Garden Ornamentation

I have a love/hate relationship with garden ornaments: The ones I love the most, have price tags that I hate. Which I suppose is understandable for antique garden elements reclaimed from old Gold Coast estates or British country houses. Nevertheless I do have a few things acquired now and then over the years that are in keeping with both my taste and my budget.

[The photos below were all taken in my previous garden (garden #4) about five years ago, before Superstorm Sandy devastated about 75% of the plantings.]

Artemis in autumn

Although it’s intended as a stepping stone, this has a small hanger on the back allowing it to be also used as a plaque. The legend along the outer edge reads Diana*Artemis*Protectress of the Forest & All Creatures That Dwell Within. Because I would never dream of stepping on a goddess, I found a niche for her at the base of a tree; appropriate, I think, because the sculptor placed acorns in her hair. It’s about 12.5” in diameter. (Although I bought mine about nine years ago, this is still available from the California artists who also create other garden items as well; the image is a link to their website).

Denny (the) Crane with rhododendrons

I found this fellow at a local garden center during their going-out-of-business sale, painted in a rather garish whitewash over black painted metal. I immediately gave him a coat of bronze paint which it is actually much darker than it appears in this photo, due to the bright sunlight reflecting off the surface. Though it’s obviously a heron, I decided that in his new life he shall be a crane (albeit one lacking the typical crown feathers; don’t get technical!) and promptly named him Denny. Yes, I loved Boston Legal.  🙂

classical maiden

I normally don’t care much for figural garden statuary (cupids in any form make me cringe) unless it’s of the truly antique and unaffordable variety and even then I’d probably disregard most. But during my very first visit to the Winterthur gardens about 20 years ago, I spotted this graceful maiden shoved into a back corner of their gift shop with some dusty-looking odds and ends. True, she is cast resin instead of stone but there was just something about her that was appealing. She had been there for so long that the clerk didn’t even know the price, and after about 20 minutes of fruitless paper-shuffling and phone calls to The Boss, she said in utter frustration “Oh I have no idea, it’s not even in the inventory anymore, um, ten dollars I guess” in a desperate attempt to get rid of me and move on to helping the other customers. The maiden is about 2 feet tall and in this photo appears to be picking her way carefully through the ivy, having come through an “arch” of variegated Solomon’s Seal turned butter-yellow in autumn.

Merry and Pippin

I fell in love with this pair of ducks the moment I saw them pictured in a mail-order catalog about ten years ago. The catalog was called ‘Eximious’ (now sadly defunct) and I’d previously ordered one or two British-made household items from them which had turned out to be of excellent quality. They were advertised as being bronze but at price of only $229 for the pair I thought that couldn’t possibly be true and dithered for several weeks before ordering. They are about 15” high and weigh 10 lbs each; I later learned that they are indeed hot-cast bronze (rather than the cheaper “cold cast bronze” a/k/a resin with bronze powder added) because of the size/weight ratio and also if tapped on the hollow body with the side of a pencil they will ‘ring’. So it seems that I got a bargain there! Naturally they had to be given names: Merry and Pippin, after the hobbits in Tolkien’s books.

pedestal bowl

This concrete bowl and plinth was bought for garden #3 in the late 1990s and despite the moans and groans of the movers went from there to #4, to the Temporary Garden, and will proceed to my eventual #5. Shown here in garden #4 it’s in the middle of a narrow island bed, with Abelia ‘Rose Creek’ running just behind it. See the shrub to the right, with the large white flowers just opening? That, my friends, is Franklinia alatahama which I’d planted four years previously and coddled like a mother hen until it finally bloomed for the very first time when this picture was taken. The following September, “Sandy” murdered it. (The abelias survived but were never quite the same again.)

cat on post

I think that cats are beautiful and wondrous creatures but am violently horribly allergic to them and cannot take meds for it, and so must content myself with a few ornamental interpretations. This is another exception to my usually ironclad “only stone, wood or metal in the garden” rule, because the entire thing — cat, post and base — is made of resin. It was offered in a Gardeners’ Supply catalog about 12 years ago. Here my faux feline gazes down upon the sunny blooms of Chrysogonum virginianum. Unfortunately the resin material did not take winter weather very well and developed some cracks and holes after only a few years, so I relocated it to a sunroom instead.

The Philosopher Cat

This dark chocolate-brown fellow is only about 12” high but he seems to weigh a ton! His pose and inscrutable expression quickly earned him the nickname of “the Philosopher Cat”. Originally placed on the steps to the sunroom door, for some reason he absolutely enraged the resident mockingbird who began conducting aerial attacks plus an insulting perch-and-poop atop the ears. After watching the mockingbird start to peck at the cat’s chest, I lugged him (the cat, not the bird) through the door so that he could continue to contemplate the garden in safety and peace:
The Philospher Cat safe and sound

My son has given me a few garden ornaments as well; because the exterior of house #4 was Wedgwood blue, he chose two of those gifts in a matching color.

stretching cat
One is this stretching cat which in the pre-Sandy era lived among Geranium oxonianum ‘Katherine Adele’, Potentilla tommasiana ‘Snow White’, and Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’ which coordinated with the cat quite nicely. (I’ve been considering repainting the cat in bronze or black but have decided to wait and see what color house I end up with next.) Here in the Temporary Garden this cat is perched upon an oak stump about 3 ft up from ground level; during most of this past Winter From Hell the only part of the cat that was visible was his rump and tail – which very accurately summed up my opinion of the weather conditions!

The Gardening Frogs

The other gift was this trio of frogs. This photo should really be captioned The Garden(ing) Frogs, because one certainly appears to be doing some pruning, the other some weeding (oh don’t I wish), and the third is obviously admiring the “towering” bloom of the daylily! Again these are candidates for repainting in the future but they did look perfect near that house’s wall.

Perhaps someday I will find a tall bronze or brass armillary-type sundial that combines a beautiful style with a motto that doesn’t make me gag (and at a price I can afford; ah, there’s the rub!) but so far no luck. Do you think that anyone will ever make one bearing what I think is the most appropriate motto (by Hilaire Beloc)?

I am a sundial and I make a botch
Of what is done much better by a watch

  4 comments for “Garden Ornamentation

  1. Amy
    March 19, 2015 at 4:47 pm

    I enjoyed your post – loved the tale of the Winterthur maiden. I sincerely hope that you will someday find a sundial with Belloc’s quote – a wonderful selection for a sundial and much better than Browning’s “Grow old along with me”, woefully taken out of context 🙂

    • March 19, 2015 at 4:59 pm

      Thanks, Amy! And if I see just ONE more sundial with “I only count sunny hours”…!! LOL

  2. April 5, 2015 at 11:18 am

    I know what you mean about garden ornaments. They tend to be either too kitschy or priced out of reach. May favorite was a tall flower made of some kind of metal with colored glass petals and leaves – but it was not really made strongly enough to be an outdoor ornament.

  3. April 8, 2015 at 11:28 am

    Lovely garden ornaments. I can afford only a couple of the pieces I like, so I steal that line from Anne Morrow Lindhberg, reminding myself that “they are more precious if they are few”.

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