Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Garden Talk: Garden treasures from the past

Long winter days in January and February are perfect for a different sort of gardening activity — searching for garden art and antiques to display in your summer garden or garden room. As vital to the beauty and personality of your garden as the plants themselves, garden art or "hardscaping" is fun to collect and display in virtually any size space, indoors or out.

The Fox Cities is rich with antique shops, gift shops and craft shows ready to explore during the winter months. A short drive of 60 miles or less puts you in touch with dozens more one-of-a-kind shops and boutiques all filled with a wonderful assortment of gifts and treasures just beckoning for a home in your living and gardening space. The possibilities are endless if you just use your imagination.

Many gardeners begin hardscaping their flower plots and paths by focusing on a theme. It could be a color theme or a textural theme, a design theme or a natural theme. It might be bird art, butterfly art, wildflower art or an old-fashioned cottage garden theme. When the right item catches your eye, you'll know it, and you may not be able to stop collecting.

Not sure where to begin? Here are some ideas to help ignite your creative spark.

Always popular in the garden, old rustic pieces of wicker furniture weather nicely to provide a natural, elegant and serene atmosphere. An old wicker loveseat or chair, strategically placed along a garden path, invites visitors to sit for a spell, even as flowering vines like morning glories or nasturtiums entangle themselves within the frame. Whitewash with milk paint or any pastel hue and you have an instant garden focal point.

Old architectural elements, matched or mismatched, make a great statement in the garden as well. Try old sections of molding or pillars, old wooden doors or windowpanes. Even old bricks and stonework add a distinct character to the backyard garden. Antique mirrors are a wonderful and useful addition. As well as adding a rustic charm, mirrors will serve another purpose — they will make a small garden appear much larger!

For bird lovers, there is no shortage of rustic beauty that can be obtained by adding old birdbaths to a garden. Birdhouses, decorative or functional, add a cozy touch, as do decorative wire birdcages.

Place a potted plant in a large, antique birdcage and you have a quick and easy garden treasure.

For a final, stunning look, try displaying a collection of old glass bottles in your garden. Whether wired to a tree or fence as instant outdoor vases, partially buried in garden soil and surrounded by low-growing annuals or propped at the ends of twigs or branches to create a "bottle tree," nothing adds color and originality to the garden like old-fashioned colored glass bottles and jars.

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