Think "garden art" and weather vanes, whirligigs, metal cutouts of chickens and sunflowers, and painted rocks may come to mind. These are all cute, of course, and add a wonderful feeling of whimsy and tradition to a garden, especially if children are involved. However, they're not the only way you can let your artistic side shine in a garden. The "off season", when you're not as busy hoeing and growing, is a great time to shift your focus to structural focal points such as art. Here are four elements to get your garden art growing:
Sculptures. There's no reason that beautiful statues need only reside in formal gardens. Why not feature large molded, welded, and cast three-dimensional art in your urban farm, community garden, or corporate garden? This is a great way to showcase local artists, and increase awareness and support of your garden and mission. Creating art with interesting materials repurposed from the waste stream (perhaps even from your corporation's manufacturing facility) is a particularly clever way to highlight your commitment to living lighter on the land. Why not have a contest? You can then host an art opening where you punctuate entry ways, herb spirals, and ends of rows with eye-catching, conversation-starting visual delights.
Trellises. In the course of the year, you're going to need trellises and other supports for vining crops, so why not plan ahead and make them now when you can see the "bones" of the garden more clearly? Local craftspeople like metalworkers and ironsmiths may want to get involved, and you can even turn urban detritus like old window bars into trellises for peas and cucumbers. Here's a simple idea: Invite community and school groups to each paint a ladder for your garden, and use them for plants to grow up and over. You have to admit—the ladders would make it easier to harvest those tall beans come summer!
Hardscaping. Don't overlook opportunities for art when you do any hardscaping in your garden, like creating walking paths or low stone walls for sitting. Pottery fragments and colored stones can be crafted into beautiful mosaics. If your garden has an unfortunate view of a brick or concrete wall, that's a prime location for a mural. Just be sure to garner any property owner permissions you need before picking up the paint!
Living art. If you invest time and thought into the artistic expression of your garden environment, you will no doubt start seeing your plants as artistic elements as well. When you select your spring plants, consider their color, size, and interest individually as well as how they work together as a, shall we say, palette. Even the gardeners themselves are part of this living tableau. Be aware of your personal contribution to the beauty of your garden environment and wear an eye-catching hat or a floral dress. And don't be surprised if one day you find a "plein air" artist setting up his or her easel to paint you! Isn't that how Seurat got started?
Tap in next week and I'll share with you some tips for starting a faith-based garden.
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Daron Joffe is a 30-something eco-entrepreneur who lives to make a difference in the world one homegrown organic fruit and vegetable at a time. Known as "Farmer D," Joffe has grown food for celebrities, private communities, and elementary schools in his "town-by-town mission to re-energize the food culture." His products are sold at select Whole Foods and Williams-Sonoma stores. Born in South Africa and based in Atlanta, Farmer D is online at www.farmerD.com.