Tag Archives: Garden art

A World in Stone

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Lion’s head wall fountain

There’s a reason that stone in a garden gives us the feeling that it has been there a long time. The rustic elegance of a dry laid stone wall, natural stone paver patio, huge stone slab steps, outdoor stone fireplace or flagstone garden path reminds us that we humans have used stone for over two million years when we first started making stone tools.

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Ocean Pearl sauna wall detail

Stone is much more than the Wikipedia definition of “a naturally occurring solid aggregate of one or more minerals.”  Granite, for instance, comes from igneous rocks formed slowly as it cooled deep under the earth’s surface. Sandstone and limestone are sedimentary rocks formed by the compaction of grains or pieces of any kind of existing rock material then cemented over millions of years by the movement of the earth’s tectonic plates and sometimes contain fossils formed at the time of deposition. Then there is metamorphic rock like marble and slate that were formed at extreme high pressures and temperatures beneath the earth’s crust from other types of rock. The presence of swirls, linear patterns or banding is a key characteristic of this kind of stone.

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Whimsical wall detail- anchor, agate, shells

In Ben Lomond lives a stone advocate who has created a spectacular decorative stone wall, a stone shower and sauna room, stone patio, paths and slab steps and he’s invited me to come and view them at his home before he puts it on the market.

Jon Troutner has been in the stone business for a long time. He owned Antolini Masonry and Landscape Supply in Santa Cruz for 20 years until he lost his lease and sold the company in 2008. Afterwards he used his expertise and some choice materials he saved to use at his home in Ben Lomond and another in Aptos. Jon’s primarily a musician these days but his creative vision in stone is a magical experience as he walks me around his home.

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“eel-head” rock peaking out of wall

Jon’s property is located near Love Creek up on a hill and has a lovely canyon view. When he bought the property 5 years ago the backyard was just sand but now it is fully landscaped. Ocean Pearl, one of his favorite stone types that he used in his whimsical wall and sauna, comes from a quarry on Vancouver Island that he used to own. Jon gave this this type of quartzite it’s unique name because of the subtle hues and shadings in the stone.

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“Where’s Waldo” stone wall

Jon’s creations in stone have a look of their own. Being a harmonica player he puts an old harmonica somewhere on each of his unique walls. It’s his personal signature and he pointed out one in the sauna and one in the “Where’s Waldo?” wall as he calls it.

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mermaid in stone wall

“What’s a ‘Where’s Waldo’ wall, I ask?” Jon just laughs and explains that this 1987 children’s book is about the travels of Wally where readers are asked to locate him hidden in an illustration and to re-explore each scene locating other objects too. Jon showed me three mermaids, five otters, two turtles, three seahorses and an eel-shaped rock poking out from the “waves” of ocean pearl stone veneer on the showpiece wall he created to enclose the patio. There are also ship net balls, an anchor, abalone shells, fossils and his signature harmonica. “I pictured this wall as the ocean floor,” Jon explained.

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fossils in stone wall

As we walk around, Jon points out the Vermont slate floor and the ocean pearl veneer sauna room, the basalt shower with rounded cobble stone floor, the Indian rainbow cut sandstone shady patio, the Connecticut bluestone slab steps, the ocean pearl columns, the tumbled Arizona gold flagstone path and the 125 pound crystals from Brazil that are lighted at night.

This place is magical and timeless. Jon’s creative vision will live forever in his stone creations.

Chihuly Garden & Glass

Recently I visited a garden of glass and it was spectacular. At the base of the Space Needle in Seattle, the newly opened Chihuly Garden and Glass Exhibit is a marriage of garden and art like no other I've ever seen. To experience larger-than-life blown glass in vibrant rainbow colors nestled among trees and shrubs was magical. I was transported beyond the ordinary to the extraordinary.

You may have seen some Dale Chihuly glass art at the DeYoung Museum when it was displayed there several years ago. Some of the pieces were influenced by Pacific Northwest American Indian art, others reminiscent of plants and sea forms. In a PBS special currently airing called Chihuly Outside, I learned that his love of blown glass has evolved since 1995 from installations in glass houses in Europe and the U.S. to massive outside exhibits in Finland, Venice, Japan, Australia and Jerusalem. The Chihuly Gardens and Glass Exhibit in Seattle is his most ambitious project ever.

Soft winter sunlight backlit the glass art that seemed to sprout up from the earth. Evergreen magnolia trees, pines and weeping cedar formed a dark green backdrop for the vivid blue, red, yellow, orange, mauve and chartreuse blown glass. Coral Bark maples echoed the same shade of glass reeds and spears. Red Twig dogwood sported a stand of fiori or flower inspired glass. Cobalt glass spheres reflected the Space Needle nearby. Swaths of steel blue eryngium or sea holly were still blooming a bit complementing the ruby glass behind.

Seattle is cold in the winter with lots of rain (sound familiar?) so plants appropriate to the site and climate are a must. Lily-of-the-Valley shrubs provide year-round interest. Their burgundy flower buds hung in clusters ready to open in the spring. Mahonia, which are native to our area also, bloomed with spikes of yellow flowers attracting hummingbirds that over winter in the area. Helleborus or Lenten Rose held tight flower buds just waiting to open. Sasanqua camellias in pink, rose and white popped with color.

