Friday, September 28, 2012

Garden Art - Make it Personal

Savannah Bird Girl in my garden

After spending some years working on my garden by adding and rearranging plants, I decided to amp things up a bit by introducing some art. Sculpture, attractive stepping stones, amusing junk displays, and other man made items personalize your garden by creating a space that reflects your interests. 

My first little statue, found in a catalog, was a replica of the Savannah Bird Girl that was featured on the cover of one of my all time favorite books, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (John Berendt 1994). So maybe the famous Bird Girl no longer graces Savannah's Bonaventure Cemetery, but a smaller version stands in my yard, a testament to my love for birds and novels.

Glass Flower

But not all garden art costs money. Or at least some garden art can be had for very little. Myfriend, Leola, has created some adorable glass flowers from cups and saucers, bowls, and candle holders that she picks up at thrift shops. When the real flowers start to fade, these glass flowers hold the spirit, catch and reflect sunlight, and are just plain pretty.

I like to place certain items inside shrubs, or under trees, almost hidden from view to add a whimsical surprise. I found a ceramic doll head at a thrift store and just knew she would wind up tucked between some evergreen boughs. She reminds me of a faerie peeking out of the greenery, an elvish face studying on passersby. I figured that few would even notice her, which somehow made her more interesting to me. Well, someone did notice her. They stole her away. I wonder where she is now and hope she found a good home. She'd become a bit weathered and her hair had gone ratty. I still miss her and am glad that I took a photograph.

Garden Art - Doll Head
A young friend of mine made this A young friend of mine made this attractive piece from salvaged bathroom tiles, rebar, and chain. The piece hangs on the edge of the garden, sometimes obscured by plants, but revealed when the growing season passes and in Spring when this picture was taken.

Garden Art made of salvaged material

I'm not sure if you can see this but the books in the bike basket below is spewing water. If you look at the right side of the book pile, you may notice water dribbling down. Now, I hate the idea of ruining books but this is one original idea!

I love how this looks like plants growing in a pot. Actually, the pot, one that I loved, a gift from my mother, broke in half. I could not part with it, so upended it in the soil to mimic a standing container. The plants are growing in the ground, but seem to burst out of a container that is much too small. I like containers but hate the constant watering. Using salvaged material is a great way to add interest and a bit of humor into a garden design.

Container that is not a container

I would not want to use this lovely mosaic stepping stone to actually step on, so have set it on the edge of a garden. Mosaics like these are simple to make using concrete and broken tiles. Craft stores offer kits that you can try out to see if you enjoy creating your own unique stepping stone. It's best to bring them indoors for winter storage.

Mosaic Stepping Stone

Upended bottles used to edge gardens, hanging unusual objects from tree limbs, incorporating architectural salvage as an art form - you can create a personal space in your own back yard. You can add one or two art objects, or go wild and turn the place into one whole art piece. And when you think to yourself, that there is no place like home, you will be right. 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Collections - The Sentimental Value of Children's Books

Somehow, I accidentally own a collection of old children's books. Some were mine when I was a child; others given as gifts. 

Some are in poor condition and some are nearly pristine. 

The collection is not an investment, nor am I a collector who appreciates the value of old books. These are sentimental items. I love the illustrations and graphics, the adventure, and the old fashioned values. I appreciate how we've changed and old stereotypes seem far-fetched and absurd.


Often, children are drawn into the habit of reading by series books. For me, it was the Bobbsey Twins. This old copy of The Bobbsey Twins: Merry Days Indoor and Out by Laura Lee Hope (Grosset and Dunlap, New York, 1904) offers a view of a bygone era when people rode in horse drawn sleighs and happy children yelled things like, "Hurrah!"

If you are not familiar with the Bobbsey Twins, they were two sets of fraternal twins with Nan and Bert the elder set, both sensible and adventurous; and Flossie and Freddie the younger, a bit silly and wild. 

As I paged through the book, I found one page featuring Dinah, the African American cook who ran the house and assisted in all aspects of the lives of the famous twins:

"Well I declare to gracious!" she exclaimed. "If yo chillun ain't gone an' mussed up de floah a'gin!"

"Bert broke my boiler," said Freddie and began to cry. One must wonder - where is Mrs. Bobbsey and what is she doing? What the heck is a boiler and why is a kid playing with a boiler? And how 'bout dem eubonics?

The Bobbsey Twins at Home, circa 1916, is filled with chestnut hunting orphans, a staged train hold up for the "moving pictures, children lost in lumber yards (where they like to play), and grown-ups leaving 5 year olds to tend boiling sugar. Times were different then.

I remember reading an old Hardy Boys book to the boys where folks are shocked by the sudden appearance of a woman wearing pants. Villains  were swarthy foreigners, and all the brats were red haired boys. The boys got a kick out of the way life was presented in the past. It gave them a little window into history, the way people looked at the world. Sometimes it was a wonderful world, where kids ran wild with a freedom most kids just don't experience today. Sometimes it was ridiculous.

I hold these books with tenderness. Many of the original owners of these old books are long dead, children who took these books to bed at night, or read them on the porch on a summer afternoon. Some of these books could not stand up to another read. They have cracked spines. They've been read to death. They've been loved.

Old children's books can be found for next to nothing at yard sales and thrift shops. They may be found in your grandmother's attic, or tucked away in a forgotten corner of your own home. They can be found in the way that you live as you suddenly find your favorite hobby or interest presented in one of these old stories. They can be found in your dreams. They live in your heart.