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Art in the Garden

Presentation at Lakeside Garden Guild Ajijic 
October 15, 2007 Mary Prud’homme, Past President

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"Self-expression can take a myriad of  forms-- as many as there are people."Sculpture is just one, and often the least suitable for small gardens, though pieces that are appropriate and in scale with the garden can be charming."Art may be as small and simple as a decorative gate latch, a water bowl or an unusual color scheme."There are many small projects around the garden just begging for self expression--waiting for your embellishment and artistic expression. Larger projects may include changing a dull concrete patio floor into a mosaic, devising an eye-catching paved pattern, creating a unique and appealing garden shed, constructing an obelisk, commissioning a fantastic gate, building a garden seat, producing a screen to hide the rubbish bins or turning a blank wall into a trompe l'oeil - which literally means 'trick the eye'.

GARDEN ART ALLOWS US TO PERSONALIZE OUR GARDENS.  Unfortunately, for many, the idea of art in the garden brings with it images of ostentatious wealth --we think of grand sculptures and expensive stone work and feel that this type of art bears little relation to our humble plots.

"Art is not just sculpture. Art is all about self-expression."

It's about leaving a hand-print to affirm our existence, about putting something of ourselves into our surroundings. Whether we produce the art ourselves, or whether we choose the art of others, we are making our gardens individual and involving.

(Trompe l'oeil is most often a painted mural that makes us believe we are looking at a scene. The trick works best when the illusion is enhanced with some real props and clever planting.)

Beautiful water features add character, sound and movement, creating an appealing ambience in even a very small space. With water to play with one naturally thinks of appropriate statuary.

You should also think of furniture as ornament in the garden, because it can be as beautiful to look at as it is functional.

Art need not be serious. Whimsical creations that surprise and amuse can be great fun. Set a tone of lightheartedness, and when you enter your green space you will feel instantly cheered and entertained.

Garden art can and should serve purposeful design functions. It can be used as an anchor, giving a sense of solidity, as a focal point to draw you into and through the garden, or as a complement to the texture and color of plants.

(Trompe l'oeil is most often a painted mural that makes us believe we are looking at a scene. The trick works best when the illusion is enhanced with some real props and clever planting.)

Beautiful water features add character, sound and movement, creating an appealing ambience in even a very small space. With water to play with one naturally thinks of appropriate statuary.

You should also think of furniture as ornament in the garden, because it can be as beautiful to look at as it is functional.

Art need not be serious. Whimsical creations that surprise and amuse can be great fun. Set a tone of lightheartedness, and when you enter your green space you will feel instantly cheered and entertained.

Garden art can and should serve purposeful design functions. It can be used as an anchor, giving a sense of solidity, as a focal point to draw you into and through the garden, or as a complement to the texture and color of plants.

GATES & ENTRANCES

A garden gate offers a glimpse of what's ahead. A gate that displays a touch of whimsy makes a fitting introduction to a garden filled with objects d'art, while a classic, arched portal hints that a more formal garden lies ahead.

A well chosen gate that clearly defines a point-of-entry artfully combines the atmosphere of the garden and of course, provides privacy and security.

Within a garden, a gateway can signal the transition from one space to another - from the public front garden to the more private and intimate back area.

PAVING

One of the most practical elements in the garden, serving as the outdoor floor beneath our feet, is the path that leads us from one place to another-- that does not mean that paving can not also be decorative.

You can create interesting patterns with single materials, installed with changes in the design that make them look like throw rugs. To create a mosaic pavement of pebbles, pieces of slate and terra-cotta tiles can be very artistic.

Even ordinary concrete can be brushed, etched, sanded or stained.

By removing occasional stones, bricks or cobbles, you can create small planting pockets for succulents and other tough plants.

Some of the most interesting and artful terraces combine two or more paving materials.

Of course, it's the inventive way any material is used that gives paving that extra spark.

LAND SCULPTURE

When your property offers little aesthetic promise, you can do some land sculpting.

To change the terrain from flat to rolling, try creating a grassy, undulating earth form, known as a berm, or a dry stream bed.
A dry stream bed creates the illusion of a passage of water with gentle curves that add rhythm. Boulders, placed strategically, with rounded river stones to fill the bed and planting chosen to punctuate the stream bank, complete the natural look.

