Several years ago, my mother-in-law, a devout Catholic, gave me a St. Francis of Assisi statue for my garden. As the patron saint of nature and those who care for the environment, she thought it perfect for my little Eden. And it is in so many ways. I’m not religious, but I deeply appreciated the sentiment behind the gift and for this reason he stands among the phlox and rudbeckia every year. I think it suits him. To me, he is art and a reminder of the loved one who gave him to my garden.
It never occurred to me that someone could be so deeply moved by my garden art. It was an awkward moment but in a way reiterates the point of art. To evoke a feeling or emotion, no matter how kitschy or trite. A neighbor asked to see my garden and I eagerly invited her in. What gardener doesn’t jump at the chance to share their garden?
To our right was St. Francis, nestled into the perennial bed, and I continued past him, chatting away to my neighbor who I assumed was following. When I realized I was alone, I turned around to find her genuflecting before him, deep in prayer. That was a first and all I could do was think that at that moment, St. Francis was wondering why I couldn’t be more like my neighbor! When she finished, we continued the tour and then it occurred to me that she might be offended by the Buddha nestled into the shade garden directly across from the bed St. Francis occupied. And who cares? It’s my garden!
The beauty of the garden is that it reflects the spirit of the gardener in so many ways. From the plants that are woven together to the bits and pieces that are placed among them. I don’t know what having these two pieces says about me. Religiously challenged? Confused? Accepting? All I know is that I love them both equally for the interest they add to the beds.
Imagine if the cobalt blue tuteurs were not set among the orange nasturtium. No great shakes, right? But adding the vertical element to a bed of low mounding plants ups the ante. Not only is it an effective use of complementary colors, but the juxtaposition of low and tall makes the bed far more interesting.
Old bowling balls can be bought for a song at flea markets and their colors are so vibrant. Why not make a sculpture?
Or use them to add interest along a pathway as my friend Shawna Coronado did in her shade garden.
Imagine how dull this brick wall would be without the frames exploding with tropical plants. It becomes an art piece that draws you in. This is high end and done by people who know living walls.
So this was my modest take on vertical gardening with a beer pocketbook budget. A few wall mounted planters filled with succulents…
… and a resin plaque I found at a discount construction materials store. It got a coat of metallic gold paint and a Bees’ Jubilee clematis.
Mirrors provide wonderful ways to expand and give the illusion of space in a small garden. This sunken shade garden in the heart of Chicago was narrow and quite small. The addition of the mirror not only added interest to an imposing wall, but it fooled the eye.
A garden cow! What’s not to love? This was a large shaded spot that, without the cow, would have just been ho-hum. In 1999, Chicago displayed approximately 300 life-size fiberglass cows, painted by local artists, in public spaces throughout the city. At the completion of the exhibition, the cows were auctioned off for charity and this one found its new home in someone’s front garden. It’s both amusing and beautiful and the right scale for this large space.
Fences make great canvases as you can see in Shawna’s garden. And a school of fish in the garden will certainly make heads turn. This past Christmas, my husband gave me three small fish for the garden and I placed them in front of Nessie, my cement Loch Ness monster. I thought it would be funny, in a macabre sort of way, to make it appear as though the fish were being hunted.
Structures are art too. The arbor over my garden entrance is stunning in late summer when the sweet autumn clematis pops. The only down side of this plant is its willingness to spread throughout the garden. Gardener beware!
The picture doesn’t do it justice but this gardener had a different treatment for his arbor. In addition to a purple clematis, he wrapped twinkle lights around metal orbs and hung them around the arbor. The nighttime affect was absolutely gorgeous and speaks to the idea that the way we light our gardens is art too.
Pathways present another opportunity to add personality. Wine bottles, old glass insulators or found objects make great conversation starters.
One gardener designed stone mats beneath her bird feeder posts. How cool is that?
And if these guys dance to your jam, go for it! It’s your garden and the only opinion that matters is yours!
What in your garden reveals your personality?