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Garden wisdom from deer country!

Gardening in the Sierra Foothills with Carolyn Singer

The seasoned gardener

published in The Union in Grass Valley CA

From eclectic to elegant, garden art adds fun and beauty

by Carolyn Singer
February 14, 2009

sundialSnow sculpts my garden in magical ways I could not have imagined as I placed a sixty-year-old watering can near my front walkway. Now with snow mounded on the handle it has become a true object of art, though it is most often used functionally. And in the rock garden, a handcrafted sundial on a low post is even more artistic after the snow falls.

Across the open areas, quail tracks in the snow create more art in this winter landscape. Each morning the quail come close to the house in search of the seed I scatter. This artistic canvas will be fleeting but my camera and memory record its beauty.

Auburn CA garden tourWhen I visit gardens throughout the year, I am always touched by the personal additions and the wide diversity of art objects, as varied as the personalities of the gardeners who dwell within the landscape. I find myself taking pictures of the art as often as I do the other garden scenes and individual plants. When snow falls in the foothills, I wish I could be in each one of those gardens to record the effect of the snow accenting and silhouetting the garden and its treasures.

One of my favorite local gardens is Hazel Whitford's on Banner Mountain. The garden is old, which gives it great beauty and depth. And Hazel is an artist. She loves the color blue, and plays with it throughout the garden, adding containers of beautiful hues. Old metal objects from her family's original farm in this area are sometimes used as a single accent or grouped. Rusted metal scraps become works of art with Hazel's creativity. Even the clothesline hung with colorful shirts on the day I visited seemed to add intended artistry!

Nevada City CAIn a newer garden, one where the landscape process is just beginning, the artistic touches most often define circulation patterns. This might include a beautiful walkway, a rock wall or steps, an artistic gate, water features, or an arch or pergola. It should also include benches, inviting visitors to linger. In one garden I recently designed in Baxter, a freestanding wood archway defines the point of entry into a "garden room" for outdoor dining. From within this area, the same archway frames a view of the edible garden beyond.

Water features may be as simple as a beautiful bird baths or bowls at ground level, perfectly placed for pets and deer. However, when raccoons come in the night and use these strategically placed bowls as water basins for paw cleansing, the water might need to be changed more often! More elaborate water features and fountains add the beauty of moving water.

Once trees, ornamental shrubs, and perennials grow, their form, texture and color is often enhanced by an art object nearby. Some gardeners enjoy elegant touches with statuary, while others just like to have fun, adding metal deer, a fiddler created from rusted metal parts, or an old wheelbarrow filled with colorful flowers.

In some gardens, the color of an entry door on the house or a shed adds an unexpected and delightful accent. In one garden I explored in the Seattle area, the owner painted an old door blue and hung it on an unpainted wood fence. A curving path led to this artistic element, mature shrubs along the sides of the path obscuring its view until the path moved closer.

Another garden in Oregon used wide wood arches with benches built into each side. Though the garden area was quite small, the arches gave the effect of moving from one garden room to another. And the benches invited strollers to sit and talk to each other.

Plan your own garden in ways that delight you, and inspire you to linger. Take time to enjoy the bird and animal tracks after the next snow. Art in the garden has limitless possibilities.

©2009 by Carolyn Singer. All rights reserved.

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