Savannah. Charleston. New Orleans. San Antonio. These colonial-era cities inspire the courtyard garden ideal: green and lush, with beautiful plants, pools and fountains, paved with stone, tiles or bricks, & protected by sheltering walls with gates that reveal a table and chairs for cocktails or an al fresco meal...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Classical Heads

One of the recurring themes in my garden is classical heads. Come see!

This is a Bacchus with grapes and grape leaves in his hair.

This is Apollo with over-exuberant confederate jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) inviting birds to nest in his hair.

This younger Bacchic figure has been trimmed of his excess jasmine coiffure. The columns are on the imposing six-foot-tall wall which forms the back of our courtyard and rings our small neighborhood. We added a diagonal confederate jasmine trellis between the columns to break up and add interest to the long expanse of wall.

This is  more of an Italianate-grotesque mask. This face, as most of the collection, was originally made to function as a fountain spit. This imposing visage hangs between two palms off the patio.

This Greek-style mask is an antique, picked up at a help-us-thin-out-our-inventory-sidewalk-sale. Something that used to hang above him in his previous life was painted without covering him with a dropcloth, providing him with a drip of dark-paint patina over his left brow, but I think I might leave it. He doesn't have a permanent hanging place yet, so he leans against a potted palm's plinth next to the fountain.

Alexander the Great guards the west end of the patio, and graciously allows fox-tail asparagus fern (Asparagus densiflorus 'Meyersii') to sprout from his hair. The West wall is made of "Fencecrete," in an Austin stone pattern. It matches our neighbor's house perfectly and is a great choice for our shifting caliche-laden soils. It will soon be laced with fig ivy (Ficus pumila) on our side, sparing the cap-stones. Providing a privacy screen is a specimen of the polite clumping bamboo, Bambusa multiplex, 'Alphonse Karr,' which has yellow and green striped culms. The bare-stemmed plumeria is the "evergreen" Plumeria obtusa 'Singapore White', which would have been evergreen, had I gotten it inside for all of our freezes...

This Bacchanoid figure adorns one of the garden's front columns, and looks like he could alternately represent one of the "Four Winds" because he seems to be blowing up a storm. The wrought-iron fence usually is covered with plumbago (Plumbago auriculata,) but this last winter pruned it heavily, and without my permission.

I don't know who this is, but he is Mexican, carved from cantera stone, and sports curved horns and a beard. He spouts water vigorously into an antique iron syrup kettle (or rendering pot) graciously gifted by my father-in-law from their farm in Tennessee. Don't even ask how we got it here and through the gate.

Oops, how did the BVM get in here? We're not even Roman Catholic! Actually she reigns (see her crown?) over the north-facing fern garden, making it a "Lady-Garden." She is cast of concrete in a quite detailed fashion and was found in Houston Heights at Ben's Antique Gardening, at 803 Heights Boulevard, one of my favorite streets in Houston.

This Green-Man corbel-planter was found in New Orleans in the Quarter, and I swear I had seen it at the same shop when I went to New Orleans on my eighteenth birthday with my parents. I didn't buy it then because it had a repaired crack at the bottom (and it weighed a ton.) I found it about fifteen years ago, hanging in the outdoor courtyard of the same shop, in the exact same place, complete with his repaired crack. I guess that is my one freebie exception to the well-accepted "the time to buy an antique is when you see it" law. He now sports needlepoint ivy (Hedera helix, f. digitata) outside our front door in a shady location.

(This section added July 18, 2010) I first saw the fountain (below) in a Naples, Florida garden center, and had to have it. Since it exceeds all airline weight limits and carry-on regulations, I began searching for it in San Antonio. I finally found it at Home and Patio. It is called the "Parisian Wall Fountain," and is manufactured by Al's Garden Art. The six spouts make a great sound that is deceptively refreshing in our hot summers. By the way, Naples is my DREAM garden location. Tropicals, subtropicals, seafood and shopping! Oh, and beaches, too.

The large planter head is obviously Bacchus and he is cast in high relief of fiberglass coated with stone dust. A "Ming" asparagus fern sprouts from his head, Asparagus myriocladus. I cemented a copper spout through the drainage hole with silicone, so excess water wouldn't run down the wall and leave a stain. Instead, it pours into the fountain itself. The tall wrought iron candelabra is from an estate sale, and was too wobbly, so I bolted it to a piece of rough-cut limestone from Keller Materials, a gardener's candy store of all stone products here in San Antonio. Now the hose won't tip it over.

Back to the heads. Four smaller beings surround Bacchus. The upper two are cast stone cherubs and the bottom two are the heads of Irish river gods reproduced from the ones which adorn the Dublin Custom House. I believe the male on the left is the Shannon and the female on the right is the Liffey. This finally completes the "head count!"

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