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The Art Of Ornaments The Human Touch Adds Art, Themes And A Bit Of Fun To The Garden

Sat., May 17, 1997

Amid the natural beauty of our gardens, the addition of garden ornaments can add a bit of humanness, interest and art.

They can create a sense of stability, of times past and fun. Birdbaths, sundials, gazing balls, benches, arbors and more have been adding charm and character to gardens for centuries.

Before displaying these garden accents, though, keep in mind a few decorating principles:

Don’t clutter.

Use materials that complement the style of your home or area.

Use only materials that are appropriate for outside. A decorated outhouse would be fine, but a porcelain potty may look a little out of place.

With that, let’s look at a few garden accessories and their uses.

Stumps and driftwood

Due to our infamous ice storm, many of us may be faced with a collection of stumps this spring. Not all of them have to be ground down. Select those that are nestled in among the trees and shrubs.

Use them to support a collection of birdhouses or a summer basket of flowers. Grow a bit of ivy or vinca around their bases. Allow moss to develop in their cracks and crevices.

For those of you who are really artsy, take an ax to the flat top. Create a jagged, rough appearance as if the tree were split in half by nature, not by man. If you live in a burning zone, set the stump on fire for an outstanding black, charred appearance - again, grow ivy, vinca or clematis up and around it.

Driftwood is a bit more difficult to work with. It’s usually found in water or along the beach. If you’ve collected a nice assortment of driftwood and would like to display the pieces in your garden, create a special area for them.

Begin by creating a dry stream bed. Instead of using a bed of river rock at its mouth, use sand. Bury portions of the wood in the sand to re-create the natural appearance of wood that has washed ashore. Add a few small plantings around the wood - sea thrift, blue fescue grass or sedum.


Huge rocks or well-placed smaller stones add a sense of stability to any garden. When Mother Nature was busy moving boulders from one end of the county to the other, she didn’t drop them every 2 feet. She piled rocks on top of others and dropped a few on the way. With this in mind, try to imitate her random art by grouping three stones together and isolate a few here and there.

And always, look for the widest part of the stone. Any portion of the stone below this measurement should be buried in the ground. This way, it will always give us the feeling of stability and not the feeling that it could roll if you nudged it.

Soft-needled evergreens, soft upright grasses and spiky plants such as iris or yucca are handsome accents to boulders.


Most fences are used for privacy or protection. But short sections of certain types of fences (split rail, picket, weathered picket, etc.) can always be used as backdrops to enhance shrubs and flowers. Short sections can break up the appearance of a long, flat yard and create interesting corners.

And if you have those natural areas that you don’t wish to landscape, separate them from the formal landscape by using a section of a low fence.

The style of fence you choose should always complement the style of your home.


These garden sentries suggest somewhere private or secret. I love gates, especially old rickety gates attached to posts with old rusty hinges. Flanked by clematis or an old-fashioned climbing rose, what could be more alluring?

Granted, some gates have more charm than others - wrought iron, turn-of-the-century wire gates, picket gates or weathered wooded gates. But even the tall gates attached to our high wooden fences can be accented by the addition of a large, black decorative handle or pots of flowers suspended from it.


These structures do more than merely hold up heavy vines. Depending on their size, they can create focal points in the garden or suggest inviting entries from one area of the garden to another.

If they are deep and wide, benches can be added for a shady resting place.

They can even be used to soften and break up a blank side of a tall building. Use only the top of the arbor. Paint it the same color as the structure and attach it to the wall as if it were a shelf. Encourage a graceful vine to grow over the structure.


There are many types of trellises, and they come in all different shapes and sizes. There are the popular fanshaped, those fashioned from twigs and branches, fancy wrought-iron trellises and full-wall trellises.

A full-wall trellis can cover an entire wall by simply securing 2-by-2’s together to form 4- or 6-inch squares. A trellis this large can be covered with honeysuckle vines, Boston ivy, bittersweet vine, trumpet vine, climbing hydrangea or various varieties of clematis and climbing roses.


Let your imagination run free. Anything that will hold soil and allow water to drain can make an excellent planter. Even those planters that don’t have drainage holes or those that you may not wish to ruin with soil and water stains can be used. Simply double pot.

Stuff old bird cages with cascading petunias. Plant herbs in small, decorative tins and group them together on the porch. Paint flowers on whiskey barrels.

Group planters together for a showy display. Fill windowboxes with mass plantings.

If you have a shed with windows, add a couple of old shutters on either side of the window and hang a planted window box under it. Just like that, you’ve created a charming look.

If your shed doesn’t have a window, make one. It doesn’t have to be real. Simply make a window frame with 1-by-4’s and paint the backdrop black or frame in a mirror.

Benches and chairs

Avid gardeners have little time for sitting on benches, but they’re still a welcome addition to the garden. Place them in shady locations on solid ground. Tumbled block or interlocking pavers with Irish moss or thyme growing between them makes a solid setting for the bench as well as a natural setting.

Other stuff

And finally, all the little added features - sundials, birdbaths, wishing wells, old pumps, swings, wagon wheels, old wheelbarrows and gazing balls. All or some of these have a place in the garden, depending on the style of your home. If you have a modern home, a wagon wheel may not be appropriate.

Sundials obviously need to be set in a sunny area. Birdbaths can be placed in open or protected areas. I have heard pros and cons about both places.

If you have rocks, you can make an authentic wishing well by making a rock well and wooden top. Fill the hanging bucket with summer flowers and suspend it over the well with a rope.

Gazing balls or gazing globes date back to ancient China. They are all the rage now, and for good reason. If placed in the garden correctly, where they can be seen from all sides, the reflections are spectacular. Place them on their pedestals where they can reflect the sky, the ground and our beautiful gardens.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo


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