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July: Along the garden path 2 – totems, towers, and yard flowers

I love these late-blooming crocosmia, this one is “Montbretia”

Welcome back diners! Its July and summer has been in full swing here in the PNW, no rainy 4th of July for us this year and lots of heat. As we continue along the garden path, I thought it would be fun to explore more yard-art, this time glass and ceramic yard totems (or towers) that you can easily make with purchased or found items. Coincidentally, my long-time friend Dineke was also on a yard-totem binder! I recently connected with her to share her own insights into making yard-totems.

So Dineke, first question for all my guests: “do you eat dinner in the dining room?

Dineke: Yes, we have always had our dinners in the official dining room, even when the kids were little.  I think it’s important to get together as a family at least once ago and have a conversation without interruptions. My parents did the same thing when my sisters and I still lived at home.  Since our kids moved out, my husband and I still have dinner in the dining room.  The only difference is that now on the weekends we have candle light, some wine and background dinner music.

I recall my own childhood with dinners around the dining room table as well! My job was to set the table, I was probably about four. My grand-mother tied a ribbon around my left-hand so I would remember which side to place the napkins and forks!

Q: I’ve known you for a longtime, and know you to be a very creative person, as well as a lover of vintage and antique things.  What’s been your inspiration for the yard totems ?  What do you look for when you’re out shopping for vintage items?

Dineke: The very first one I made, I was actually thinking of buying a bird bath when I realized that I could possibly make my own.  I gathered some crystal and china that I don’t really use any more from around the house  and made myself a home made bird bath.  Next was an outdoor planter and before I knew it I made about 10 of them.  I go to second hand stores and collect old crystal plates and dishes and combine them with bowls, vases, candle holders, etc.  Not all the objects are antique.  I combine them with new items as  well.  They are a lot of fun to make and they look real nice in the yard.

What a cute pair! Perfect for a small bird.

That’s funny, because i recall not having quite enough stuff the first time around, and I also pillaged cabinets and cupboards looking for plates, bowls, and just about anything else i felt i could sacrifice to yard art!

Q: What’s your creative process when designing either the yard totems or the flowers.  Do you try to match things together in a structured way or is it more of a “this works” approach in more of an accidental way?

Dineke: I collect all the crystal and china before I put them together so I have several options.  I arrange them and rearrange them until they are to my liking.  I am a planner so not too many things in my life come to fruition in an accidental way, Haha!!  I try to match colors but I am still in the beginning stage so I have not explored everything yet. 

This blue one is definitely my favorite Dineke! I love how you layered many different pieces.

I also found that it was a bit of a trial and error process. I love that you were much more to combining materials like ceramic and glass, and love how you used that cute little ceramic animal for a planter! So many options with these yard totems and all of the different materials.

You’ve definitely inspired me, i would have never thought to have included a little planter like that! So cute –

Q: If someone was embarking on this project for the first time, what advice would you give them?

Dineke:  There are several ways of putting these yard totems together.  I started out by drilling holes in the middle of the items and connecting them that way.  It’s more secure and they don’t come apart but some of the dishes may break in the process.  Gluing is another way.  There are so many different kinds of glue and they don’t all work the same.  Definitely read up on it and figure out the best glue for your project.  Some glues don’t do well in the heat or cold.  Do take your totems and flowers inside  by the end of Autumn so they don’t break if it freezes.

The bright red is perfect in the garden!

I left mine in the yard all winter, and was lucky that I had very little breakage, but I so appreciated seeing the bright colors during the grey days. I have noticed from the pictures however that they can get a bit dirty with the rain splashes!

This is what I use. I have recently discovered that it is not necessarily deer-hardy however.

Q: As an antiquer and collector yourself, what’s the one thing that got away?  Is there something you passed over, but haven’t forgotten about? 

Dineke:  I really had to think about this question.  I have seen beautiful antiques in my life that I would love to have had.  The only reason I didn’t buy them is because they were either too expensive or there simply was no room for them in my house.  Therefore, I don’t regret not buying them.  Fortunately, I’m not an impulse buyer and so after thinking it through, I generally come up with the right decision.

There is just something about this blue in the garden that I really love.

I am sure Stephen wishes I had your same impulse control! Dineke, thank you so much for taking the time to share your insights and inspiration with me! You really should keep an eye on a few of those pieces…i do know where you live!!

Personally, I love glass in the yard – whether its vintage bottles, blown or fused-glass it has a brightness and color that adds a some depth to the gardens.  

A blue bottle garden: a variety of blue bottles nestled among the summer-blooming crocosmia. The blue shades look nice with the bright orange “copper-tip” variety. Looks like its time to fill the suet cage too!

I love this free floating red ball in the blue spiral.

And of course there is also fused glass –

Only a few weeks into our summer and the heat has already had an impact…sigh my ferns would take the rain any day.

Last year, I went on a bit of my own yard-totem binder and made about 13 yard-totems with a variety of vintage pieces (i.e., vases, candlesticks, even a cute creamer and sugar set).   The opportunities are endless and with the second-hand shops full of fun pieces, creativity for unique pieces, Here are a few that I made late last spring.

I have found that plates make nice wide bases

Some of the larger pieces can be fun to mix in a bit of something unusual. I added this abandoned nest, and a small piece of robins-egg blue glass. I made a matching one for my mom.

Well, the dastardly-doe and more devastating-deeds (done dirt-cheap…sorry, bad AC\DC reference there) at it again! This one now in pieces, but will rise again! As for this large vase, I added in this vintage creamer and sugar set with the cute teapot on top. I secured the lids with the glue…good thing in this case!

Finally, two larger pieces that I completed last summer. I had every intention of flanking a garden opening with these, but they were a bit heavy! Word of caution, if you plan on making larger towers, have some help carrying them.

yes, i did add some vintage jewelry…everything needs a bit of bling!

Thanks for joining in on the conversation and a special note of thanks to my friend Dineke for your inspiration. It was a lot of fun to see how your totems turned out! Two versions of yard-totems — when it comes to making these the possibilities are endless, and they can be big to make a statement or small, a discovery nestled into the garden.

Please feel free to share and add your comments about how you have used yard-totems as part of your own yard art collection. Later in the month we’ll have some outdoor, deck-drama with a peacock (and blue glass) inspired table-setting.

Until then, enjoy something beautiful! ~d

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