The Art of Gardening

Don’t forget about garden art.

While plants are the main materials used to fill a landscape canvas, don’t forget about garden art.

While some people tend toward more formal art—stately fountains and stone lions, for example—not everyone can afford or is drawn to such opulent appointments.

For those who like the whimsical approach, the options are endless and often free or inexpensive, plus the garden can be a recycler’s dreamscape.

The baskets on rusty bicycles and bowls of potties really can become pretty planters. Old ladders, chairs or bedsteads can become trellises for vines. High-heeled shoes, bowling balls, broken pots and other “found” objects can become accent pieces.

Some yard art has a basis in superstition and traditional culture. For example, the bottle trees so common in the South and those yard gnomes found worldwide were once used to trap or ward off evil spirits.

Whatever the motivation and inspiration may be, garden art can be found everywhere and have even become tourist attractions.

The late visionary artist Eddie Owens Martin (aka St. EOM) of Georgia established a seven-acre work of art called Pasaquan that features more than 2,000 pieces of his art housed both indoors and out and is open for public viewing.

Then there’s Chloride, Arizona, which, as the locals say, has no grass or flowers but may have the largest collection of yard art in the nation and has become a favorite stop for road trippers.

And it appears that “arting” one’s yard has become something of a competition, as well.

Entire communities have taken to trying to out-art one another in their yards and have even kidnapped one another’s flamingos and held them for ransom.

Those iconic pink flamingos, by the way, were an offshoot of the development of a heavy-duty plastic that made these pink confections of kitsch durable and affordable.

Before that, according to the flamingo’s creator Don Featherstone, “only rich people could afford to have poor taste.”

Speaking of taste, keep in mind that not everyone fully appreciates yard art.

In fact, one California town banned the display of pink flamingos in local yards (the flamingo owners simply painted them blue to meet the code). 

Realizing that good taste is in the eye of the beholder, to avoid any neighborhood backlash, check on municipal and homeowner association codes before you begin creating your own yard of art to make sure no one will take exception to your choices. 

Whether you are drawn to statues of Greek goddesses or to those wooden cutouts of a grandmother’s pantaloons, the yard can truly be a place of inspiration and expression.

Once you know your audience and its tolerance levels, go out and design to your heart’s content.

No telling what you might create, even from junk.