In my opinion, no garden is complete without garden art. While it is true that a well designed garden needs no artificial elements to be beautiful, the addition of art allows the garden to become truly represenative of the gardener.
All of my gardening experience has happened in the South. And one thing that I have learned about Southern gardeners is they love their garden art. Garden art in the south ranges from the truly tacky (tire and toilet planters) to the truly elegant (the Greek Muses at Bayou Bend), but it all says something about the garden and the gardener.
Felder Rushing is a true Master of Horticulture who has done more to promote rural Southern garden art than anyone I know. He is extremely found of bottle trees. His website has a whole section devoted to them. He also has a ton of pictures of the tire planters that he uses in his own gardens. He even has a picture in one of his speaking presentations of a large stand of elephant ears with big black numbers spray painted on them. When he saw this he pulled over and the owner what the numbers represented. She quickly informed him that they were the numbers of the NASCAR drivers that she loved. Now that is creative self expression in the garden!
I myself have a lot of this art scattered throughout my property. One of my favorite pieces is a fairly large bust of St. Francis from Jim Jeffries of Crockett, Texas. He was very good friends with my mother-in-law Pat Krischke. The bust is a head cast of a large sculpture that he did of St. Francis playing with a deer and a wolf for St. Francis Catholic Church in Crockett. Jim has now gone on to his heavenly reward and my mother-in-law is in the final stages of Alzheimer’s. I miss them both dearly but this sculpture allows me to think of them every day. Plus, it looks great behind my lantana.
Bottle trees are probably the most common form of garden art in the South. These trees take on a myriad of shapes and forms. The tradition of the bottle tree was adapted from the African slaves of long ago. In their native lands they believed that they could ward off evil spirits by hanging pieces of brightly colored glass in the trees around their homes. They continued to do this once they were here. This tradition evolved from hanging pieces of glass to placing whole bottle in the limbs of trees. It was believed that the evil spirits would become trapped in the bottles. It is also believed that the haunting “woooo” sounds that come from the wind blowing over the bottles are the cries of the trapped spirits. I don’t know about you, but I can always use some help keeping evil spirits at bay.
I recently bought a new camera. In order to learn how to use it I headed out to the Antique Rose Emporium (ARE). While the plants were beautiful (and they always are, even in July and August), my best shots were of the art that Mike Shoup and his designers have incorporated into their display gardens. As you can see, some of the art was elegant, some whimsical and some of it was just down right ”cute”. But you know what, it all worked. Each of these things represents the spirit of the owners and staff of this incredible place.
There is no doubt that Spring is the best and most beloved time of the year of most gardeners. So this year, while you are out there digging and planting, why not showcase your personality by adding some art to your yard, beds and borders.