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Garden decor bounded only by your imagination

The pair of shocking pink flamingos seemed like a good idea at the time. So, too, did the little tin fairy houses, the terra cotta goose, the spinning metal flower and other assorted gardening bric-a-brac. Individually, each piece had a place in the yard, but collectively, it became clutter.

So one day I gathered it all, wired and hot-glued it together and created an outdoor, 3- by 9-foot sculpture I call My Garden of Discontent. It's on display in an outdoor dining area and is a great conversation piece.

My amateur attempt at art was really a lesson in consumption. In my quest to outfit the yard with great finds from garden shops, craft fairs, thrift stores and yard sales, I succumbed to a shopping frenzy of overindulgence — otherwise known as too much of a good thing.

Take it from this gardening shopaholic: It's far better to have a few special accents in the garden than a smattering of kitsch hanging from every tree and poking out through the bushes. Thoughtful placement of garden art should complement your plantings, not complicate the view. Think balance and "less is more," and you get the idea.

During this dry season while our gardening is limited by water restrictions, why not focus on selectively accessorizing (or, as in my case, de-cluttering) your yard? You'll give the outdoors an instant boost, and unlike adding new seasonal plants, decorative items won't need a single drop of water.

Manmade or natural objects catch the eye

You can spend a fortune on outdoor sculptures and accents, or simply use your imagination to create one-of-a-kind decor. A good place to start is indoors. Are there decorative items collecting dust in the closet? No-rust spray paints and sealers can work wonders to rehab items for the outdoors, including vases, furniture, mirrors, frames, candlesticks and such. I've seen bathroom sinks, bathtubs, iron headboards, doors, shutters and windows relegated to the outdoors with outstanding results.

No garden is complete without a statue or two, and there are endless choices, from stately bronze figurines to Asian-inspired pagodas to whimsical fairies and gnomes. Even the classic pink flamingo has its place in the Florida garden.

Gazing balls have been used outdoors for centuries. Placed by the front door, the reflecting globes were thought to ward off witches in Victorian times. Now they're popular in all kinds of gardens and available in a number of finishes, including stainless steel, glass, copper and mosaic tile. Typically a globe is placed on a stand, but the blue glass ball in my garden is securely perched in the crook of a tree. Glass gazing balls are sold at most local discount, home improvement and craft stores, starting at just $10. A ball made of steel can cost twice as much, but at least it won't break. You'll find colorful steel globes at Willow Tree Nursery (4401 49th St. N, St. Petersburg, (727) 522-2594) and Roco Traders (2115 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, (727) 895-8922).

A new take on the gazing ball is lawn stakes topped with colorful little globes made of glass or china. Nia's Emporium sells a wide assortment of handcrafted stakes made from copper tubing and topped with pretty glass balls, tea cups, small tea pots and other trinkets ($18 and up). The garden shop (920 N Clearwater Largo Road, Largo, (727) 584-1900) also stocks handcrafted outdoor art, copper trellises and garden furniture.

Glass bottle trees are popular, but it's really a practice introduced in the South by slaves who believed the bottles trapped evil spirits. In the novel and 1995 movie Because of Winn Dixie, the blind character Gloria Dump hung beer and liquor bottles from a tree to represent the ghosts of her alcoholic past.

Your past needn't be unsavory to create a bottle tree, but it does require empty bottles — preferably colorful ones to entice spirits. Rather than hanging them from tree branches, it's popular to use a treelike metal structure or multiple stakes. The one in my yard is more like a bottle bush — a half-dozen or so cobalt blue wine and water bottles placed on sturdy bamboo stakes.

Don't forget our feathered friends when selecting garden decor. There are artistic bird feeders, houses and baths that not only make great eye candy for you, but also help support wildlife.

If store-bought decor isn't your thing, accent your garden using natural items, including shells, driftwood, pinecones and rocks. Stacking rocks, in fact, is a popular Zen sort of art form in which you simply balance several rocks one atop another. Rock-stacking artists and hobbyists say the practice helps you achieve greater balance within yourself, with others and the environment.

Yvonne Swanson is a freelance writer in St. Petersburg and a Pinellas County master gardener. You can reach her at yvonnesgarden@gmail.com.

Garden decor bounded only by your imagination 04/10/09 [Last modified: Friday, April 10, 2009 4:30am]

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