Wednesday, June 3, 2009

You'd Never Know She's Plastic....

MrMartha loves statuary in the garden.

There is something about large figures or abstract art works, that really lends a presence and a wonderful counterpoint to the foliage and flowers of the landscape. If used sparingly and properly, they can be wonderful exclamation points that draw the eye, and encourage the garden viewer to take a closer look at the plants around them.

One surprising material -- PLASTIC -- Don't laugh at MrMartha!
The lovely roman lady in the photos may appear to be terra cotta, but she is actually a heavy hollow recycled plastic, she is indestructible and fantastic. MrMartha discovered her at a Lowes Garden Center a few years back, priced under $50.00, and she has been happily ensconced under a Juniper arch ever since. MrMartha added about 15 pounds of sand through a plug in the base to add weight and stabilization. Almost five feet tall, a comparable statue of real terra cotta would be hundreds of dollars, easily subject to breakage and weather damage, and would age in an unpredictable way.

How well does the plastic mimic the real thing? A close friend who had visited the garden many times, and also happens to be an architect with a very good eye, commented about always liking the figure. MrMartha shared the 'plastic secret'. "NO WAY!" was the reply, and he promptly went over to touch the surface, turning back with an amazed look on his face. "Who would have guessed -- it fooled me".

Many other materials are also commonly used in garden sculptures -- we have all driven past the roadside 'cement festivals' where cast concrete in every form from small gnomes to giant Statues of Liberty are lined up. If you stop and look with a critical eye, there are often some gems tucked in amongst the kitsch that is usually prevalent. Cast cement is long lasting, but heavy and difficult to place, especially with larger works. Bonded marble and terra cotta are also frequently used as materials for garden sculpture but they are generally very expensive. Raw and finished iron or metal are also found, but usually in contemporary abstract pieces, or in structural elements like obelisks.

Careful placement is important. Any artwork should further the overall feeling and sense of your garden, not intrude on it. It needs to look like it has always been there, and that something would be missing without it. Sometimes placement is obvious, if you have a spot that just doesn't look 'finished' -- or an area where you are waiting for plant material mature and fill in -- or an obvious focal point that just doesn't look "focal" -- a piece of sculpture or garden art may be just what you need. In those instances, you can seek out and find a piece that is just exactly the right scale and volume for the specific location.

Sometimes the opposite is true -- you are at a garden show, or nursery, and you see a piece of sculpture that speaks to you. By all means buy it.....and then when you get it home, move it around the garden, testing in different spots until it shows you just where it is meant to be. Sometimes a bit of pruning or adjustment of the surrounding plants may be necessary to achieve just the right fit, and adding a base to raise and feature the work may also be necessary.

If you have a spot in the garden that is calling out for "something" -- perhaps a plastic lady is just what you need.