The ornamental fountain located in the Salem Historical Society’s flower and herb garden next to East Perishing Street remind my wife and I of Huntington Gardens near Whittier, Calif., south of Los Angeles.
The gardens on that estate contain numerous ornaments, including statues and fountains as well as outstanding floral displays.
Historical speaking. Garden ornamentation is about as old as gardening itself. European gardens, of course, go further back in history than North American gardens. Formal gardens in both areas have long featured ornaments, especially in the gardens of the well-to-do.
Along the Hudson River remain the extensive estates of the late 1800s that feature fancy urns, statues and sundials.
Andrew Jackson Downing, a landscape architect of the 1800s, almost always chose numerous ornaments as landscape features, as he said, “creating a union between the house and the grounds.”
This is important to remember when using formal statuary and ornaments to create gardens similar to those of the past.
Architectural style. The architectural style of any home largely dictates the choice of ornamentation.
A gothic revival form of dwelling would contrast badly with a Greek urn. This sort of ornament would be more suitable with a Georgian home.
The proper use of an ornament is to place it where it will accentuate views from the house thereby integrating the home and garden.
Size and scale of the ornaments is also important.
A small garden does not require a small ornament or a group of small ornaments. Often one outstanding medium size ornament will best serve as a focal point.
Too many small ornaments cause a small garden to look like a garden supply lot.
A large urn can create a pleasing focal point; however, two smaller urns may accent a landscape much better.
Urns also are best placed on a platform of some type, such as a terrace or pedestal. Also if employed as a garden ornament it is best not to use the urn as a flower pot.
Planters and sundials. Planters, often termed jardinieres, can be used to add a decorative embellishment. Suggested use is at a path bend or wherever plants can not be planted. Plants of course can be used, as the name implies, to plant flowers.
Sundials have been, and probably will always be, a curious addition even in anyone’s backyard. This instrument is undoubtedly one of the oldest decorations in gardens and grounds. Placement is restricted to open areas and proper alignment with the sun.
Sundials can be placed at an end of a short path to add a point of interest to a large or small garden.
Planters and sundials are also well-placed at a junction of two paths.
Statues. Statuary was the main interest to the founder of Huntington Gardens. This is an art that is often overlooked or absent from many formal gardens of the 1900s.
These decorations bring a sophisticated look to a garden.
A pleasure garden is best enhanced by such statuary such as a cupid or busts. Busts of renown poets and authors serve to create a sense of contemplation.
Tall statuary are best when backed by tall trees or shrubs or an open sky.
A bust is best placed where it appears tucked away in a corner or a hollow in the shrubs. It should be placed on a pedestal devoid of flowers.
For the birds. Birdbaths and fountains were not common in American gardens until mass production began in the Victorian era.
Birdbaths can enhance a focal point, but should never be placed too close to cover, wherein a cat or other predator could hide.
Fountains can be adapted to any size garden as seen at the Salem Historical Society.
A small plain fountain can even fit into a setting near apartment dwellings. Columns and obelisks suggest a classic look to gardens.
These are best placed at a point of view along an avenue of shrubs, trees or tall flowers or as a pair at an intersecting point.