(HOST) Commentator Henry Homeyer has been exploring ways to brighten up his winter landscape.
(HOMEYER) I’ve said good-bye to summer, and now autumn is nearly over, too. The ash trees in my yard lost their leaves back in September, weaving a carpet of gold and green on the grass. The maples put on a terrific show this year, their reds and oranges brightening the hillsides – and my spirits. The beeches and oaks still provide some color in the woods, providing a counterpoint to the evergreen pines and hemlocks.
But only a few Johnny Jump-Ups are blooming, and the last of my fall crocus. My magenta-colored Adirondack chairs should be packed away in the barn soon, and the deep blue ceramic bird bath needs to be emptied and put away before hard freeze. Looking at the drab colors all around me, I wondered what I might do to brighten up my landscape.
Then I visited Sculpture Fest, a fabulous display of outdoor art organized each fall in Woodstock, and I realized you don’t have to be an artist to create colorful and interesting garden art. Yes, the display at Sculpture Fest was done by accomplished professionals, but I feel that even I could put together pleasing colors and forms for the garden – even though I couldn’t draw anything more complicated than a Christmas tree in grade school. Here are a few ideas I came away with.
Swatches of colorful fabrics strung like Tibetan prayer flags can be quite dramatic. I wouldn’t try to replicate the painted patterns of artist Margaret Sheehan, but I could create something pleasant using materials that are inherently interesting. Strung between trees bright fabric rectangles will jiggle, wiggle and wave for a season, and fabric scraps are cheap and easy to find.
Found objects can also be arranged in pleasing combinations. Old farm implements and the rims of wagon wheels from a by-gone day speak to me. I don’t know how to weld, but I know people who do. If I come up with a combination that would look good standing outside in the snow, I’ll see about getting it assembled.
Artist Jay Mead created numerous sculptures that reminded me of giant sea urchins. Each was made by inserting 3-foot long fiberglass rods into a wooden base, each spine carefully and symmetrically placed. I can imagine creating a simple porcupine sculpture using the same technique, but I’ll color the spines with acrylic paint to stand out more vividly in the snow.
In the past I’ve done silly things to keep the garden interesting in winter. I’ve frozen colored water in muffin tins and hung them in my trees like ornaments in January. I once built a stone igloo to house a gnome in my garden. And of course I string fairy lights in my trees around the time of the Solstice. This winter I’ll see what else I can do to keep my garden lively.