Quirkiness is defined as something “peculiar” or “unexpected” although I have always tended to interpret it as harmless, mostly humorous, eccentricity.
Growing up in England, I found people were invariably labelled “eccentric” for being a little unusual, odd, different or peculiar.
Eccentric was the word people chose to describe you if you did or said things that were unexpected or if you had a slightly more quirky, off-the-wall way of looking at things.
These eccentrics were not condemned as mentally ill, insane or dangerous, just “different” and they were mostly accepted as “colourful characters” that made life a little more interesting.
In the garden, many people like to show their quirky side by installing unusual, strange, weird or oddly eccentric structures, sculptures and decorative pieces or by landscaping in unusual, surprising ways to create drama and impact and give a more lasting impression.
My next door neighbour when I was growing up in Nottingham, for instance, decided one day to concrete his entire front garden and divide it into various geometric shapes, each painted a different colour to create a startling work of abstract art.
After the patterns were painted, he populated the garden with gnomes doing various garden chores – digging, raking, pushing a wheelbarrow, clipping the hedge and so on.
From our side, we sneakily looked over the hedge to see what he had done and agreed that he was simply being “eccentric,” but we also accept what he had done as his freedom to express his own personal taste. In many ways, I think we were more tolerant back then than we are today.
However, it wasn’t long before the whole neighbourhood was gathering in front of this man’s house to see his new work of garden art. Like me, most thought he was just being eccentric.
Over the years, I have seen various other wild, weird, quirky, eccentric garden installations.
In France, it was amusing to find a garden where shrubs and hedges were used as sculptural components with human figures and driftwood animal forms poking out of them.
Nearby, I also found a garden with a heart-shaped leaf design in the centre and another where oil cans had been painted in bright colours and filled with ornamental grasses and then plonked on angles in a pool of water.
In Holland, I’ve seen trees dressed in multi-coloured sweaters. In Italy, I’ve seen the trunks of trees painted a rainbow of colours.
In England, I still love the quirky way local artists at the Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall created the Mud Maid, a sleeping earth goddess, using birdsfoot ivy to cover her body and crocosmia for her hair. Very creative.
In France, I was delighted to find a lawn with a giant mole sculpture in the middle. It was hilarious, if you weren’t serious about the importance of having a perfect lawn.
It has always been fun to see bicycles and beds turned into floral displays. I guess it is the idea of plants-on-wheels that makes a bicycle turned into a container garden so engaging.
And a “flower bed” is not a difficult leap to make imaginatively when someone literally mass plants, say lavender, within the frame of a bed. It always strikes me quirky and creative.
That was definitely not the case with the worst, most alarming expression of quirkiness I’ve come across in a French garden where endangered plants were placed in a hospital bed on life support with intravenous bags.
I guess it was all just a quirky way of getting across the idea that we need to be more environmentally sensitive and think about how we need to protect rare plants.
Generally, I like humorous displays, such as the one where a designer had placed a gorilla in the middle of a garden patio where people were nonchalantly enjoying an afternoon cocktail. Beastly intrusion, wot.
Anyway, here are few other images of quirky garden features that have caught my eye over the years.