Johannesburg - With careful selection and placement of the right outdoor ornament, you can turn an ordinary garden into something special.
Whether you decide to place an ornament in a prominent position, or somewhere inconspicuous where it will be “discovered”, it is important that it blends in with the overall design of the space. Where you place your art in the garden is ultimately the key to success.
If a piece of artwork is to look right, it should enhance the design of the garden, and the material from which the feature is made must integrate with the overall look.
For example, a white classical urn will look out of place in an indigenous woodland garden, whereas a striking piece of driftwood or ethnic sculpture will complement the design to perfection.
Ornamental art in the garden can be manmade – there is a wide range of statues, sundials, fountains, and modern sculptures available – or of natural material, such as an interestingly shaped piece of driftwood.
They need not necessarily be expensive, either. A weathered or smooth rock, old farmyard machinery, garden tools, wooden sleepers and bamboo reeds work well in the right setting.
Rummage around second-hand dealers for an old mangle, a treadle, or a tiered pot stand. They all make excellent staging for a collection of pot plants on a patio, as well as interesting talking points.
A rusty birdcage, given a coat of paint, becomes an unusual focal point in a border; a discarded iron garden gate, a support for a rose. A chimney pot can be the base for a sundial or as a container; and the curved interior of a Victorian fireplace can serve as a niche on an exterior wall to frame a statue.
Garden structures can also double as works of art in the form of arches, trellis, water features and retaining walls. Even paths and steps can assume art forms.
Bear in mind that in order to withstand the elements, outdoor art needs to be constructed of durable materials. Stone, concrete, steel, copper and aluminium are the hardiest. Copper should not be used in ponds, however, as it is toxic to fish. Wood will disintegrate in time and is not suitable where humidity is high and termites active.
The choice of features is personal; the important thing is to choose those that will suit the style of the garden. This may be an old plough surrounded by meadow flowers; an elegant statue half-hidden in a grove of Japanese maples or a mischievous stone rabbit peeping from among a row of vegetables.
If you think your garden could be improved by the addition of a permanent feature but don’t know how to introduce this, you can’t go far wrong with a group of stone-coloured or terracotta pots filled with brightly coloured flowers. Containers can create instant impact wherever needed – at the entrance, in a courtyard or patio, or to draw attention to a flight of steps.
If the steps are wide enough, place a flowerpot on each or alternate step. Modern gardens often use natural material in place of expensive permanent features: a grinding stone makes a perfect birdbath; a scarecrow can be made from thatching grass; a log can be hollowed out for a birdhouse, or a large piece of driftwood or more, turned into a dramatic sculpture.
Wooden sleepers and bamboo work well in the right setting, but these materials will break up in time. So if you want permanent outdoor features able to withstand the elements, they need to be constructed of a man-made material such as steel, copper and aluminium.
Study your garden from different angles to see if and where permanent features can be used as a focal point, draw attention to a view, or emphasise a favourite spot. One of the useful and most appreciated garden features is a garden seat that focuses attention on an attractive view or planting.
A garden’s charm cannot always be measured in terms of how many flowers we grow in them, and whether the objects we place in our gardens as ornaments are appropriate or fashionable is not important. If whimsical gnomes and brightly coloured toadstools give you pleasure, enjoy them.
Your garden is, after all, for your enjoyment and pleasure, and should be the foundation, and the elements you add, the finishing touches.
GENERAL GARDEN TIPS
* In the Joburg metro area, the 10 most common plants involved in poisoning cases are: syringa berries, elephant’s ear plants, oleander leaves, arum lily leaves, delicious monster leaves, thorn apple seeds (malpitte), lucky bean seeds, dumb cane leaves (Dieffenbachia species), Jerusalem cherry fruits (Solanum pseudocapsicum) and poinsettia latex.
* If your garden has no space for a tree, then the Christmas or Yuletide camellia (Camellias Sasanqua) is a good choice for adding height, but not too much shade. It has glossy green leaves and in autumn and early winter produce delicate blooms with fluted or ruffled petals in white, pink or red, many having a delicate fragrance.
* Draw attention to an attractive view by framing it with an archway. An archway can play an important part in a small garden, offering a double perspective and a way of displaying the beauty of flowers and foliage on climbing plants. An arch can be cut into a hedge, made of brick, steel or timber and placed over a gate, down a path, a flight of steps, or as a division between parts of the garden.
* Plant strawberries in containers and place them where they can get plenty of morning sun. - Saturday Star