The artful garden
How to 'punctuate' your garden with art.
(Page 2 of 2)
No one is suggesting that a piece of fine sculpture should be treated the way one would treat a couch, but Smarr's point about complementing the features of an existing landscape holds true. And even if your budget won't allow spending thousands of dollars on work by a recognized artist, plenty of options exist. Along with the rise of gardening as a hobby, a cottage industry has sprung up of individuals making one-of-a-kind garden accessories:Skip to next paragraph
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•Jill Nooney of Lee, N.H., makes arbors and other garden furnishings from a host of salvaged agricultural and industrial parts. In addition, she also sells antique garden ornaments on her website, www.finegarden.com.
•Dave and Eda Benttinen in Mercer, Maine, create steel mobiles, kinetic sculpture, and other decorative items that they sell at regional craft fairs and on their website, www.demetalworks.com.
While it's increasingly difficult to find bargains, some ornaments can be bought for under $100. And buying a handmade item is more satisfying than getting a mass-produced one off the shelf at Lowe's or Home Depot.
Garden art is also a means of telegraphing the owner's personality. For example, a garden tour in Lexington, Mass., once featured the garden of a family who had taken their sons' many pairs of outgrown athletic shoes and turned them into a quirky, oversized, caterpillar sculpture. The caterpillar appeared right at home with other recycled critters poking out from the shrubbery. In another garden, Converse All-Stars were filled with potting soil and bright pink impatiens.
Whether a gardener's tastes run to the humorous or the elegant, bringing art into a garden can play up natural features in the landscape. The hard surfaces of rock, metal, clay, glass, and wood offer a counterpoint to the softness of plants, while plants slowly grow up around and modify the hard surfaces of the sculpture, producing chemical changes in their turn.
"Nature will take over," says sculptor and garden designer Ron Rudnicki, whose work is displayed at Garden in the Woods. "Someone said to me once, 'You install the design, but nature will complete it.' "
• For more information on "Rock On! Celebrating Stone in the Garden," visit www.newfs.org.
Gardens are more than just compositions of plants. Noteworthy gardens speak of the "genius of place"; their vocabulary draws from local traditions and the land's history. Choosing garden art doesn't have to be a serious business, though. Some gardens succeed because they are in tune with the owner's personality or fantastically out of step with the prevailing style. For instance, a Brazilian woman who married an American and moved to a Boston suburb, created the closest thing imaginable to a tropical garden, with pots of crimson-blooming plants, an awning-topped outdoor swing, and salsa music playing from a boombox.
Some gardeners, however, feel inhibited in the beginning. Garden expert and author Ken Druse recommends starting with a bench, which, as he points out, is more like sculpture because gardeners almost never sit down. Benches are easy to place and less intimidating to work with than other forms of sculpture.
Landscape architect Julie Messervy has an affinity for stones, both for their agelessness and the elements they bring to a garden. She advises gardeners to look at how stones function in nature, and avoid placing them in a row "like a string of pearls." For example, in a streambed, notice how stones have been pushed and carried along by water. The buildup and erosion buries some rocks and reveals others.
Tovah Martin, author and garden columnist, points out that one large piece says much more than a lot of smaller pieces. She makes a case for using one bold color in the garden, which carries more effectively than a pastel or white. Painting a bench or birdbath a rich aqua or sky blue helps integrate the sky into the garden. Colors such as reds, purples, blues, and even mustard-yellow offer a counterpoint to all that green.