In the Garden:
Lower South
May, 2012
Regional Report

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This terra cotta gardener is taking a break to enjoy the plants and other decorations in the landscape.

Decorate Your Landscape

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and that is most certainly true of art. Take paintings for instance. You may prefer a colorful landscape Monet, a surreal painting by Picasso or Dali, a portrait by Rembrandt, or the colorful lights of Kinkaide.

There are so many options that anyone can find something that is just right for them. Our tastes are definitely diverse. How else can you explain a "velvet Elvis" or "dogs playing poker"? So when it comes to art of any kind we will not all agree on what constitutes beauty, nor share the same preferences.

When it comes to our landscapes we also have a wide variety of options besides plants to add beauty, interest, and eye catching attraction. Topiary pruning, fountains, statues, and artistic pieces crafted from wood, metal, and stone give a classic look to a landscape. Formal artistic designs from the landscapes and gardens of Louis XIV in Versailles to modern American formal estates display such classic artistic styles.

The typical American landscape is a simplified version of the formal design, on a smaller scale of course, and with little if any outdoor art. This has been changing in recent decades as many people are opting for less formal, more eclectic designs. Some of the changes have been driven by a rising interest in water efficient landscaping, native plants, and gardening to attract wildlife such as butterflies, hummingbirds and other birds.

A resurgence of interest in cottage gardens, where formal design is despised, invites the unexpected and the whimsical. Garden art, yard art or landscape "bling" are growing in popularity and broadening in scope. One man's trash is another's treasure, and modern landscape decorations range from expensive metal art to colorful glass creations to pink flamingos, the velvet Elvis' of the landscape!

To the horror of neighbors with refined tastes and the local neighborhood association, a wide variety of yard art has been sprouting up in suburban landscapes where cookie cutter uniformity has reigned supreme for decades. Garden supply companies have responded with every imaginable outdoor decoration, from artistic creations that turn in the wind to glass globes, ceramic facial feature to adorn tree trunks, and faux stones with inspiring words etched into them. In addition to the store bought decorations there are a multitude of homemade garden creations that add interest and aesthetic appeal.

I have never been a fan of landscape rules and find uniformity sterile and boring, so all this garden art is quite interesting and amusing to me. While I will agree that there is such a thing as gaudy and many attempts to decorate a landscape are overdone, I think gardeners have every right to create an outdoor world that they enjoy.

It adds an element of surprise to stroll through a landscape and encounter a whimsical creation set among the plants. Creative decorations that I've encountered on visits to the landscapes of eclectic gardeners include an old rusty bicycle with a basket overflowing with flowers, succulents growing from a container set into the hole where wicker once crisscrossed a chair seat, a "flowerpot man" created by stringing together stacks of terra cotta pots, and a metal bed frame with a raised planting bed inside filled with colorful flowers to create a quilt of color.

I'm inspired to come up with new decorations each year to scatter about my gardens and landscape. Wheelbarrow planters with vegetables or flowers are a favorite of mine. The bottle tree, a southern classic, is interesting, but I'm working on some other ways to suspend colorful bottles to catch the sun and add color to a garden spot. As a son of the South, I am ashamed to admit that I've never turned a tire inside out to create a planter! But that is being remedied as I've recently gathered three tires and have arranged to have a friend teach me the finer points of creating a tire planter.

Whether you purchase some new decorations or allow your creative juices to flow and make your own, why not add some decorations to your landscape or garden this year?

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