Actual gardeners might prefer magical creatures with muscles
But even the secular ornament offered in the catalogs, hardware stores, and nurseries that I frequent runs to the appallingly fey. Glow in the dark giant butterflies, resin fairies that seem to invite attack with a shovel, smiling pigs on sticks. Even a company like Gardener’s Supply, a company that sells many useful-looking products like raised-bed kits that I would buy if I were a slightly more fastidious and slightly less energetic vegetable gardener–a civic-minded company that started its city’s composting program a full 20 years ago–a company based in Vermont, the world’s capitol of smugly timeless taste–sends out catalogs full of this horrifying junk.
I don’t get it. Can’t we do better, people? For example, I love gazing balls. I would buy a blue gazing ball in a heartbeat, if only they weren’t offered on such completely pathetic, spindly stands. I once saw a gazing ball in a magazine on a painted lattice pedestal and have sought said pedestal like the holy grail every since.
3. The scale is always wrong. Everything is always all too dinky. Even the resin fairies are too dinky. When a woman wants an ornament, she wants an ORNAMENT!
For example, Lowe’s has had some not-bad iron trellises and obelisks in recent years. I’ve bought a number of them, but they are too short. "Too short" is a technical term.They are not just too stumpy to be impressive in the garden, but also too short for any plant worth having. For example, the obelisk tops out at around 54 inches. Let’s assume that six inches of that goes into the soil. What climbing plant is finished at four feet? Maybe delicate stuff like climbing nasturtiums or sweetpeas, but that’s about it. Still, the obelisk is a complete steal at under $20 and a nice, simple design. If Lowe’s tripled the price and doubled the height, I would be a steady customer. Pole beans, clematis, climbing roses, morning glories–there is no end to what you can grow on the right-sized support.
The thing is, I don’t understand why nobody can do this ornament thing right. Honest materials like iron or cement are not so expensive, are they? I mean, yes, cement is expensive to ship, but not to mix up in the backyard in a wheelbarrow, and the Internet is full of cement-mold pyramid schemes. Check it out. Start your own home-based business! Why doesn’t any sucker start one near me?
Actually, there is a weird little garden center near me that makes cement ornaments. Except the guy paints his putti!!! I know that the Greeks and Romans and certain Beverly Hills sheiks all painted their sculptures, but let’s just say that this particular artist would have starved in the ancient world.
Here’s proof that the scale thing matters:
That dog guarding my friends Bob and Gerald’s beautiful garden–one of a pair–is not made out of any fancy composite stone, as far as I can tell. He’s just a big glop of humble cement. But a REALLY big glop, and I think that’s the point.
Shrink these two down to resin-fairy size, and they’d be dumb, too. But they’re not dumb. They’re the most sublime feature in a sublime garden.
Ah, as every Jersey girl learns early, only a knife’s edge separates the sublime from the ridiculous. Sadly, the manufacturers of affordable ornament all seem to be on the wrong side of it.