DIGGIN' IT: Playing with Garden Art

Whatever style you prefer, you can find a variety of items — both new and used — to create attractive vignettes in your yard and garden.

When the bulbs are planted, the leaves are raked and the mulch is spread, some gardeners will retreat indoors to pursue more cozy pursuits.

This is understandable since the weather can be so inhospitable this time of year. But some of us don’t really mind the elements, within reason, of course. Because the garden is at its most minimal structurally, it’s a great time to fiddle with garden art — move things around and fine-tune the vignettes.

Whether your style is classic, modern, Japanese, flea market, whimsical or eclectic, there are lots of ways to get inspiration for garden art. A trip to the library in search of garden art books will provide lots of armchair ideas. And a simple “Garden Art” Google search will supply even more.

In addition to those, I keep a file of garden art photos from the garden tours I’ve been on.

Garden art can be expensive. Ceramic pots can set us back over $100 depending on their size. Hardscape, including fountains, ponds and other water features can cost several hundred dollars, but that initial investment is unavoidable to assure we get what we want done correctly.

The good news is that the smaller details can be purchased without breaking the bank. For instance, I’ve found lots of garden goodies at thrift stores and garage sales, Craigslist and the Habitat for Humanity ReStore.

One of the nice things about being a collector is that people bring you cast-offs and they always know what to get you for your birthday. My son is always finding rusty artifacts to bring me. And my daughters know where to shop to find cute patio accessories.

For me, the biggest challenge has been determining when enough is enough. A pretty garden can quickly turn into a junky mess if the collecting gets out of hand.

Too much stuff can incite that overwhelmed feeling which is a real creativity-killer.

As enjoyable as it is to go on a treasure hunt, I’m trying to learn contentment and work with what I have rather than constantly collecting more. My general rule of thumb is 80 percent plants to 20 percent inorganic elements (aka garden art) and, for the most part, that seems to work. The art is there to complement the plants and create a fun, interesting ambiance and unique sense of place.

Here are some suggestions for improving your own garden’s ambiance.

Have you checked out the solar light options these days? Amazon.com and other retailers have some fun single and stringed light sets that aren’t terribly expensive. I’ve got a set strung along a 10-foot wood ladder that doubles as a fence trellis. Every evening at dusk, they reliably light up and cast a comfy glow.

Got fence? A simple vintage wood window frame or a mirror will add a nice touch.

Rocks and driftwood collected from hikes and vacations can look wonderful in the garden.

Hang an old thermometer in a shady spot for a unique conversation piece.

Always be on the lookout for simple metal shelving to display your collections. Used baker’s racks can be inexpensive and can withstand the elements.

If you see something you like and the price is right but you’re not sure how you’ll use it, get it anyway. The inspiration will come.

Finally, keep in mind that during the winter months, some pieces, such as glass and terracotta should be moved under cover to prevent them from breaking.

Visit my blog for more garden photos: gracepete.blogspot.com.

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