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Gardeners and art critics do not generally speak the same language-- however, that TOPIARY is an art form, is certain. We know that from the earliest Roman sources, topiary, even in its infancy, embraced a wide variety of styles: rational, geometric and architectural on the one hand, and eccentric and surreal on the other. In the last 20 years topiary has enjoyed a modest revival - try it, it's a lot of fun.Green Sculpture is something new and can add another dimension to your garden.

ARCHITECTURE

Any garden can benefit from some sort of structure. Trelliswork relieves the monotony of flat surfaces, can add a sense of enclosure, screen a nasty view or frame a great one. Of course trellises make fine supports for climbing plants.

Structures made from copper-pipe are not only decorative but they also make great plant supports. This material is strong but airy and weathers naturally to a muted blue-green color.

Garden sheds, even dog houses, can be interesting structures for your garden when handled artistically.

STONES

Beautiful stone boulders, placed artfully amongst your plantings, give interest, color, texture and contrast.

To add a strong, even mysterious structural element to your garden, place vertical stone posts on end. A pair of posts emphasizes an entranceway and adds verticality to an otherwise flat space.

We all need to consider the mood that our garden portrays. Visitors to a garden experience the varied moods caused by shade and sun, drama and intimacy, the expected and the unexpected. Try using objects that carry emotional weight to support the mood of your garden.

The important elements here, aside from the plants, are how light, both natural and man-made, color and shapes affect the garden's atmosphere.

The shapes of plant material and objects in gardens can be awesome. The choice of the shapes that you put in your garden can be really important.

One of the more popular and captivating shapes is the circle-- the pleasing simplicity of circles can create order and unity within a garden.

Circular forms are full of symbolism-- one such belief was about the Persian Pleasure Garden. Its central fountain was an abstraction of the universe. From this fountain flowed four rivers -- the rivers of life-- symbolically representing water, wine, milk and honey flowing from the center of the universe. The four rivers divided the garden into four quadrants; this geometry dominates formal design to this day.

To quote Jens Jensen, a landscape architect who uses the strength of the circular element as a way to bring order to the randomness of nature,       "A ring speaks of strength and friendship         and is one of the great symbols of         mankind".

Circular elements are not limited to 2 dimensions. Orbs, such as mirrored gazing globes, those big reflective spheres in strong colors, clamor for attention.

When placed in your garden, their magical reflections of not only your garden but also the world around you, will provide pleasure and mystery. Hollow, multicolored, iridescent glass, was being produced at the end of the 13th century in Venice in ovoid and spherical shapes that symbolized fertility.

The so-called "Lucky Spheres", which stood between the flowers and medicinal herbs, had the job of deflecting sickness and injury from house, garden and inhabitants, of promoting good luck and preventing bad, of driving away demons and witches, and bringing blessings and prosperity. Don't you think that we should all have at least one of them in our gardens? Fortunately for us, we can find these beautiful spheres easily in Mexico.

By adding a water feature to your garden you open the door to an enchanting world that will delight your senses and enrich the garden's design.

No garden is too small for water. You don't need a big installation - any water-tight vessel can be transformed into a water garden. Some options include kettles, urns, glazed pots and stone troughs.

A hand carved piece of granite or cantera can make attractive fountains and there are many distinctive carved stone and concrete basins available.

Try floating glass balls on the water's surface to create a moving sculpture with dancing reflections.Water features are magical, whether you choose a simple bird bath, a still reflecting pond, a swimming pool or an ornate fountain.

ORNAMENTS

When in comes to ornaments one could say that
ANYTHING GOES … furniture, bird houses, sculpture, sun dials, bird baths, urns, containers.

However, there is a fine line between tasteful and tacky and one must try to keep within the boundary. Keeping the art in your garden in good taste is the secret of success.

Part of that secret is to keep things simple. Place your art singly as an enhancement or complement to the surrounding garden space. Group the items if they are of similar design, color or material.

Soften the edges of ornaments with plants to make them an integral part of the garden.

Strive to site ornaments in interesting ways so visitors are urged either to move from one area to the next or are given cause to pause.

Surprises are fun - so site statuary where it can be discovered or shield it among foliage, behind or above the viewer.

Never assume that an ornament has been placed in a permanent and perfect spot - one of the great pleasures of a garden is that it grows, evolves and changes.

 

Don't be afraid to express yourselves in your gardens. If you add art to your garden that makes you feel good when you see it, you have added an extra dimension of pleasure and isn't that just dandy?

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