Invest in garden art

The right kind of art in the right place can enhance your garden.

NOVEMBER days may be short, but any low sunlight that arrives concentrates the mind on shape and form. Gardens look larger, every line and contour stands proud and a gaze can now stretch to distant boundaries unhindered by the soft gauze of summer. I can see all of the garden now — and more besides.

My neighbour’s in the middle distance is also visible, and once more his plantings, layout, and style reappear, having been hidden since early spring. So now I think is the ideal time to invest in a (little) piece of garden art, although in any kind of garden it can sometimes be controversial.

The contention is that art has no place in gardening, and that good materials and well-developed cultivation skills are all that are needed to make perfect landscapes. The craft brigade would rubbish this assertion and I’m inclined to agree with them.

As a punter, it seems to me that gardening without at least one small piece of art is pointless — but you need good craftsmanship to select the right piece for the right place.

Choosing and placing art in the garden is very personal of course and it may be construed as a reflection of the inner self; a peep into one’s feelings, tastes and moods. That being the case, your chosen artwork may create or evoke an emotion, or it may simply act as a focal point in a particular fine setting.

Whichever, be assured that it is going to create some kind of a reaction; admiration (for its artistry) stimulation (because it might evoke a memory) or quirkiness (because it makes you laugh).

It’s important to point these out for there’s a distinction between sculpture that it used to stimulate an emotion and sculpture used as a focal point. Focal points, I have found, are used mainly to draw the eye onwards, whereas an abstract piece is by and large, used to trigger a response.

The business of finding a suitable position for your purchase will also arise and consideration will need to be given to many different areas. Sometimes, a creation may wander around the garden for years until it finds the place that’s right for it.

And at other times you will have a brainstorm about where to put it and it works immediately! Whichever, bear in mind that a single beautiful piece is usually more effective than having artwork everywhere, and it is definitely easier to accommodate.

Finally, take time to look around the different garden outlets for not all cater for just such artwork! Carefully selected works can usually be found in all mediums from bronze to hard metal, ceramics to wood, marble to stone, to water and glass.

Many will gratify, most will surprise, delight and enhance but your eventual choice will elevate your garden especially during winter when the great spectacle of flowering plants have taken leave of centre stage.

WORK FOR THE WEEK

WINTER: From now on, winter will move along in an easy, almost inconspicuous manner. But sometimes, because of the uncomfortable conditions, it is natural to underestimate the positive value of the season. The lessening of light and the increase of darkness are now necessary ingredients for the garden’s wellbeing. Along with wind rain and low temperatures, the season enables the fallow processes to proceed according to plan. Nature has been busy producing since early spring and it is now time to slow down and rest. Without this rest, the soil would wear out and lose most of its nutrients, yet, like every other season, winter holds a beauty all its own. In the stillness and darkness a few nights ago, the sleekness of camellia leaves took on a new texture (it would seem) for pencil-lines of sugar frosting changed their normally solid waxy appearance to one of finest lace. Nearby, the leaves of collapsed agapanthus had turned to a yellow, straw-like mush in the cold and all lay together, frozen in death. Hard frosts had arrived in the deepest south!

LEAVES: They continue to fall and should be removed from lawns as often as is necessary. Left to rot in situ they’ll only damage the grass and cause ugly yellow patches which will remain until spring. Fallen leaves in flower beds and borders will give slugs and snails excellent daytime hiding places and help to increase their population. To minimise their activities clear away all vegetative waste, and lay bait beneath broken tiles or similar. In badly drained gardens it may prove more beneficial if you use a liquid slug and snail killer. Read the instructions before application.

LEAFMOULD: Never put large quantities of leaves into a compost heap for the breakdown process is really quite different from grass, weeds, and other vegetable waste. Leaves which fall in autumn and winter are already dead and need to break down more slowly so bag them now (use refuse sacks or similar) and leave them where they won’t be visible or act as an eyesore. Wet the leaves for preference and when sealing the bag punch a few holes in the plastic so that air can penetrate. Leave for 12 months or longer. Large gardens where huge amounts of leaves are present should have a simple holding area constructed with chicken wire (attached to four stout posts driven into the soil) in an out of the way corner or to the back of a large border. Here, leaves by the barrow-load can be emptied and allowed rot to form a valuable soil conditioner.

COLOURED LEAVES: May I suggest a relatively cheap shrub from the family Osmanthus, which will liven up a dark corner of your garden over the next few months and every winter thereafter? This low-growing, short-jointed and dense evergreen bush has attractive yellow foliage, is sold as Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Aureus’ and it remains yellow-leaved and stunning all through the year. Having a pyramidal shape (like its better-known cousin, Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘tricolour’) this evergreen is a most sought-after garden plant.

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