As we bid farewell to my least favorite month of the year — good riddance, hot, dry May — I celebrate the garden surprises that didn't scream for water when I came home from work every evening. I salute the color they added when my perennials were on their knees, gasping. And I honor the recycling spirit that was the province of gardeners back when, to the rest of the world, "green" meant, "That meat's gone bad!"
I asked readers to share their favorite yard art — be it repurposed or purchased — and the story behind it. Thank you for all your wonderful photos and stories! I enjoyed every one. But (here's where I pass the buck) I do not get to choose which photos run with my column every week. That's all up to the page designer, who uses her expertise to weigh space considerations, color, photo quality and a bunch of other criteria, to create the best display possible within the limitations of print.
So today, we'll both be surprised when we open the paper. (And what doesn't run here, I'll post at www.digginfladirt.com.)
Jenny Harris, Timber Pines, Spring Hill
"I scoured yard sales, church sales, thrift shops, you name it, to find my perfect pieces for my towers. I don't stop until I finally get it right. It did take three knockdowns and lots of broken glass."
(For glue, Jenny used GE Silicone II, which she learned about here from Mary Mirabal, creator of Garden Whimsies by Mary.)
"My good friend and neighbor was going to make one with me, but when she witnessed all the tries it took, she chickened out," Jenny says. "But she loves to look at mine."
Penny to Neighbor: I, too, believe the wise gardener is she who knows when to simply admire the fruits of another's labor.
Lynn Barber, Lithia, Hillsborough Extension's Florida-Friendly Landscaping agent
An old electric coffeepot was getting tossed out at work and, little scavenger that she is, Lynn snagged it.
"I decided to make it into a planter and agonized over how to attach each of the lids, the filter and internal section to the main part of the coffee pot. I reconstructed it several times until I finally got it right; electric drill, hammer, nails, threaded rod . . . you name it."
This coffeepot could actually kick my morning caffeine addiction. What a great wakeup!
Sylvia Durell, Seven Hill Estates, Spring Hill
Forget those scalloped concrete things they sell at the big boxes. Sylvia edges her beds with — party! Or, more accurately, memories. Or maybe, gentle reminders of that which can't quite be recalled.
"The (wine and beer) bottles came from parties with friends and donations. Our friends who contributed bottles are happy to know that some of their memories are planted in our front yard. 'I like your border,' is usually the first thing out of stranger's mouth, accompanied by a knowing smile," Sylvia writes.
"I wanted something different from the borders that are available at the garden stores. Plus, our recycling program doesn't pick up glass, which bothers me. Recycling the empty bottles made me feel better — in more ways than one."
I can't think of a better way to keep the party going, Sylvia.
Gene and Marti Garratt, Westwood Lakes (north of Oldsmar)
"We have had 'Charlie' for over 20 years. We bought him in Ohio and moved this 300-pound statue to our first Florida home in Madeira Beach 17 years ago. While there, he held up our mailbox, drawing great comments and belly rubs for good luck. Once, a limousine stopped and a passenger got out, took a picture, rubbed his belly and drove away," Marti writes.
"Eleven years ago, Charlie moved with us to Tampa where, thanks to the very creative man of the house, he received a face-lift of lights and new paint. He now welcomes our guests at the front door, begging for belly rubs, day and night."
So — do the belly rubs help?
Darby Miller, South Tampa
Darby creates and sells plate flowers on etsy.com (a great site for finding original art of all kinds.) This little gator, however, stayed home.
"For this plate flower, I chose pottery plates, making this a beefier style (reminding me of the toughness of Gator teams), but the 'wow' factor is provided by the 1950s era vintage Alligator salt shaker — front and center," Darby writes.
"This garden art moves around depending on the season. For barbecues and Gator gatherings, it resides in an oversized flower pot on the back porch."
Find Darby's garden creations at etsy.com/shop/floridaze.
Allison Marsh, Northdale
Allison's one of those gardeners who claims she doesn't have a clue — but she's got a garden full of drought-tolerant color. Her dad is acclaimed artist Bruce Marsh. Would I trust his judgment on yard art? Yes!
She writes, "My yard is such a jungle, it does not have any thought process to either being intentionally wild or wrangled into order . . . so I hesitate to send you this. But I have always loved this monkey, and love what he brings to my pool area.
"My dad bought this for me in Ruskin, at one of the Mexican flea markets that pop up around there . . . and I remember seeing similar works in Mexico. The monkey just ADDS."
I agree, Allison!
Penny Carnathan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. See more garden stories on her blog, digginfladirt.com, or join the local garden chat on Facebook at Diggin Florida Dirt.