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Gettin’ Whimsical In The Garden

May 7, 2009

may-5-2009-61Work took me far afield Tuesday, to lay out a job in Alexandria. Since I’ve been working long days since March, I decided to treat myself to a little wandering around Holly, Woods and Vines, a cool little nursery on Route 1 north of Mount Vernon. The topiary shrubs (I guess?) in the photo above made me smile. Would I put one in my yard? You know… maybe. They’re pretty ridiculous, but I think that if you go into it with the idea that that’s the whole point, it can work. Not that I’m going to spend any time convincing MJ that we need a topiary sun this year.

may-5-2009-63I got my start in landscaping in Rhode Island, so I tend towards a visceral reaction when presented with spiral topiary at the front door. I think it’s a case of proportion. If you’ve seen the HGTV special “A Man Named Pearl,” you’ve seen how a three-acre property of whimsically sheared shrubs and trees can be magical, while also a bit weird. On the other hand, if the only topiary you have are two spiralling junipers flanking the front steps? I don’t think it works nearly as well.

The above photo, though? Awesome. To me, it looks like a casting call for plant extras in the next Dr. Seuss movie. I’m sure I looked ridiculous, walking around in the rain, taking pictures and giggling to myself. I had fun, though.

may-5-2009-64I’m also a huge fan of sculpture in the garden. I love creating a natural space, but there’s something about rounding the corner and seeing something from the hand of Man poking out of the bushes. There are elegant statues like this one, or reproductions of Frank Lloyd Wright’s sprites; old standards, like Saint Francis or Saint Fiacre (now there’s an interesting saint- Google him, if you have time to kill); and more modern sculptural pieces made from metal, stone, or concrete. A local artist with some cool examples of these is Steve’s Sculptures, located in Lovingston Virginia. Nice guy- I had the pleasure of meeting him at a workshop last year- and he has some pretty cool pieces to offer. And then, at the far end of the spectrum, are the tacky sculptures and dreaded lawn ornaments. MJ’s mom gave us two garden gnomes for Christmas this year. They’re not just any gnomes, however. They’re gnomes dressed in Boston Red Sox uniforms.

Heck, you're just jealous that YOUR yard doesn't have a gnome in a BoSox uniform!

Heck, you're just jealous that YOUR yard doesn't have a gnome in a BoSox uniform!

I think it goes without saying that 1) they were one of our favorite gifts, and 2) they’re both going in the backyard. I’m so busy with my clients’ yards that I doubt mine will ever make it into the pages of a magazine. But if it does, you’ll see the Red Sox gnomes!

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