Lots of burgundy coral bells carpeted the ground in front of massive logs that looked like petrified wood. I had to check for myself. Mondo grass, epimedium, strawberry  begonia and Japanese Forest grass complemented more flower inspired glass art. Strolling the garden and looking at the glass from different angles as the changing light filtered through was awesome. Chihuly doesn't so much mimic nature as borrow inspiration from it. As with all art, it's in the eye of the beholder and I fell, hook, line and sinker under its spell.

This garden of glass reminds you of frog legs with webbed toes, anemones waving in the incoming tide, towers of tall ti plants. Harmonizing plants and art is the creation of designer Richard Hartlage. Conifers, evergreen grasses, small shrubs and ferns set off the brilliant glass art. A green roof can be seen from above,a green screen of evergreen clematis encloses one side and large crape myrtles provide beautiful winter bark that blends with the lavender and burgundy glass sculptures.

A visit to the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit in Seattle was a day spent with light and glass and the plants that make them sparkle. I hoping to see this garden next July when the asters and rhododendrons are in bloom. Even in the quiet months of winter it was spectacular.
 

Garden Art for Fun

What really makes a garden? For one it may be the comfortable reading chair tucked under a shade tree in the back of the garden. For another a cutting garden or vegetable garden puts a smile on the face of its creator. But for many a garden isn’t a garden until it gets your personal touch. Whether this is a succulent collection in old spice tins or an ornamental pot placed among your perennials, the possibilities are endless. Turn your old junk into garden treasures.

Whenever I visit a garden its the touch of whimsy that catches my eye. The Snowball viburnum and the fragrant roses covering the arbor may be spectacular but it’s the unexpected creations nestled here and there that make me appreciate everything so much more.

There are so many ways to inexpensively make a garden your own. Recent windy weather has resulted in lots of downed branches. The smaller 3" diameter sizes would be perfect interwoven and tied together for a homemade arbor. While this would not be sturdy enough for a vine as vigorous as a wisteria it would provide enough support for a climbing rose or star jasmine. Smaller branches can be used to make low fences to border a flower garden.

One garden I recently visited bordered their flower beds with small brightly glazed pots overturned on river cobbles. The effect was pure whimsy. I never get tired of the chair-turned-planter whenever I see it in a garden. You can use either a wooden or an ornamental metal chair as long as you can remove the center of the seat so a pot can rest on the frame. Fill with perennial purple wave petunias, red verbena and white geraniums for a July 4th tribute. Shade lovers could use Get Me lilac campanula, Goldilocks lysimachia and dwarf fuchsia’s instead.

Over the years I’ve accumulated a collection of commemorative metal canisters re-issued as a tribute to the anniversary of the product. From Quaker Oats to Hersheys cocoa, Hill Brothers coffee to Sunshine saltine cans I have more than I can display. Now I pole a drainage hole in the bottom, fill with an inch or two of gravel and plant with succulents. I especially like those that tumble over the sides like sedum Lemon Ball with golden foliage and yellow flowers.  Echeveria Perivon Nurburg with pink opalescent rosettes in the red Hills Brothers can is a show stopper, too.

You could get lucky and find an old Radio flyer wagon to plant up but if not look around your own basement or visit a thrift shop, garage sale or flea market for treasures for your own garden. 

Garden Art for Fun

What really makes a garden? For one it may be the comfortable reading chair tucked under a shade tree in the back of the garden. For another a cutting garden or vegetable garden puts a smile on the face of its creator. But for many a garden isn’t a garden until it gets your personal touch. Whether this is a succulent collection in old spice tins or an ornamental pot placed among your perennials, the possibilities are endless. Turn your old junk into garden treasures.

Whenever I visit a garden its the touch of whimsy that catches my eye. The Snowball viburnum and the fragrant roses covering the arbor may be spectacular but it’s the unexpected creations nestled here and there that make me appreciate everything so much more.

There are so many ways to inexpensively make a garden your own. Recent windy weather has resulted in lots of downed branches. The smaller 3" diameter sizes would be perfect interwoven and tied together for a homemade arbor. While this would not be sturdy enough for a vine as vigorous as a wisteria it would provide enough support for a climbing rose or star jasmine. Smaller branches can be used to make low fences to border a flower garden.

One garden I recently visited bordered their flower beds with small brightly glazed pots overturned on river cobbles. The effect was pure whimsy. I never get tired of the chair-turned-planter whenever I see it in a garden. You can use either a wooden or an ornamental metal chair as long as you can remove the center of the seat so a pot can rest on the frame. Fill with perennial purple wave petunias, red verbena and white geraniums for a July 4th tribute. Shade lovers could use Get Me lilac campanula, Goldilocks lysimachia and dwarf fuchsia’s instead.

Over the years I’ve accumulated a collection of commemorative metal canisters re-issued as a tribute to the anniversary of the product. From Quaker Oats to Hersheys cocoa, Hill Brothers coffee to Sunshine saltine cans I have more than I can display. Now I pole a drainage hole in the bottom, fill with an inch or two of gravel and plant with succulents. I especially like those that tumble over the sides like sedum Lemon Ball with golden foliage and yellow flowers.  Echeveria Perivon Nurburg with pink opalescent rosettes in the red Hills Brothers can is a show stopper, too.

You could get lucky and find an old Radio flyer wagon to plant up but if not look around your own basement or visit a thrift shop, garage sale or flea market for treasures for your own garden.