When the security guy pulled our daughter over to the side at the Seattle Airport back in 1993 it wasn't a total surprise. Our irresistible souvenir from Molbak's wouldn't fit in any of the suitcases, and Lily had gamely volunteered to haul it home in her backpack. The shape was unrecognizable on the screen so the guard opened the zipper and looked down at a concrete statue of a Fu Dog, sometimes called a Foo Lion. After inspection we were waved through to the plane.
We bought this small Seattle version of a ferocious guardian lion partly because he reminded us of The Fu Dog Garden at Allerton Park in Illinois and partly in tribute to Henry Michell's foo dog. Our dog~lion stood in a clump of hostas in our Illinois garden for a few years, and when we moved to Texas he came along as the dean of our whimsical objects, here guarding a wax begonia.
This wacky confection greeted the people who stopped at our Illinois garden during a garden walk in the 1990's: Philo & I turned an old broken bedframe and some chickenwire into a whimsical Garden Bed - and if you look carefully at lower right you'll see the companion piece - a open suitcase rescued from the trash, painted and planted to complete this fanciful guest suite.
These dips into garden whimsy are rare - my natural tendency is to the functional and rather plain - a metal obelisk, wooden benches and chairs, undecorated clay pots, a natural stone fountain, hypertufa troughs and things like this windchime.
Long ago at a Renaissance Faire in Wisconsin we met a vendor from Austin and fell in love with these simple tubes of metal, large and tuned to a Mongolian scale. The sounds they make are harmonizing low notes of genuine music rather than clanking or tinkling. It's my kind of wind chime.
But fear not - all is not Spartan here at Circus~Cercis! Thanks to friends and family there's no lack of whimsy in our garden. Although the attrition rate from Texas weather (and critters) is high and some decorations from friends and family have melted, faded and disintegrated, there are survivors:
A motion-detecting frog was a fun gift from one dear daughter-in-law with the turtle sundial coming from one of our sons. Our other dear daughter-in-law and and another son gave us the St Francis statue. While we still lived in Illinois one of my sisters gave us this wooden angel that has miraculously survived nearly a decade in the Texas sun.
A strong wind gust picked up the heavy ceramic St Francis and slammed him against a peach tree last year. Philo filled the decapitated statue with cement and put it back together.
Whimsy seems to gravitate toward the secret garden - My friend-of-40-years, Roberta, sent the hand-painted wildflower sign. My friend Barbara sent this young girl, who reads and dreams under the pomegranate tree. Philo reused three discarded sections of ornate white iron fence to enclose the Secret Garden and that frog bench is a memento of last spring's visit from the fairy garden consultant. The squirrels and birds take it apart once in awhile and I rebuild it.
Many small decorations from the Divas of the Dirt are scattered around inside and out - including this sign Another sign came from Roberta - when she read the word "Diva" she knew who to send it to
Carol in Indiana had better avert her eyes now - here come faces in our garden!!
Philo and I bought a terracotta sun to hang on the chimney in Illinois and this face seems even more at home in Austin Titania has led a rough life in the 15 years since Philo gave me her planter head - she's no longer pristine but bears repair marks from storms and squirrels and weather damage. Maybe someone else would evict her for being too battered, but I look weathered, too, and find her companionable.
Early this year Dawn and I spent a day together, each finding pretty pots. Now this seashell planter reminds me of days on the beach in Carolina.
Are any of us completely resistant to whimsy? Once upon a time I gave this sign to my no-nonsense, vegetable-gardener uncle and was touched that he kept it. The saying was amusing, but it turned out to be untrue - this final bit of whimsy returned to me as a sentimental legacy from an old gardener. I miss him.
This wallow in whimsy and nostalgia was written by Annie in Austin, photographed with the help of a borrowed camera- go to Gardening Gone Wild for links to other bloggers who are joining in this months Garden Design Workshop.
- Annie in Austin
- Welcome! As "Annie in Austin" I blog about gardening in Austin, TX with occasional looks back at our former gardens in Illinois. My husband Philo & I also make videos - some use garden images as background for my original songs, some capture Austin events & sometimes we share videos of birds in our garden. Come talk about gardens, movies, music, genealogy and Austin at the Transplantable Rose and listen to my original songs on YouTube. For an overview read Three Gardens, Twenty Years. Unless noted, these words and photos are my copyrighted work.