Yard Art Is In The Eye Of The Beholder

Reader Contribution by Lois Hoffman
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I walk through the yard and I see all the different places that we have incorporated rocks, steel wheels, antiques, rocks (oh, did I already mention rocks because we have more than a few!) and other unusual items in our own version of yard art. It works. Jim named our place the “rock ‘n’ wheel” farm because those two items are the basis for all the rest. I like the effect it creates. To me, this is yard art at its finest.

But then I walk through Ron’s yard and I see lawn and shrubs. Period. I like the effect it creates. It is also yard art at its finest because, with the absence of yard art, it makes you appreciate simplicity.

More and more these days people are defining their homes by what is in their yards. The term “yard art” is relatively new and refers to any man-made aesthetic experience occurring in a private yard or garden, as well as those found in outdoor spaces such as pastures, nurseries, community gardens and vacant lots. That is the formal definition but it basically translates to anything goes as long as it is appreciated on its own terms.

The best part about yard art is that you don’t have to be super creative or spend a lot of money to have something unique and personal. Many of the materials you will need can be picked up at yard sales, auctions and second hand stores. Someone else’s “junk” can become your treasures to create cool designs for just pennies.

Of course, there are always the traditional yards that use flowers, plants and shrubs accentuated with rocks, walkways and wood to create the desired effect. Strategic placed stepping stones add Old World charm. They frame a garden path and can be both useful and decorative by saving shoes from picking up all the dirt and also save wear and tear on the lawn. There is nothing wrong with traditional but keep in mind that the sky is the limit when it comes to decorating your yard.

For us, antiques have played an important role. Besides the steel wheels, we have milk cans and milk can carts placed on pea stone beds throughout the yard. Wooden wagon wheels are the rails for our deck while antique plows, cultivators and other tillage tools are interspersed among the rocks. The rocks themselves are not merely any rocks. In this area, “pudding stones”, which are rocks with different colored smaller stones embedded within the larger rocks, are quite popular. This all works for us.

Glass is popular to use in yards and gardens because of how it catches the light. Bottle trees are becoming more and more popular in this area. They are either wooden or metal posts and stands with rods protruding where various colors of old bottles are placed. We have four such trees in our yard done in green and blue bottles. Half the fun of making these was gathering the various bottles at yard sales and flea markets. We have bottles shaped like violins, cats and grapes.

Fountains and ponds are also popular focal points. Keeping with the rustic theme, we have whiskey half barrels by our deck with pumps that continuously circulate the water. There is no sound more soothing when taking a break on the deck than that of trickling water.

Here are some other fun ideas that are on my to-try list:

1. Instead of buying the garden flags that have become so popular, pick up old shutters, doors and other flat objects and stencil, write, or paint Bible verses, sayings or other words of wisdom on them. Don’t worry if you are not Rembrandt, if all the lettering were perfect it wouldn’t have the charm. Also be on the lookout for used windows (with the various panes in them) and screens. Designs such as flowers and landscapes can be painted on these which add a nice bit of color to different spots.

2. Bonfires are becoming favorite ways to gather family and friends on bright summer nights. Fire pits can be as elaborate or as basic as you want. A simple ring of bricks or rocks work well to keep the fire contained or you can go fancy and make the fire pit the focal point of the whole yard done right with a finished patio around it. There have been giant Scrabble or Tic-Tac-Toe games set with tiles in the patio ground work.

3. For all you beach fans who are literally “beached” on the land you can build your own backyard paradise. All it takes is a little sand (well, maybe quite a little sand!) and a few tiki torches and other tropical accents and you have your own private beach.

4. Here is a new twist on “flower beds.” Remember how people would take that old bed frame and put a bottom in it and fill it with flowers in the yard? When the kids are done with their bunk beds, cut the frame work apart so that one side rail has a foot board attached to it and the other rail has the head board attached. These make pretty left and right fences around a potting shed. Speaking about flower beds, if you have the patience to wait for the flowers to grow to see the effect, use different varieties and colors of plants to create patterns and sayings in flower beds.

5. Topiary is becoming popular but it may take a little more work and the enlistment of a professional. Basically, it is creating designs in the landscapes themselves by trimming shrubs to resemble animals and other objects. However, this does require skill and continued upkeep.

6. Gazebos are both functional and add yard art. If you go to the trouble to build one, it may make sense to screen it in to get even more use out of it during the evening hours when all the bugs like to enjoy the fresh air too.

7. Birdhouses add charm wherever you choose to hang them. They are not only functional but add splashes of color to backyards.

8. Wind chimes are always popular. Look in your junk box for anything that will make a pleasing sound when they touch. A little fishing line or wire and you are in business. I saw one that used an old wagon wheel as the base with old chair spindles attached and anything shiny hung on them.

9. Glass and light is always popular. Beach glass, sun catchers and solar lights add a warm glow to any yard or garden. Solar lights have come so far from the original white light on a post. They now come in all shapes, sizes and colors.

Yard art can take on many forms and be as varied as the individual yards it graces. I lean both ways on this one. I love all the “stuff” that makes my yard “my yard.” Although it is not just placed wherever, it still does take longer to mow around. Ron’s yard wins hands-down when it comes to this one. It’s basically “get on and mow.” Yard art — like it or leave it!

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