UNITED STATES—Saint Francis is actually the patron saint of animals. Saint Fiacre is the real patron saint of gardening. However, statues of Saint Francis, usually accompanied by birds, and sometimes by a deer, are popular in home gardens. Has anyone ever seen even a single statue of Saint Fiacre? Statues of Snow White are more common; but her only experience with horticulture was one bad apple.

There is good garden statuary, and there is bad garden statuary. Some of the bad can be exceptionally so. It is one of the many things that back yards are for. Not much offends neighbors like a bronzed lawn mower on a pedestal in the middle of a paved front yard. Yes, it has happened. Perhaps there is beauty in the diversity of unique artistic expression. Saint Francis cannot do it all.

Garden statuary and other forms of garden art work like any other household art. For many of us, it merely provides dramatic form, and perhaps color that are more permanent than flowers are. For others, there is a certain degree of self expression associated with the careful selection and display of garden art. Some of us take this even further by creating our own distinctive garden art.

Fountains and wind chimes are often incorporated into gardens to detract from less pleasant ambient sound, or simply because they sound nice. A loud fountain probably would not obscure the sound of a freeway in the neighborhood; but the sound of even a modest fountain might be adequately distracting. Wind chimes are as variable as the delicate to bold breezes that operate them.

As far as garden art is concerned, fountains and wind chimes need more maintenance than simple inactive sculpture. Chimes might sometimes need to be tied up or taken down if they get too noisy in windy weather. They can get tangled or so weathered that the strings that suspend the chimes need to be replaced. When this happens, it might be easier to simply get new wind chimes.

Fountains are more involved. Water must be added to replace what evaporates. Mineral deposits must be cleaned from some surfaces. Any aquatic plants need to be groomed like other plants in the garden. For larger fountains, fish might be employed to control mosquitoes. However, fish might attract raccoons! Small fountains with neither fish nor plants might be kept clear with bleach. So, even though garden art is not as dynamic as living and growing plants are, some of it requires significant maintenance anyway.

Highlight: blue plumbago

The delightfully clear sky blue flowers of blue plumbago, Plumbago auriculata, seem like they belong with colorful annuals or in a tailored border of colorfully blooming perennials. However, the rampant canes of mature plants are really best in the background where they have room to grow wild. The canes do not climb like vines, but can flop over other shrubbery as high as 15 feet.

Rounded trusses of small blue flowers begin to bloom sporadically by the end of spring, and continue to bloom in phases until late summer. Supposedly, each subsequent phase should be a bit more profuse than the previous; but not all plants are aware of this. They might bloom best in mid summer, and less profusely later. ‘Alba’ blooms white. Pale foliage indicates a need for fertilizer.