Nature’s art can be found anywhere you choose to look for it.

I like to start my day appreciating it, at home and in the neighborhood. Like a glimpse of the suncatcher on the porch across the street. The light from the street lamps are caught and tossed by the hanging crystals. It just makes me feel good. Nature’s art plus our own artistic creations in harmony.

I believe landscapes should reflect nature’s art but also include some of our own. To create environments that have interest, a little whimsy and child-like wonder, something that seems to be lacking in so many lives today.

Garden art almost always draws a second look. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ when they visit a botanical garden — and we have many in Florida.

The shade of mature trees, the colorful flowers and amazing tropical plants all put together like a beautiful painting, but those lush park landscapes almost always include fountains, ponds, statuary, large colorful pots and hanging baskets hung from ornate hooks.

Those artistic touches add to much to the overall experience.

Punta Gorda is an exuberant community that enthusiastically supports the arts. Those us of that live here as well as visitors quickly recognize and appreciate it.

The Visual Arts Center, Seagrape Gallery, Artisans Atelier, Punta Gorda Historic Mural Society and the newly opened Peace River Botanical Garden along with many other galleries and organizations have exposed us to a rich artistic culture.

The large fountain at the Punta Gorda History Park is a beautiful example. Originally set on the grounds of the Hotel Punta Gorda it has found a home as a focal point for the History Park gardens. It’s large scale and historical significance command attention and it is perfectly placed within the park.

The carved statue by artist Peter Toth which sits at the intersection of Cross St and Retta Esplanade in Punta Gorda was carved from a large tree (I think it was a Monkey Puzzle tree but don’t quote me on that). The tree was most likely struck by lightning and subsequently died. Someone saw art in that dead tree and so ‘Calusatomucu’ was born. Originally carved in place in the mid-70s on the grounds of what is now the Punta Gorda Waterfront Hotel it was moved to it’s current home in the early 2000s. It is garden art.

If you wanna talk about fun and funky art in the garden, one of the best examples I can think of is the painted bicycles around town. Have you ever really stopped and looked at the artwork on those bikes, it’s fantastic!

What started as a promotion for the city of Punta Gorda’s designation as a bicycle friendly city has turned into an artistic phenomenon. It began with a few beautifully painted old bikes strategically placed around town. Then businesses started painting bikes and placing them outside their establishments. Soon residents adopted the trend, painting old bikes and displaying them in their yards. It created a wonderful sense of community while encouraging fun and quirkiness.

I remember when my friend Sally had a girl from Denmark visiting her several years ago. Upon seeing all the bikes around town, (and there were lots of them, they were literally on every corner), she asked why so many people die on bicycles in Punta Gorda — she thought they were memorials — so funny! I love that our part of the world is a little quirky. It keeps us from being like everyone else but mostly it keeps us happy and laughing.

Art in the garden is really about freedom of expression. Incorporating artistic elements in your own garden, pieces that make you feel good just having them around, is the most important part of art in the garden. Helping to make your neighbors smile is just a bonus.

So what can you do to incorporate art into the garden and in turn further beautify your own world?

It’s really as simple as adding a birdbath, a little piece of statuary, wind chimes, glass plate art, a bottle tree or even just colorful pots.

These all add interest to your garden but also enhance the personal enjoyment of your own environment. The perfect place to start could be that area in the yard where it seems that plants just don’t thrive. We all have those spots, fill it with art.

A dull green hedge will come to life with a colorful piece of artwork popping out of it. Metal art, garden benches or a water feature can add either a sense of whimsy or imply purpose in your garden.

Garden art should be as much a part of your landscape, and your personality, as the plants and trees you choose to fill it. Lush diversified gardens support life, garden art supports mental well being.

Make something, paint something, repurpose something, buy something–the choices are as endless as your imagination. If you live in a development with HOA rules that frown on the personal freedom of self expression on the outside of your home then question the rule or just let your artistic mojo fly on your porch, patio or lanai.

So here’s the gig: Our area has an extensive community of dedicated supporters of the arts, all kinds of art. Its citizens have access to an abundance of diverse artists and their creations. They enhance our lives by causing us to think, reflect, contemplate or just dream.

But honestly, it’s the beauty of it all that I enjoy the most.

Becky Copenhaver is a certified Master Gardener, certified Horticulture Professional and former certified Landscape Designer. She is the owner of Becky’s Garden Shoppe at 6450 Elliott St in Punta Gorda. Becky can be reached at 941-621-8551 or beckysgardenshoppe@comcast.net

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