The demise of Smith & Hawken, which actually sold some ornaments that weren't too dinky or ugly for a self-respecting garden, is really unfortunate for everybody who likes their natural mixed with the artificial.
This is one of a pair of painted iron urns done by the Danish neoclassical sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen and placed in the park in 1830. They are titled "Night and Day." Here is a closer shot of the day side:
Nobody seems to pay much attention to these things, which have been sitting in place in all weather for almost 180 years. Maybe I've only paid attention because I already knew the name. In college, I read Nathaniel Hawthorne's Italian diaries–he was disturbed by all the art and nary a word about the pasta–and I recall a visit to the great Thorvaldsen's studio at some point.
In a museum, these urns would make me shrug. But in a public garden…amazing. They say a lot about the early ambitions of my town and the importance of the park in a resort like Saratoga Springs as a relief from all that gambling and dancing.
They say that maybe we should be buying art for our gardens, too. And maybe some young and not-so-famous sculptors should be making that easy–even for penniless gardeners who could never afford to spend all summer at a resort.