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Sunday, February 12, 2012

BEATRICE'S AFRICAN-AMERICAN YARD SHOW GARDEN

BEATRICE'S FRONT YARD SHOW GARDEN

Early last spring I spotted a garden filled with decorative elements that had a certain  type of folk quality.  

Beatrice working in her garden

A woman was working around the garden so I  stopped my truck.  We introduced ourselves to each other.  Her name is Bernice Logan, a sweet, lovely lady that lives in Garrard County, Kentucky. I was a stranger to her yet when I asked if I could photograph her and her garden -- she was glad to do so. 


A yellow painted rock with flowers
She walked with me around her garden pointing out certain decorative elements and mentioned where she got them. It was early spring, green plant life was poking out of the soil -- the only blooms were those of daffodils.  


Many gardeners  design their gardens unaware that their designs are intuitive -- a  result of traditions ingrained from long-past garden influences. 


As Ms Logan showed me the various parts of her garden I got the distinct feeling I was looking at remnants of an African-American garden tradition. This tradition is described by garden researchers as a yard show

A semi-circular rock painted by her children's grandmother 
-- reflecting their sports interests
Her garden filled her entire small front yard. Following are the features that could qualify her garden as an African-American yard show

-- Circularity appeared as a strong visual in the overall design. Circles around trees, circular rocks, tire, cauldron.

-- Overall it has a non-linear design -- more of a thoughtful process of,  "I think it would look good right there." 


-- Material elements were a complexity of  items. There was an abundance of statuary animals, a tire, a hanging iron cauldron, lights,  garden edgings,  bricks, and several others elements.  


-- Elements reflecting nature. Rocks both painted and non-painted, a nest, and a hunk  of a tree root arranged loosely from a cauldron tripod, plantings, decorated tree stumps. 


-- Light and/or reflective materials. Christmas lights surrounding the porch used year round. Also small ground hugging solar lights. 


A circular garden bed containing animal figures and rocks surrounded by  circular brick edging -- a young tree in the center

The elements described above in Ms Logan's garden, could have been found in typical traditions from her cultural past. 


Nodding yellow daffodils  growing up through a young tree 
containing an abandoned nest -- found and placed there by Beatrice.
A yard show is a compilation of elements plus more. Yard show gardens can be either spare or abundant in material items. Most yard show gardens seem to be located in the front yard.

A circular turtle shell on the turtle figure placed 
on the side of a circular old black tire.  
Certain meanings that were mysterious and spirtual were part of the yard show history.  Examples of some meanings are that of a circle element, such as a tire, which relates to circles of the spirit, bottle trees to capture bad spirits, and plantings around the house of protective herbs.

Her porch Christmas lights -- part of the front yard show 

As gardeners in general, we are usually unaware of some of the traditions that we put in our gardens. As we put decades or even centuries between us and our inherited gardening traditions we become unaware how they  influence us as we lay out our space. Look at how you design  -- compare it to other gardens in your area and identify the similarities. Perhaps these similarities are your  intuitively designed traditions. Intuitive design can tell us about traditional stories from our past.  

A circular caldron with circular birdfeeder, 
hanging circular teapot and natural root that tops it off.. 

African Amercan yard shows are a facinating topic. I would heartily recommend Places of the Spirt for its fabulous yard show photos. Also, two other books that are well researched on this subject are listed below. 

As planting time descends on us once again, look around your neighborhood for  traditions that abound in many of their gardens.



20 comments:

  1. Absolutely lovely and truly informative!!!

    I'm so happy to be able to comment here again!!!

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  2. I love gardens like this. So creative and reflective of the person working it.

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  3. I love this post and this garden. So much creativity and personality packed into a small space. I would love to see the pictures in the summer.

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    1. Birdie -- Perhaps if I am ever in Bernice's area again I will stop and see if I can get some summer or fall photos. She is such a gentle woman. Can't wait till I start crawling the roads again in my little Toyota truck. Like to bring my dog with me. Its a regular outing for us and that is when I find some neat folks. Thanks for the comment -- barbara

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  4. "Yard Show" describes most of the gardens/yards around these parts.

    And so, I'm going to go paint flowers on a rock tomorrow. Not kidding. I just like that rock with the flowers on it so very much!

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    1. Rubye Jack -- Well I guess that is one way to get flowers in your garden year round -- paint them on a rock. Take a photo -- barbara

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  5. Fascinating garden and explanation of yard shows. What I'd think, at first glance, is a mess, is not at all. She seems to have consciously placed each item where it is and it must give her satisfaction to tend it as the plants begin to grow. Thanks for making me understand that looking instead of dismissing is very rewarding.

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    1. June -- African American gardens are full of symbols from the past -- not always known to the gardener. Since you are a rabid book reader let me encourage you to read "Places for the Spirit" (see my references). It has a nice informative intro and many beautiful African American garden photos in full page shots. Thanks for the discerning comment -- barbara

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  6. kay -- Nice to hear from you. Gardening sure is an art with all kinds of various designs. Like to ride by them around neighborhoods. I bet you do too. Thanks -- barbara

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  7. Michelle -- I know you enjoy gardens from reading your posts. Your posts always contain a rural slant that I so enjoy -- thanks for stopping -- barbara

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  8. There's a yard show near my home in Atlanta where stuffed animals are in the trees and displays celebrate the Atlanta Falcons and President Obama. The lady homeowner is happy to talk about her yard and welcomes photographs.

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    1. How interesting. Have you ever talked with the woman about her yard show? If you have I bet it would be fascinating to hear her interpretation. Yard shows are found across the U.S. but especially in the south. According to the author of Places for the Spirit, African American yard shows are declining in the south. Thanks for stopping by -- barbara

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  9. I just love it when people surround themselves with the things that give them pleasure. If you like it, then it becomes art.

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    1. Bernice is a good example of getting pleasure from her yard art. Thanks for stopping by -- barbara

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  10. So much loving care! Great find. Thanks for your investigatory work back at my place...!

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    1. Ken Mac -- Thank you for bringing such beautiful buildings to our attention on your blog. So much of our historic fabric is being lost every day. -- barbara

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  11. Thanks to you and to Beatrice! Wonderful post! And I look forward to exploring the reading list.

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    1. Vicki -- I think you will find all of the books listed fascinating. Thanks for the nice comment -- barbara

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  12. I'm over here from Naomi's blog. This is completely fascinating, something I know nothing about. It never occurred to me to think about garden traditions in this way.

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  13. Hattie -- thanks for the nice comment. Gardens of various cultures, before standardization through design books and magazines, were reflections of the particular culture they were indicative of -- such as German, African, Vietnamese, Native American, etc. In spite of standardization some cultural garden traits can still be found. -- barbara

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