Garden Art

Much of the time that I am outside, I take ideas as they come to me. I rarely charge out with a specific goal in mind. Instead I wander around, taking account of what needs attention. Sometimes I will get to work right away on the first of the things I noticed, but more often I find myself sidetracked by some more aesthetic interest like building a nice sitting area or trimming brush. I’ve slowly built the gardens around my paths so that my movement around the yard is natural, fluid and pleasing to me. I don’t force myself to walk down rows to tend to my crops and I’m making a point to grow flowers and unique plants  that catch my attention as I pass through certain areas.

I find that this slow way of working has given me a lot of creativity. I don’t have to get to work right away on a new idea, but instead I let it simmer while I spend days and weeks tinkering with it in my mind.  When I’m ready to get to work, work gets done quickly because I’ve spent time cultivating my plans.

An idea emerged a month ago while I was chopping down tallow trees to practice with the axe and saw. I wanted to carve the wood up and see what I could do with it. By the time I felled one of the trees, the only thing I wanted to do was saw off its limbs and stick it back in the ground.


This type of idea tickles my sense of humor. I was suddenly inspired to create an entire forest of logs that I had chopped down, de-limbed and then planted back in the ground. (As an aside, a few weeks later I discovered that this same idea was applied in ancient “wood henges”.) I ended up digging a hole for the first tree that I felled and I planted it where it has been for long enough now that I’ve come to regard it with familiarity— no longer finding it odd or amusing that this twisted tree trunk stands fifteen feet high in the middle of my yard with no apparent purpose.

Yesterday I brought out the antique post-hole digger to add to my tallow log forest. There are now five logs standing erect to separate my garden from my pathway. . I went along in between each of the logs and stuck little privet twigs in the ground to suggest that this was something similar to a fence. Its visual effect is fun for me, but I’ve already seen that my dog has no respect for it as a fence and walks right through the garden anyway. It serves almost entirely as a means to entertain myself. I take myself less seriously when I work on what I deem to be rather meaningless art.


Another example of my silly garden art is this willow sculpture that looks a bit like a snowshoe or a badmitton racket.


I’ve justified this work because it was inspired by more practical ideas. The willow racket was born from my curiosity about willow twigs for basketry and weaving. I wanted to see how long it would last and how well it would hold up outside. It was only after I started the project that I discovered just how much joy and freedom can be drawn out of this kind of artistic play.

As for the logs, I have a bird feeder and a bird house on two of them and I’m hoping to see some mushrooms spring out of the wood (these trees grow a variety of mushrooms, as we saw last winter). Also, this will give me a chance to test the wood and its ability to resist decay while buried in the ground. I’ve wanted to learn more about this since Jess (from Bogalousa Stinks) brought up using tallow trees for fence posts and it’s something I’d like to do if the posts would last for longer than a few years.

The more I think about it, the more uses I can come up with for these posts. For as long as they last they can also support annual vines. If they prove to last longer than a few years, I may train muscadines and perennial fruit-bearing vines on them. Since the posts are right outside my kitchen window, I think flowering vines are in order for this year—something for the hummingbirds and butterflies.

Playing in the garden is more fun than working in the garden, if you can separate the two activities. Even what I might regard as silly before I do it, and while I do it, seems to open up a mood of creativity and a new perspective in viewing the space that we have available for work. The type of work that comes out of play is not as one dimensional as strictly goal-oriented labor, the latter of which might ruin one’s interest in the garden altogether. There is my gardening philosophy.


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4 thoughts on “Garden Art”

  1. ha! the universe is fun.

    i just suckered my husband into driving 9 5-6″ diameter stakes in the ground (two pine, rest tallow) on monday. of course me and fifi helped, but i’m attempting a wattle fence. with none of the traditional trees or established coppiced sources within thousands of miles. so far i’ve weaved TWO sweet gum sapplings (15-20 feet high). then we played out and then the monsoon came.

    i too wanted to test these tallows…let em show me what they got and all. and i was thinking of all the lovely vines i could grow…more room for gords if anything. i’d be to scared to try muscadine though. i still have it stuck in my head that i need weather-treated 4X4s to create a grape arbor… hopefully that will get unstuck.

    down the road a person has used a trampoline frame, halfed and meshed together with wire, hooped onto the ground with rebar, and some sort of wire mesh over this to create a muscadine arbor. i’ve been obsessed with it….i want a tunnel.

    hardscapes are my biggest challenge and i’m constantly looking for inspiration. thank you thank you thank you, for shoving sticks in the ground. :)

    1. I’m so glad you could find inspiration in my silly work. We don’t have many proven species around, but I feel fortunate that a few willow saplings sprung up around the edge of our trailer– perhaps trucked in with the river gravel we had dumped here two years ago. It’s not a good place for them, but I laid one over with a cinderblock on the trunk in hopes of letting new roots grow a little further from the trailer. I plan on pruning it plenty while trying out wattling and weaving so I think the location will work for it.

      I transplanted the other two. I moved the entire root balls, but unfortunately they had already been pruned to the ground while my husband was clearing brush. I’m hoping they spring up next year in their new locations, and with these 3 trees I think I might be able to start some wattling projects in the next few years. I want to make something like a gazebo out in our yard.

      We have two young muscadines growing off of a hill in a place that isn’t quite ideal. I’m not sure what to do with them yet, because I’m afraid of killing them if I try to transplant them (I’ve read that they don’t do so well with transplanting.) I’m also not sure about where I’d start an arbor, though I want to.

      Good luck with all your projects. I have a friend with 10 acres in Covington who I am going to try to help with landscape planning. He and his wife are really interested in permaculture and we tried to start a little permaculture group on the north shore awhile ago but without much luck. I vote that we all get together sometime and maybe we can rotate labor and share ideas and find more folks in the area who are interested. I’m getting a little defeated by the challenge of keeping myself motivated while essentially doing it alone. Plus, we can swap seeds!

      Oh, and if you’re interested in aquaponics at all (growing tilapia/shrimp in rain barrels while feeding vegetables?) then we are planning to visit my aunt in Metairie because she received a grant to start a small project in her school and has been working on it for about 4 months now. She will also have some funds to issue startup kits to interested folks.

      We should definitely get together sometime!

      1. are you refering to black willows? i’ve seen some here and there, down my parent’s pasture and i’ve often wondered if i could do the same magical things with them that the british do with their willows. i love the living fences and benches.

        my husband works all the time and i end up being the lone ranger at the house in & out. it gets overwhelming, but rarely frustrating. i want chickens and rabbits so bad but i need someone to kick me in the butt regarding housing. so, i agree, we should def get together.

        awesome about the aquaponics. that’s something i’d LOOOVE to do in the future. i just don’t feel like i’m ready. maybe because it’s such a new concept to me? i’ve read about it a lot, heard stories. i compare it to beekeeping. i’ll be a total wuss about it for a few years, but i will do it one day.

      2. My email address is ss834 (at) if you want to send me a message! We still haven’t scheduled a trip for the aquaponics.

        And yes, it’s the black willow that I am talking about. so far so good. It may not be quite as good as the other, but it’s certainly flexible and fun to work with (plus they grow like weeds!).

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