Fun decor for your garden
Johannesburg - De-stressing has never been more important than it is today, given our busy lifestyles. Gardening is a place where you can have fun and stay healthy.
It may come as a surprise that it is not always the perfectly manicured garden, nor one with rare and unusual plants, that we remember. Sometimes it is the garden with a touch of whimsy that lingers. During the time of the Italian and French renaissances, owners and designers of gardens were famous for displaying an impish sense of humour.
Water tricks and jokes, giochi d’acqua, were much in vogue, and the unsuspecting visitor would often activate a spray or jet of water by treading on a step or leaning forward to admire a plant.
Topiary was an essential part of the formal English garden in the 17th century and while the clipping of shrubs was done more for the spectacular designs in the form of obelisks and columns, many a visitor was amused by the sight of giant topiary peacocks perched on nests or huntsmen and hounds chasing foxes across the tops of hedges.
Perhaps no touch of garden whimsy has evoked quite such heated debate as the gnome! Originating in Germany, it is somewhat surprising that it was during the stiff and staid Victorian era that these little figurines enjoyed the most popularity. Remember the brightly painted pottery gnome sitting on the edge of a goldfish pond, holding a little fishing rod in your grandparent’s garden?
Gnomes represented “bad” taste in garden ornamentation in the mid and late 20th century and were banned from the prestigious Royal Horticultural Society flower shows. This year, their ban from the centenary year of the Chelsea Flower Show was lifted and caused varied reactions.
If your taste in gardening ornaments doesn’t include little bearded men with pointed hats and shoes, garden centres offer a wide selection of ornaments to suit every garden. How about a rabbit statue standing guard at the entrance to the vegetable garden, a dancing fairy, an elf or a mischievous goblin fountain?
Scarecrows and pot men, like any other form of garden art, need to be in keeping with their surroundings. They belong in vegetable patches and orchards, herb and country-style gardens; they are not suited to formal gardens, classical sculptures, rockeries or water features.
Wire sculptures of creatures and musical instruments made by local crafters show that it is possible to have a little fun, while at the same time encourage local talent and add to the enjoyment of the garden. At the 2002 Chelsea Flower Show, the Kirstenbosch exhibit The African Mosaic that featured fantasy creatures and musical instruments crafted in wire was awarded a Gold Medal.
When old is new
Ornaments in the garden need not be expensive. An old iron bedhead is the perfect support for a light climber; a rustic farm gate can be used to divide one part of the garden from another; a damaged weathervane can be attached to a pole and used as a support for a rose. Wooden tables that were used in old potting sheds are trendy in today’s décor and can add charm and interest to your patio or sunroom. A pot stand does not have to carry cooking pots! It is perfect for displaying a selection of containers filled with flowers and herbs on the patio.
Once you start thinking about objects that were commonplace in old gardens, many could be used as garden ornaments. A Victorian chimney pot is perfect as a base for a sundial, old roof tiles can be used to edge paths, and ornate foot scrapers are as useful for removing mud from shoes now as they were in Victorian times.
Did you know the Romans used a type of shear for topiary work, the wheelbarrow was originally made from wood and is one of the oldest devices invented by man for carrying goods, and the watering can with its pierced rose was designed in the late Middle Ages to imitate falling rain? Search for old gardening tools at salerooms and at flea markets and display them on a fence, on a garden shed wall or made into a garden gate.
We view our gardens as a place of refuge, a place where we try to create beauty. Why can we not also make it a place of laughter and fun? The word paradise comes from the Persian pairidaeza, meaning a garden. There surely would also be laughter and humour in paradise.
GENERAL GARDENING TIPS
* Sow seed. For convenience, choose varieties that can be sown directly into prepared sunny flower beds such as zinnia, nasturtium, candytuft, alyssum, portulaca, waterwise cosmos or marigold.
* Agapanthus are perfect companions with summer flowering bulbs of crocosmia, galtonia, eucomis and watsonia. An indigenous blue and yellow colour scheme could consist of clusters of dwarf, intermediate and tall agapanthus, yellow euryops daisy and Gazania Yellow Shades. Equally pleasing would be blue agapanthus with yellow marguerite daisies (argyranthemum), lemon day lilies and arctotis.
* Shrubs with aromatic foliage include wild rosemary (Eriocephalus africanus) with tiny white flowers and Agathosma crenulata. The confetti bush, Coleonema pulchellum, has needle-like leaves that, when crushed, release an aromatic fragrance. It bears masses of tiny pink flowers and is best planted in groups. Confetti bushes make good companion plants for protea, yellow euryops daisy and the blue daisies of felicia.
* In keeping with Heritage day and National Braai Day celebrated this year on September 24, landscape with indigenous plants around your outdoor entertainment areas. Create a waterwise landscape with weathered rocks inter-planted with Leonotis leonurus and strelitzia with a groundcover of orange gazania and yellow bulbine. - Saturday Star