The Arch City Gardener

Journeys In St. Louis Gardening and Beyond


The Beauty of Garden Accents

happy leaf manJuly has been a splendid month. Very hot, very humid but full of travel, fun and frivolity. Isn’t that what summer is supposed to be about? I’ve left the garden to its own devices and have been welcomed back by a host of new bloomers–panicled hydrangeas, black eyed Susans, Joe pye weed, pink roses, daisies and zinnias, even as the voles continue their vicious attacks.

Wind chimesA 4th of July visit to my sister in San Antonio is what has inspired this post. Mornings were spent lounging on her tree-covered patio, coffee mugs and i-Pads for news in hand, interspersed with lots and lots of sister talk. Surrounded by Susan’s lush plantings, pond, and all sorts of of garden ornamentia my thoughts were naturally led to garden art.

Susan's fence planter

Beaded strings of whimsy hang from a succulent basket in my sister’s San Antonio garden.


Stone birds

Ribbon grass, now mature, provides a backdrop for the stone bird post.

I love garden accents. They provide a punctuation mark, whimsy or a much needed pause to the garden. Garden accents can take the form of some serious statuary or be as delicate as a glass wind chime. Big or small, I believe such accents give the viewer information about the garden and, more importantly, the gardener.

Fence hanging

I often buy garden accents as gifts. Sometimes they don’t make it to their intended recipients, as is the case for this blue glass bead dangler.

As my backyard playground progresses, I’ve slowly added small pieces to the yard, mainly to begin to fill in blank spaces in garden beds or to visually fill up the vertical void on the large fences. I like more natural and organic materials, such as unpolished stone, woods and rusted metals. And I love hearing the metal tones of chimes in the wind.



A mermaid marks the garden and memories of many trips to the beach and exotic islands.

Travels provide a great excuse to buy a little something for the garden. I bought this smiling leaf bird feeder during one of my travels. It reminds me of the trip I took and the cute garden shop I visited. Conversely, travels often inspire a local purchase. I like mermaids because they remind me of wonderful island trips I’ve taken; I bought a metal mermaid at a local art fair.


This metal plant stand used to live at a resale shop that was going out of business. 

clematis amillaryGarden ornaments also fulfill a function. They provide a structure for climbing plants, a resting spot for birds or even a stand for plants. The small armillary sphere in my raised garden bed has been a good climbing structure for the young clematis I planted last summer. Form can meet function and be artful at the same time. One of my friends created a beautiful privacy screen with custom-designed panels.EmilyDSCN4839The plant stand  above (a sundial base, really) has held containers full of caladiums, a basketful of fern and now an armillary sphere. But I placed it here to provide a focal point to the astilbe that surround its base and to fill up the fence line.Stars on treeI’ve also repurposed objects d’art for the garden. A swag of wooden stars originally used for a Christmas mantle display has been repurposed to dangle from a tree. It was getting zero use sitting on a shelf in the garage, now I enjoy it whenever I am out on the patio. I also found a couple of pieces of rusiting tin ceiling tiles at a resale shop that I’ve put to good use on the fence. I think they provide a whole lot of look for the $3 I spent on each piece. In the spring, my neighbor’s bright honeysuckle is a pretty contrast with the rusting metal.Rusted ceiling tileHow do you accent your garden?


1 Comment

An Urban Garden Oasis

St louis brick (480x640)My sister Nancy lives in the midst of music, mayhem and madness in the shadows of the vibrant Loop in St. Louis city. Yet her yard is a true get away in the midst of city living. Yes, you can hear the drum circle at the Shell gas station a block away. Police and firetruck sirens blare down Delmar Avenue at a fairly regular pace. A rotating “moon” atop the Moonrise Hotel can be glimpsed from the deck. But all that is just a sideshow. The main event is the oasis she has created on a small city backyard lot. Center stage is a large pond full with fish and surrounded by lots of ground cover such as carpet phlox, creeping Jenny and vinca; trees and shrubs such as Japanese maple, lemon thread cypress, Mary Jane magnolia,and oakleaf hydrangea; perennials such as hosta, grasses, salvia and liriope; and annuals to fill in. Large rocks give structure to the pond shape and provide a platform to gaze at the fish and maneuver around the pond.

Urban Oasis 2 (1280x960)If you’ve ever wondered if pond water is good for the garden, wonder no more! Her oakleaf and roses appear to be on steroids!

pond lettuceOf course the pond has aquatic plant species such as water lily, water hyacinth, water lettuce and bog plants. What Nancy lacks in plant knowledge “I don”t know that plant is,” she makes up with an unerring eye for color combination and layout. There’s a balanced interplay between citrus hues (lemon thread cypress), cool tones (a blue dwarf weeping cypress) and shocks of color (the pink Knockout roses). Touches of whimsy, such as this painted frog, let you know the garden is for enjoyment. This frog is an example of her talent in  painting.

 A painted frog adorns the rocks on the edge of the pond.

A painted frog adorns the rocks on the edge of the pond.

I think ponds provide a sense of serenity and the shade cast on the pond from the trees lends a sense of calm in an urban setting. I am always struck by the fact that the yard is small–a typical St. Louis city lot–and there is lots of city noises around, yet the environment feels set apart from the hustle and bustle.

Original St. Louis accents also lend an authentic city touch to this escape and sets the yard apart from other gardens. The home is in Parkview, an historic St. Louis neighborhood dated back to the early 1900s. Above the bed in front of the garage is a light from one of the old streetlamps in the neighborhood. And the first picture in this post is of an old “St. Louis” brick.

Looking back toward the garage.

Looking back toward the garage. Note the dwarf cypress in the back. Behind this is another planting area that hides the power line and the fence leading to the alley.

IMG_0553Between the garden beds, the deck and the pond, you kind of lose sight that this is really a narrow yard that is not all too deep. That is because the design draws your eye down along the space. A brick path along the side bed with the roses help to pull your eye lengthwise. Still developing is a shade garden in front the garage. As with all gardens, trial and error occurs with plant selection, soil and light. This area receives a good bit of shade and Nancy has struggled a bit to get the right plants to take off. Carefree, foliaged perennials are the name of the game, although color contrast is at the forefront. Hostas thrive in the St. Louis climate. Nancy is planting a variety of hostas, and the bed is beginning to take off. I know, however, that in a year or two she’ll introduce an artistic element to heighten the enjoyment of this bed.

What I have not shown you are the window boxes and containers that overlook the deck. And of course there are the lounges and the hand-painted table umbrella. I  hope you have enjoyed this virtual garden tour. I look forward to sharing other small garden spaces in the near future.

How are you making the most of your small spaces?