I love to embellish—my clothing, my house, and best of all, my garden. My first garden ornament, a beautiful copper owl, actually spent 12 years flying from coffee table to coffee table, as I repeatedly pronounced, “Someday, my friend, you will ornament my garden,” a garden I had yet to create. When we did find land, and I began building the bones of the landscape, my special owl found its first outdoor home on a boulder near a terrace, only to move one year later to a newly created herb garden, and then to a pond edge, and finally, to a sunken knot garden. Somehow, my Garden Ornaments never do find permanent homes—my owl has been quite happy flying from one perch to another.
Our latest move has been into an area rich in gardening history. We bought a house situated in the middle of a 214-acre overgrown orchard with the idea that I would surrender my 18-year career in science to the challenge of growing green plants outdoors. Living near Longwood Gardens, I enrolled in its two-year program in ornamental horticulture, hoping to learn just what plants I could grow in this area and how to integrate them into the landscape. As a result, my love of gardening mushroomed into an obsession. And with it grew my desire to embellish what I had grown.
NATURE INSPIRES CREATIVITY
First we cleared our sloping landscape of its old fallen fruit trees, poison ivy, and multiflora roses. Rocks dominated the land, with many large outcroppings as well as mounds of smaller ones cast by farmers into the bordering hedgerow. The art of rock rearranging soon became an obsession with my husband, Per. Using winches and come-alongs, he moved boulders into artistic groupings, and rearranged them as terracing retainers and as low walls weaving through the landscape.
He used rocks to depict stories, and even levitated some into the arms of a pollarded cherry. Along with rock works, Per created five ponds: two terrace pools behind our house, a double pond nestled among large boulders on the hillside, a pool at the edge of a knot garden, and finally a large woodland pond anchored by a gazebo. And with water to play with, we brought statuary into the garden in the form of fountains. Frogs naturally populated our water gardens, and eventually they became a recurrent theme for ornament throughout the garden.
The garden has been developing and growing for more than 15 years. A series of island plantings and gardens, each individual unto themselves yet integrated into the overall design, forms the basis of the landscape. The garden is an informal one: no straight lines, no formal hedges, save the knot garden. It is filled with both woody and herbaceous plants. I am a plant lover and a collector of all green things that are rare and unusual. I design with color, texture, form, and contrast in mind. As I developed each specific area of the garden, I introduced a touch of whimsy by adding unusual Garden Ornaments. I create the gardens to make people smile.
THEMES CREATE CONTINUITY
To incorporate my love of ornament into the garden, I soon realized that I needed themes to create a sense of continuity. I already had the rocks and water, a statuary collection centered around frogs and birds, sitting spaces carved into the landscape, and tropical plants summering outdoors in containers. By building on these specific themes, I relaxed and didn’t worry about following traditional rules of ornament use in the garden. Whose rules are they, anyway? I was having a grand time, and that’s what mattered most.
I find water is a most pleasing and soothing element in the garden. Still water is calming—it reflects the sky as well as silhouettes of limbs overhead. Moving water is cooling, and a splashing fountain supplies music to its surroundings. We try to keep it simple— too much noise or movement is jarring to the eyes as well as to the ears. With water comes a host of living creatures—frogs, fish, birds, dragonflies, turtles, snakes, and water striders. Each pond lends itself to further embellishment: Bronze herons stand at the edge of a clump of pickerel weed (Pontederia cordata), and rusty metal birds perch near a stone wall, interplanted with Christmas ferns
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