Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
September, 2011
Regional Report

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Let your imagination run free when creating garden art! This charming pug gate adorns a pet hotel on Hagen Road in Napa.


I have long wanted to compose a column about garden ornaments -- those things that make a garden more than just a place where plants live. Gardens have been enhanced by the hand of man for centuries. The Greeks and Romans placed magnificent sculptures throughout their outdoor living spaces. The Italians are famous for their wide variety of garden statuary, while here in the USA we go for a slightly different approach. Referred to as "yard and garden decor," it's easy to find concrete gnomes, gazing globes, ornate trellises, and wire sculptures in just about any nursery outlet. Simple ornaments such as self contained urn fountains are easy to install and enhance an otherwise static landscape.

I personally like the "hands on" approach to garden ornamentation. Fanciful string trellises made in the shapes of snails or suns grace a wooden fence until they become covered with sweet peas or morning glory vines. I once saw a sparkling fish sculpture on a fence and when I looked closer, saw that it was made entirely of recycled can lids that were held in place with tiny brass nails. Over time, the lids rusted, giving the fish an entirely different look.

Unplanted and unusually shaped containers can make an interesting artistic addition to a landscape, especially if the pot is in a contrasting or brightly colored hue or laid on its side.

Holiday decorating can be moved outside where it can be appreciated by a larger audience. There is a little shop in downtown Half Moon Bay that specializes in kitschy outdoor decorations. I imagine that they are getting ready for the annual Pumpkin Festival and have plenty of goblins, ghouls, and ghosts on display to adorn an otherwise naked landscape. I know for sure that they have a large selection of mermaids and Neptune statues, in addition to turtles, frogs and geckos.

I used to like to place interesting objects d' art in my little garden downstairs at my office, but whatever I put there was quickly stolen. Wind chimes, metal sculptures, and fancy pots were whisked away before they could be appreciated by a larger audience. I have a large metal dragon that I would love to put out, but I'm not quite ready to say goodbye to it just yet.

There is a field near my mom's home in North Carolina where the property owner constructed a twelve foot spider out of dead fall branches. Red parking reflectors serve as eyes and the whole illusion looks very rustic, while at the same time menacing, peeking through the trees. The spider is there for no other reason than to delight and amaze passersby, which is what art is all about, don't you agree?

Recently I was in Napa where I came across the pug gate in the photo that accompanies this column. I was so enchanted that I had to turn around and take a picture. Upon closer inspection it was evident that the entire gate was made from recycled bits and pieces. Hub caps, heater venting, license plates, and bits of plastic, in addition to a creative mind, created this delightful work of art.

Let your imagination embellish your landscape, and to heck with what the neighbors might say!

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