AS I CONTINUE WAXING PROSE on gardens, this month I thought I might take a road less maintenance-demanding than the specialty pruning of plants discussed in August’s piece. Gardening is hard enough—keeping all things alive, growing, and thriving—so when it comes to accessorizing the garden, I really examine the possibilities so I am not adding more work than I need to, and still have a fabulous outcome with any additions to the garden, old or new.
CREATE A FOCUS
A focal point is a great eye-settling element in any space and especially in a garden. This could be a large heritage tree, a beautiful out-building, or a view to a lake or vast open land. Often, our home garden spaces are a bit more intimate in scale and require imported focuses to emphasize the space or to distract an eye from a nearby ugly. As mentioned last month, espalier trees are a living garden ornament when grown and maintained properly and can make some of the most elegant and whimsical focal points. Now I want to focus on inanimate objects, whether they be stone or metal, collected or assembled, unique or just arranged in an attractive way. A bushel of peaches by the back door on the steps with a few summer pots of geraniums can be all the ornamentation needed and very temporary for sure.
NEVER STOP SHOPPING
Upgrading over time has been inevitable in our garden because we are always shopping for clients and I am always finding new things (or my interests change) over the years. It has been said that the best antiques and garden ornaments are in older folks’ homes or in a designer’s or dealer’s private collection. We are so lucky to live near a metropolis and in an area that has the history of liking fine things. Luckily for many, local estate sales are a great source of these fineries as well as the few sales that benefit some of the great causes our city supports, though it is disappointing there are so few of these large sales anymore. My response to this deficit of sales was to offer selections from my constant shopping trips on our Hortus by Craig Bergmann website. It is so easy to buy more than we can use, and this is a great avenue for folks shopping for just the right thing for their home or garden.
ANTIQUE VS. NEW
I like using old elements when possible to age a new garden. There is often a concern about whether an expensive purchase might be stolen, damaged by our weather extremes, or need winter protection. The way I approach collecting objects for the garden is to mix old and new, particularly when it comes to containers. Our antique planters are only planted in the milder months and then covered or taken in for winter. Another option is to move the more choice items for a different focus on a covered porch or inside a garden room.
A POUND OF PREVENTION
“Frost-proof ” containers are just that, but not indestructible. One must remove the soil or place soil in a plastic liner pot to prevent soil expansion during the freeze/thaw cycle. Here, a few more ideas to keep in mind when ornamenting the garden:
- Place stone or wood shims under objects and containers to keep drainage free underneath and to prevent objects from freezing to the supporting surface.
- New faux lead or zinc containers and objects can be easily camouflaged with tumbling plants or set in a moist shady area for a while to “grunge” up the surface.
- Remember that metal containers get hotter and colder in our weather, so when you can, use a liner pot or place foam insulation on sides and bottom to mediate temperature extremes on the roots of plants.
- Support heavy objects with a stable base underneath or you could have a toppling disaster! If it is heavy to move, it needs more than just an assumed patio support. A rule of thumb is to put a concrete support, 12-inch thick minimum, under objects that weigh over 100 pounds. If not, your patio stone or brick will sink over time. When set into the garden, my advice is to use at least 8 inches of compacted gravel for support with a poured concrete pad.