Whimsy

With so much grim news these days, keeping a sense of humor is vital. Whoever you are, whimsical sign-augmenter, consider yourself thanked.

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Garden whimsy is always nice, in the proper dosage. I don't have anything in the way of whimsy out there in the garden.  Whimsy is commercially available in the form of metal frogs playing the banjo, I guess, but that's not really my style, nor is it really truly whimsy.  I did see a wonderful garden sculpture earlier in the year and wish I had gotten it. It was a pair of toothy monsters made from pieces of scrap metal carrying a standard plastic garden gnome over their heads, evoking the old Hollywood movie savages carrying the intrepid explorer on a pole off to a barbeque, with the explorer as the main course. The gnome in an unexpected context was fresh.  Still not quite authentic whimsy, though. 

Whimsy must be original. The first person who planted flowers in an old porcelain toilet and set it out in the front yard to annoy the neighbors--that was True And Authentic Whimsy. Every other porcelain toilet planter out in the front yard is a mere copy, and lacks something.  It may be still amusing, but it's no longer pure whimsy.  It's planned, it's a mere echo of the exact moment when a man dragging an old toilet out of his house, suddenly got a wicked smile on his face...

Whimsy is often best when it is ephemeral. I saw a good example of this one year in our old neighborhood. Someone had costumed a dignified plaster lion flanking the entrance to a house. The lion was dressed up like Elvis (Las Vegas phase): high-collared leather cape with pink zebra patterned lining, black jumpsuit, and sunglasses. He never looked better.  The lion's Elvis costume was gone a few days later.  Yet ephemeral whimsy can last for centuries, and remain whimsy:



King Henry VIII holding a golden orb and a wooden table leg. Trinity College, Cambridge:
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Wikipedia photo released to the public domain. Photo by dickpenn.


True whimsy done correctly is difficult, you see. Whimsy is a whole bunch of little green plastic army man toys re-purposed as top-dressing for a large potted cactus, with a couple of the army men rappeling down the top of the plant. Or the white concrete Apollo holding a trowel.  Something like that.  But once it has been done, it's done. The moment of serendipitous discovery ("Wait! That clump of ornamental grass looks exactly like a nest this year, I'll stick a bird sculpture in it, and a gazing ball for an egg!"), of sudden creative juxtaposition, is what delights us, and unexpected discovery cannot be planned, or bought in a store. It is a monument to a moment's yes--whim...

Typical flimsy garden arch with added (non-yet-visible) whimsy (is it?): 
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I planted some 'Kentucky Wonder' pole beans to climb up the arch because it looks so lonely.  A rose or clematis next winter, perhaps, but for now, beans as a temporary whim.  It's so bare.  Whimsy?  Nah...it's been done.  Though if the bean plants grow large enough maybe, and the beans hang down, looking delightfully eccentric but at the same time edible...Wait! I wonder if I could grow a pumpkin on that arch, too...support the fruit with red bandana slings...hey,it may not be whimsy, but I've been searching for a place to plant the pumpkins for weeks!  (Runs for the pumpkin seeds.)



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You don't design in authentic garden whimsy, you patiently wait and watch for it, keeping it somewhere in the back of the mind.  It either happens, or it doesn't.  Leave the banjo-playing frog at the store.  It's just not the same. 

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