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Gardening in Sherman Oaks: Lawn Ornaments, Part One

Many add subtle touches of color and interest, but when it comes to gnomes and shiny balls, try to resist.

When you think of lawn ornaments, your thoughts usually go to two things: garden gnomes and shiny balls. In Sherman Oaks, one rarely  finds these relics, and for that I say thank you.

Upon a recent visit to in Sherman Oaks, I found a plethora of garden ornaments, some for the more avant-garde.

Thomas Purnell, the assistant store manager there, said he "never understood those shiny balls." Neither do I. Purnell added that lawn ornaments should be "used for accent and fun."

Gardening stores have ornaments for every season, holiday and for gardeners who have an affinity for animals. Today's ornaments mean never being bored by the selection available. Purnell said that "the biggest rush on buying ornaments is around Christmas time." They also make great gifts for the otherwise hard-to-shop-for gardening enthusiast. As a recovering pack rat, I would prefer lawn ornaments and plants over white-elephant gifts received from acquaintances any day.

Most lawn ornaments are relatively inexpensive, never need fertilizer and never get that brown "between seasons" look. That makes them tempting to use.

Purnell said he uses his own lawn decorations subtly: "around plantings, out of sight, only to be noticed after looking around a while." Adding a hide-and-go-seek aspect to the garden can be fun, and encourage exploring.

It is fun meandering down the gravel paths at Armstrong, as many of the animal ornaments are inconspicuous beside pots, fountains and some flowers. Many are grouped together as you would find in the wild. A grouping of amphibians around a water feature lends itself to nature enthusiasts—even if they are gray in color.

Cute little bunny rabbits are great, especially for children who yearn for a bunny of their own around Easter time. Bunnies are very popular, and the best part is: no feeding, watering or cleaning up little bunny pellets.

Crikey! Steve Irwin would have been proud to have a few of the alligators and crocodiles found as well. They are true "beauts."

The one animal that I was most fond of, another children's favorite, according to Purnell, is the giant desert tortoise. No need to visit the Galapagos with a grouping of these fellas. Purnell said that many children visiting the nursery with their parents come and sit on the tortoises. My other half would chide me about wanting to sit on a giant stone tortoise, but I am a kid at heart, and my nickname growing up was "Turtle."

Stepping stones, common garden features, are no longer the traditional squares of stone. They too can be found in a myriad of shapes: oblong with gorgeous designs, as well as butterflies. Fossils are even embedded in some, adding texture—and safety, since smooth stones when wet can become a walking hazard.

Colored gravel or wood chips look nice when used with decorative borders. Many home garden shows will design a large expanse with various "rooms" in the garden to add more intrigue to a formal garden. Decorative borders made of stone and wood are used to mark the "room" in the garden.

In my previous article, I mentioned that I have difficulty growing grass where my dogs patrol. Instead, I have decided to use redwood chips so that bare dirt will not be the eyesore it once was. The other benefit is that it blocks sunlight from weeds, discouraging their growth.

Not all garden ornamentation needs to be found on the ground, however. A trellis to welcome the visitor into the garden adds a nice touch. Trellises overflowing with bougainvillea, tea roses or other creeping plants add dimension to the garden. Some are adorned according to season with various fruits and vegetables. During the fall months, it is not unusual to find gourds and pumpkins growing on trellises.

Other accents may be hung on walls, and add color to the in-between seasons. Colorful eclectic suns, moons, and, yes, even animals and insects can be hung to further personalize your garden.

If it is that garden gnome or shiny ball you desire, those can be found as well. But don't buy them just to upset your next-door neighbor, as one shopper told me he planned to do—with a whole collection of gnomes.

In my next column, I'll talk about water features such as bird baths and easy-to-install water gardens, complete with bamboo and lily pads.  

Bonnie Orgren September 23, 2011 at 03:56 AM
Thanks Cat. How about one on homemade sculptures? I've seen lovely screens made from CDS. Here in the midwest tines from corn tillers can look like suns without being kitchy. Bonnie
CB White September 23, 2011 at 04:35 PM
Bonnie, I KNEW I forgot something- especially after you sent me the link! Sorry! Will have to include it in another story- I promise! Great ideas with the tines, and other items people would call junk! Hello to the kitties, fishies, frogs and especially to you!

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