Garden globes: kitchy or captivating?

One of the things I love most about my job is to revisit a landscape several years after its completion. I love to see how my clients are using the space, what worked, what didn’t, and admittedly, while some designers would take offense to this, I love to see what my clients have added to their gardens. I mean, let’s be honest, I can only dive so deeply into a client’s brain during the design process. I’m fairly adept at figuring out how to organize their space, how to orchestrate its use, the best materials and plants to bring it all together, but one thing I refuse to promise to nail is their personal taste when it comes to garden ornament. I love to make suggestions for that perfect focal point or planter, but when it comes to sculpture, it’s just too personal, in my opinion, to specify exactly for one’s personal space.  It’s a part of the process that I refuse to take out of the hands of my clients, but I always find it so interesting to see what they come up with.  What made them select that particular piece?  Where did they find it?  Was it a flea market find? Is it one-of-a-kind? Is it an heirloom?

Which brings me to today’s topic: the garden globe.  Like pink flamingoes and garden gnomes, the garden globe tends to bring a very visceral response. People either love them or they hate them. But I find that few people know the interesting history of the garden globe, and I’ll even go so far as to say they don’t have a true appreciation of them.  The garden globe (aka gazing globe, gazing ball) was first created by the hands of glass artisans in Venice in the 13th century. The fact that they have survived eight centuries, albeit with waves and dips in their popularity, is impressive. They have been used for many purposes: the ‘Butler’s Ball’ utilized their reflective quality to allow servants to keep an eye on guest’s arrival or need for a refill without staring at them while they ate, the ‘Witches Ball’ warded off evil spirits and disease, and in the Victorian era, their most popular era by far, they helped smaller spaces appear larger than they were by warping the reflection of the garden and multiplying the number of blossoms.  Some even utilize the garden globe during meditation, staring into it to contemplate the universe.

While I am a self-proclaimed plant snob, I try not to be a garden ornament snob, difficult as that may be.  I am equal opportunity when it comes to how you want to decorate your space, and I love a bit of whimsy in the garden, if for nothing else than to prevent the design from being taken too seriously. I admit I do not personally own a garden globe, but I have a great appreciation for them and I never question their use in the garden.


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