, and you should be able to spice it up with whatever makes you feel good. There are a few yards where I live that are filled with miniature windmills, plastic deer, and plastic flowers, and they make me laugh when I see them. Who lives there? I wonder.... Of course, I might feel differently if I was living right across the street." GARDEN MYSTIQUE: Oversize fan-shaped leaves add a touch of softness and an air of mystery to this rather severe piece of sculpture.