Garden Ornaments

peacock ornament in succulent garden

peacock ornament in succulent garden

Garden ornaments are no longer limited to plastic pink flamingos. Nowadays, you can find a somewhat more refined-looking plastic heron, and even a plastic egret.
Not that plastic pink flamingos are necessarily without merit. Recently, I saw a new version of these artificial tropical birds, with wind-powered wings attached. They created an interesting whimsical contrast in a bed of blue ornamental grasses, namely blue sheep fescue (Festuca ovina glauca), lyme grass (Leymus arenarius), and blue oat grass (Helictotrichon sempervirens).
Garden ornaments, of course, are not usually pink, unless they happen to be painted wooden pigs, occasionally spotted these days alongside wooden cows or chickens.
To be sure, these animals are meant to introduce a touch of humor into the staid front yards of most homeowners. If you have mostly grass in front of your house, why not have a wooden cow grazing in it?
Garden ornaments are available in almost any material that can withstand the elements. You will find them in concrete, terra cotta, cedar, redwood, wrought iron and copper. The greatest selection of figures is found among those made from concrete. You just might discover your favorite animal among the bears, lions, leopards, crocodiles, rabbits, squirrels, frogs, wolves, cats and many breeds of dogs available. Most of the members of this menagerie stand between 1 and 2 feet tall.
Wrought iron allows the artist to create in one-dimensional space and, with this freedom, the possibilities are limitless. Giant butterflies and dragonflies are wrought-iron specialties. But you can also find a teapot and teacup, a martini glass with olive and swizzle stick, a telephone ringing off the hook, even a UFO with alien inside.
When thinking of wrought iron or any other metal in the garden, the subject of topiary is unavoidable. Having procured the frame of an elephant, giraffe, gorilla or hippopotamus, you are faced with four options for transforming your beast of choice into a botanical animal. The two plants that lend themselves to topiary sculpting in our area are Japanese boxwood (Buxus microphylla japonica) and eugenia (Syzygium paniculatum). In fact, if you have the artist’s touch, you could create animals out of these plants with the help of a pruning shears alone.
However, if you choose to go the topiary route, you would simply plant the boxwood or eugenia – using several 1- or 5-gallon-size plants – within the frame and wait for the foliage to grow through. Keep in mind that boxwood, in the Valley, should be grown in some shade; otherwise it becomes infested with spider mites and loses its color. Eugenia can grow in full sun to light shade.
If you prefer to work with vines, your two options would be ivy and creeping fig. Plant around the animal frame and watch the vines work their way up. Both ivy and creeping fig grow best when sheltered from direct sun. For a finer, silkier coat on your animal, select needlepoint ivy as opposed to English or Hahn’s ivy, even if the needlepoint will grow a bit more slowly than the other two varieties.
For those with a little more money to spend, copper sundials and arbors are worthy of attention. Cedar wheelbarrow planters are also quite attractive. Of course, you can always take a rusty wheelbarrow of your own, paint it, and drill a few holes in the bottom. Plant billowing or trailing perennials in your wheelbarrow, such as verbena, campanula, lantana, ground cover roses, helichrysum, ivy geranium or bacopa (Sutera cordata).

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