By Vicki Spencer
Growing up in an Italian section of northwestern Denver, I recall fondly the perfectly manicured lawns bordered by sculptures and embellished with fountains and cast stone statues of angels and Madonnas. I also remember, before crossing the viaduct on our way downtown, passing the revered Amado Statuary and admiring its concrete décor. Certainly, this is when I developed a passion for yard art.
Yard art is made of varied materials and comes in many shapes and sizes. Like any art, it is limited only by one’s imagination. On a long-ago trip to a neighboring state, I walked around the neighborhood bordering the main square and was fascinated by one yard completely filled with mobiles. Enthralled by the many colors and shapes sparkling, fluttering and whistling in the wind, I knew I had to have mobiles in my garden.
Another memorable experience was driving north to visit relatives. Looking east just across the Colorado border you can see a large buffalo standing majestically on a hilltop. This buffalo is distinguished from the ones grazing contentedly in the fields below because it is made of metal. Over the years, I began seeing more and more metal sculptures popping up in the West’s open spaces. My favorite sculpture is a tall cowboy with a tilted hat, leaning casually against the ranch gate post.
Naturally, while working for the National Audubon Society, I developed a strong attraction to sculptured birds and birdbaths. Some sculptures are so realistic, I think they attract birds just like decoys attract ducks in the wild. Others artfully capture the birds’ essence or depict their whimsical nature. Today you can find lovely bird sculptures at farmers markets, online and in garden and gift shops, like the Barn in Castle Rock or the Denver Botanic Gardens.
Although art in your garden can be anything you enjoy, it’s fun to focus on a theme. My collection in Gunnison, where the moon and stars shine brilliantly in the cold, dark sky, focused on an astronomy theme. I particularly enjoyed a gift from my sister — a metal crescent moon balancing a solar-lit, blue bauble above it. For contrast, I added tall, purple and yellow solar flower stakes. It seemed as if the stars fell from the sky to light up my garden at night.
Living in a log cabin, I couldn’t resist adding sun-bleached antlers and skulls, horseshoes, a wooden rain barrel and an antique bed frame found at a garage sale. These treasures blended well with vines creeping in and out of trellises and old pottery. Now that I have an urban garden, I have traded the rustic look for a more modern one. But I still enjoy wind chimes and mobiles.
Remember, the art you choose for decorating your garden is as expansive as your imagination. The sky’s the limit, but you will want to choose items that are durable and will stand up to Colorado’s varying weather conditions.
Gardener Vicki Spencer has an eclectic background in conservation, water, natural resources and more.