JoAnne Skelly: Whimsy in the landscape

JoAnne Skelly

JoAnne Skelly

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My friend Paul suggested I write about putting whimsy in the landscape. Synonyms for whimsy include: quirkiness, oddity, quaintness, fantasy, fancy or even vision. This means a lot of leeway to add whimsical fun oddities to your landscape design. Express your own vision, your own fanciful ideas and include what gives you pleasure to see.
Have you seen the trend of using tipped-over terracotta pots spilling out with flowers? That’s whimsy. Garden gnomes are definitely whimsical. Themed gardens, such as an Alice in Wonderland theme or a tropical motif, can be quirky or fun.
Those filled with bits and pieces of found items can be so interesting. A bathtub, bicycle basket, an old wheelbarrow, or an old boot filled with herbs or flowers can be charming. Or, maybe even plant an old toilet! Paint a mural on a wall and make it a garden scene with a pathway enticing the viewer in. That’s fanciful and creative.
I have heard of people hanging mirrors or brightly painted old window frames on a fence or wall to create depth and interest. I hung a big wrought iron clock that had lost its mechanism up on a wall and I have an old steer skull peeking out of the shrubbery. I recently read about a bottle tree – a metal sculpture with blue bottles hanging all over it. Does anyone remember the shoe tree on Highway 50 East? Create your own unique sculptures out of recycled items and place them where they can be enjoyed or where they can amuse.
My friend Peggy is a mosaic artist and creates the most beautiful and whimsical pieces out of old pottery and ceramics. I have two mosaic hearts on big round river rocks and a western bluebird stepping stone in my yard that she made for me. She has wonderful mosaics throughout her yard augmenting the beauty of the plantings.
When I turn a corner, I see a small mosaic flower marking the edge of a bed or a group of them creating a border. Another friend Laura makes etched and painted birdhouses out of gourds. I display them around the backyard in the summer time.
Although whimsy can be bought and placed in a landscape, I think it is more delightful when the treasures are personal or homemade art pieces. Plants can be whimsical as well. Think topiary sculptures of fantasy creatures. Or woven filberts or trellised vines. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.
JoAnne Skelly is Associate Professor & Extension Educator Emerita at University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.


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