Statues, gazing balls, birdhouses, decorative gates: there are many ways to incorporate art into your garden.
As gardeners, we love to grow things. We spend our winters pouring over seed and plant catalogs and anxiously awaiting the spring. We're always thinking about soil conditions and engage in lengthy conversations about things like tomato varieties or whether or not to try growing artichokes this year. Amid all the talk about blooms and cold-hardy varieties, another topic of conversation has emerged, and it's been getting a lot of attention at my house: garden art.
Now, we set aside a few bucks for garden art each and every year. Art contributes at least as much to a garden's summer colorscape as a dazzling set of flowers. For us, it's as important as pruning our trees or planting perennials. Don't get me wrong: our garden isn't exacting erupting with lawn gnomes, but we have invested in some statues, gates, and other artworks that complement the beauty of our blossoming plant life.
Tall wizards reminiscent of Gandalf the Gray and cheerful cherubs in playful repose can be found between the irises and the tulips. Scattered plaques with playful or inspirational sayings inscribed on them give us the strength to keep weeding and tilling when the weight of chores becomes overwhelming. Paintings and woodblocks designed to withstand harsh weather adorn our fences. My wife even brought home a door from the local ReStore and turned it into a kind of garden portal for mythical spirits and sprites to pass through.
During a recent trip to the Clackamas County Master Garden’s Spring Garden Fair in Canby, Oregon, I was surprised to discover several artists and vendors selling garden art. Metal sculptures and cutouts of wild and domestic animals were on display alongside fields of tin sunflowers and river rocks engraved with heartfelt expressions. We ended up buying a piece of art by Michelle Griffin, the owner of a small shop called One Little Blackbird. Griffin's specialty is creating whimsical garden art. Her birdhouses, built for chickadees and other small cavity-nesting birds, look like they've been pulled straight from a Dr. Seuss story. She admitted to me that she wasn’t very good at cutting straight lines, but her creations' curves and sharp angles are enchanting and attractive all the same.
Some artisans at the fair sold decorative planters, while others sold sets of hand-blown glass balls arranged in wrought iron nests. Unique objects like these are sure to make anyone's garden a little more interesting. I even saw some gazing balls for sale. These fun ornaments are also known as garden globes or mirror balls and were created in 13th century Venice to distort the image of one's yard or garden. Today, photographers use gazing balls to create bizarre, house-of-mirrors-type garden pictures.
Naturally, the fair inspired us to create some garden art of our own. In the spirit of DIY, we figured we'd add some painted images or welcoming messages to our platform bird feeder posts. We also built a cascading water feature out of recycled materials that ended up looking like something out of Willy Wonka's factory. Our garden art fever finally allowed us to give a pile of polished stones we’d collected from the coast a purpose: we turned them into stacked stone sculptures.
Typically, garden art made of metal survives the seasons better than that made of wood. Depending on where you're located, you might consider spraying your outdoor artworks with a weatherproofing sealant. The ancient custom of bringing pottery and art indoors for the winter is another easy solution to this problem.
While an entire field of art might look a little odd, a few strategically placed pieces can bring out your garden's best qualities. Fences and gates provide functionality, but that doesn't mean they have to be boring. In fact, they're the perfect places to hang outdoor art.
On our three-hour long drive home from the fair, we noticed a lot of artwork incorporated into people's farms and gardens—both whimsical and practical. The type of art doesn't matter, just buy something that makes you happy. Creativity and inspiration are as important to a farmer growing carrot seed as they are to an "Oregon hippie” living off the grid.