We've all seen them: scarecrows, garden chairs made of willow, birdhouses cobbled together with wood shingles and twigs. If you've ever picked up a discarded piece of wood, an interesting shell, or a tumbled bit of sea glass, you understand the allure of natural materials. Folk art celebrates both these materials and the view of the simplicity and individuality they represent. If mass production brings affordable sculpture and whimsy to the garden, folk art reminds us that nature can do just fine without refinement, assembly lines or kitsch.
Turning simple objects into art for the garden is as old as gardens themselves, but new ways of interpreting old ideas make traditional folk symbols startling and eye catching. How about a birdhouse made out of corncobs, or a scarecrow that hangs around the rose bushes instead of the cornfield? If you appreciate stone carving, you might enjoy a nice headstone in your tree lawn with your family name on it. Your sense of humor and style are your natural guide with folk art garden décor, and the subtle earth tones and natural materials might be just what you've been looking for to do something unusual -- but not outlandish -- in the garden.
On the next page, we'll look at Oriental influences in the garden.