A recent trip to the garden center has got me thinking about garden ornaments in
general, and garden gnomes in particular.
Christian Saints, Buddha's...
wood sprites, leprechauns, and fairies...
birdhouses... what isn't available to decorate your garden? But it begs the question: Are garden ornaments tasteful additions to the garden or something to be avoided?
Should garden ornaments be divided into categories: good, the bad and the ugly? And what defines the line between tacky verses a tasteful?
My mother, who taught me about gardening, was a purist. In her mind, the only thing that belonged in a garden was nature. Maybe because, as an artist, I appreciate creativity and personal expression, I tend to have a far more open attitude toward garden ornamentation.
I sometimes find that public gardens, which make limited use of decoration, to be as impersonal as a hotel room. On the other hand, I absolutely recognize that opening the floor to a full range of self-expression does not always generate results that are going to be pleasing to everyone. Beauty is, after all in, the eye of the beholder. To drive this point home, just think of the defiant homeowner who paints a typically neutral garage door a bright shade of orange or puts a family of plastic deer on the front lawn. It is self-expression that can leave the rest of us wincing!
Let's go back to my question about the line between tasteful and tacky. I don't know about you, but I tend to think that the most aesthetically pleasing garden ornaments are made with natural looking materials like wood, plaster, concrete or stone. They do not seem to be out of step with their natural surroundings and compliment the landscape best.
The garden center, with its shelves lined with row upon row of brightly colored, plastic-looking garden gnomes, is obviously counting on the fact that not everyone would agree with me.
The recent release of the animated movie, Gnomeo and Juliet has given the humble garden gnome the shiny new luster of fashionability. ( If you haven't seen the movie, and I must confess I haven't, the movie mixes a cornucopia of musical numbers and 3-D animation into a play on the tragic Shakespearean love story of Romeo and Juliet.)
Are garden gnomes now so "out" that they are now "in"?
Do these cute, plastic figures deserve more of a place in the garden this coming summer, as the well-stocked shelves of gnomes at the garden center suggest?
In the end, I think it comes down to a matter of what you are trying to accomplish.
To illustrate this point, I can think of a front yard we occasionally pass on the road north of our home here in Huttonville. This particular homeowner has a sizable collection of realistic, but plastic Canadian geese. Depending on the time of year, he sets his flock up to tell a whimsical story. For instance, at the beginning of the school year, the geese can be seen seated in such a way as to mimic a school classroom. Humorous? Yes. Tasteful? Not really, but then, I don't think that "good taste" was ever the intention.
It's your turn to weigh-in on garden gnomes. Are they cute or just plain tacky?