In the Garden:
Mid-Atlantic
July, 2009
Regional Report

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Jokers playing in the beets -- Hans Godo Frobel's glass sculpture in the Phipps Conservatory, Pittsburgh, PA.

Wit, Whimsy & Art

Watching small yellow squashes plump up behind their lemony bright blossoms brings a smile. Harvesting string beans at just the right time for tenderness is an art AND science. Training cucumbers and peas up their trellises is a lesson in patience and care.

Freeing the 'Biokova' geraniums from waves of self-seeded purple perilla and encouraging the 'Nelly Moser' clematis up the dead tree trunk are subtly yet distinctly satisfying.

Yes, the garden has so many natural delights. As we become more comfortable with the basics of growing, we can be more creative, take more risks. We can play in our gardens. We can add fountains and urns, found objects, clever furniture, handmade art. Whatever strikes our fancy. Plan for it. Act on impulse. Move it. Remove it. Turn it upside down.

Wit, Whimsy, Art
Some 15 years ago, a young woman who'd taken my container gardening class won a Pennsylvania Horticultural Society's City Garden Contest award for her rooftop garden, which included an outdoor canopy bed. On seeing her photos, I wanted one. I've always wanted an outdoor shower and claw-footed bathtub in my garden, too. I'm still dreaming about them.

In the meantime, I am fortunate to be able to visit amazing, Tender Lovingly Cared For gardens for inspiration AND for play.

Last Saturday's tour of the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh, PA had a difficult moment though. We were ooing and aahhing at Hans Godo Frabel's glass sculptures, fascinating 'Longfellows' (human figures), exquisite flowers, colorful frogs and lizards -- among the tropical plants.

At one exhibit, two opaque white glass Jokers running across Playing Cards in a small pond caught my eye. Which then slipped to the vegetation -- large, lush beet greens and Swiss chard. Fresh beets are my favorite veggie. The beetroots were big enough, more than big enough, to eat. They were in clusters of threes, fours, ready for the picking. My hand reached out to pull. (I'm an organic veggie gardener since my teens -- so the impulse to harvest at peak is second nature.) Fortunately, I came to my senses and grabbed my point-and-shoot instead. I took a couple photos then walked away, shaking my head at this close call: "Garden Writer Caught Beet-Napping."

Even if we can't spare (especially now) $1,000 to $4,500 to $10,000 for sculpture and outdoor art, we can still be creative and make beauty outdoors on a budget.

Found Objects
Friend Toni Ann can spot authentic art in the oddest places -- for example, a notable wooden folk art piece amid the "for sale" salvage at a local recycling center. She also knows how to bargain. It's no surprise that her home and garden are elegant yet eclectic and artistic.

This season, I've been using "Found Objects." We moved a wooden jungle gym (unsafe for children's use) to become a flowering fence between properties. We planted native honeysuckle, dutchman's pipes, and morning glories to climb the frame, hobbyhorse, and long swing chains. We're recycling two wooden stepladders as trellises for a 'Fourth of July' climbing rose and an unnamed rambler. We saved the rusty metal hoops from a rotting wooden barrel. Then sunk the hoops halfway deep along a new bed driveway edge where they complement the oakleaf hydrangeas and protect against wandering car wheels. All look fine, in tune with the owner's Berkley-bought birdhouses of reused metal and wood parts.


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