May 3, 2012

Spring Migrations

Berkeley the Snail, at bottom, with
a more conventional bird bath,
visible at top
Just as the swallows come back to Capistrano and the Swan Boats re-appear in the Public Garden, so there comes a spring day when our garden ornaments emerge from their basement winter quarters.

Like beauty, garden ornaments are in the eye of the beholder.  They can be almost anything you want them to be.  Our neighbors tend toward gazing balls.  Some people have cherubim.  There is a house on a main road a few miles from me with literally hundreds of garden gnomes and fairies out for all to see.  I’ve never quite comprehended gnomes, except as things to steal and send on trips around the world, taking photos along the way; but I accept that, for a certain subset of gardeners, gnomes are gotta-have items. 

Our own stash of ornaments ranges from the expected to the highly eclectic.  There are four bird baths, surely a staple of any respectable garden.  But there are also at least three frogs in our collection, one of them so plug-ugly that it stops visitors in their tracks.  There is a large terra-cotta fish that is supposed to grace a Japanese home, but instead ‘swims’ in our garden.

The Winterthur turtle, prized for its
chipped nose and bargain price
We have a large and heavy (20 pounds or so) metal snail named Berkeley, acquired in London and brought back in the overhead bin of an airplane back before such things would have been considered weapons.  There is also a stone turtle which lacks a name but has a provenance just as memorable as that of our snail.  The turtle was acquired at Winterthur for the sum of just five dollars after we pointed out the chip on its nose.  My wife considers it one of the great bargains of her garden travels.  Of course, we also have a stone cat that we found abandoned after a flower show.  It, too, has a chip, but is less noteworthy because no offer or counter-offer was required for its acquisition.

There is a frog with a permanent site because, one summer, he was topped with a live red frog who seemed to like the vantage point.  We hope for a recurrence.

This black frog, visible now,
will disappear as the
astilbe foliage grows
Most of our garden ornaments are intended to be seen and admired.  But a few, especially the smaller ones, are deliberately placed in locations where they can only be seen from certain angles.  Their serendipitous discovery delights visitors, but the practice also has its downside: we forget where we put them and find them only in November and December when the foliage that obscured them dies back.  This annual recovery process is made more difficult because, except for a few ornaments such as the bird baths, there are no permanent positions reserved for members of our growing collection.

Several ceramic and terra cotta containers have passed from bearing annuals and perennials to the status of garden ornaments.  These tend to be very large ones that, were they filled with plants, would each take a jumbo-size bag of potting mix.  Instead, they grace perennial beds and rock gardens, providing focal points for visual interest.

Our newest ornament, the 'silver
sphere', is looking for a home
Our newest ornament came into our possession following the World Association of Flower Arrangers’ triennial meeting in Boston last June.  It’s an open sphere comprised of aluminum bands; one of 20 fabricated for that show.  I found it last October in a warehouse in Northborough where it was packaged up with staging destined for a landfill.  I brought it home on a whim, and Betty literally jumped up and down with excitement upon seeing it.

Our ‘silver sphere’, as we call it, has yet to find a permanent spot.  It will likely spend several weeks migrating from bed to bed where it will ‘try out’ for a season-long gig.  At our little house, there’s always room for one more – garden ornament, that is.

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