“Nor am I displeased with the placing of ridiculous Statues in Gardens, provided they have nothing in them obscene.”
– Leon Battista degli Alberti, De Re Aedificatoria (1485)
In winter, the garden can look lonely. Perennials have been cut to the ground, deciduous shrubs are bare, trees may be leafless. Evergreens take on added importance, as do plants with interesting bark or winter berries. The structure of the garden can be seen more clearly and arresting shapes or patterns can make or break the visual scene before us.
Gardeners who have indulged themselves by adding art or ornaments to their landscapes will reap an added bonus at this time of year. Art in the landscape can be challenging to integrate successfully: a large sculpture may require careful placement and sensitive planting plans to ensure that it shines without competely dominating the scene. Garden ornaments, however – structures for climbing plants, or smaller pieces of statuary, or arbors, or birdbaths – can find smaller niches more easily and bring a touch of whimsy to the garden in season, while serving as focal points when winter arises.
Take Simon (above), for example. While on a garden tour in south central England in June 2001, I came across him in a small garden store in the Cotswolds, towards the end of my trip, and knew immediately that he belonged somewhere in my garden at home. After dragging him back across the Atlantic in one of my suitcases, I found the perfect spot for him among a small drift of coreopsis, whose airy lightness sets off his small but stony bulk perfectly. He can bring a smile to my face when I’m weeding.
I’ve seen Simon’s relations in many other gardens I’ve visited, both public and private:
— a heron sculpture peeking out unexpectedly from a stand of grasses in a client’s garden;
— a plastic T-rex figure nestled in the crotch of a paperbark maple tree at Chanticleer Garden;
— a miniature fairy figure carefully placed in a stand of groundcover plantings in the woodlands at Mt. Cuba, which I had the pleasure of touring several summers back (“Oh yes,” said the guide, “you’ll find these treasures hidden in every garden.”)
So between now and spring, as you’re dreaming of next year’s garden, give some thought to adding an ornament or two of your own. You won’t regret it.