Flowering plants, winding paths, waterfalls and ponds fill the front garden of Richard Jarel's east Medford home. That's generally enough visual stimulation for most gardeners. Although this creative spirit enjoys the garden for its flowers and features, he wasn't really satisfied until he added art.
Richard is a professional artist, and his kinetic sculptures are sited next to Medford's city hall and at ScienceWorks in Ashland. So when he bought the former home of water garden designer Tonja Andreatta, he knew he'd found a home for his collection.
"When I first saw the place I thought of sculpture. This [garden] creates the perfect backdrop," he says of the tree-shaded spot.
A clue to the magic of the garden within lies along the fence bordering the front of the home: butterfly bush, daylilies, stonecrop, viburnum and heucheras offer color and blooms. A water cascade provides movement, motion and a home for a rocking, spinning sculpture. Suddenly, the sculpture spills water into the cascade, and its motion shifts direction. The copper color belies its plastic construction, but reveals Richard's genius with modern materials and his careful eye for color.
Once in the driveway, the woodland scene is apparent through a rustic fence. Effective design allows the relatively small space to hold many features. Flagstone paths wind among raised beds constructed of river rock. The color palette around a shaded pond and waterfall is subtle and natural, with wildflowers like columbine. "They're like little fairies, with little trailing tails behind them," says Richard. Hostas and colorful Japanese ferns are planted amid the rock. Hydrangea, rhododendron and pachysandra thrive in this shady part of the garden. A bird's nest fir is surrounded by a variety of ferns.
"I like seeing the stone and patterns it makes. I'm a contrast and shape person," he says.
One of the two waterfalls disappears into a dry pond. The other pond, full of water, koi and goldfish, supports vibrant water lilies in pink/orange, white and yellow. An arbor supports an evergreen clematis, which not only produces a profusion of white blossoms in the spring, but an intoxicating fragrance as well.
The koi ponds present the usual problems with hunting herons. After loosing three big fish, Richard installed a motion activated rainbird for the fish's defense. Being an artist, the next step in protection is much more creative: a kinetic sculpture that moves randomly and spurts water from the pond on detecting motion.
Carefully placed sculptures anchor the garden's corners. Many are the prototypes from Richard's larger installations. Artistically, he creates interest with form married to random movement. Many are activated by wind or water, but the powered sculptures take the same energy as a 60 watt light bulb. While he attends to the aesthetics, his partner Tresa King, takes care of maintenance issues like fertilizing. "She knows way more than I do."
Together they've planted 400 bulbs and about 200 other plants. In the spring, the color explodes with about 400 red tulips. The garden offers something blooming all the time. "Just when your heart is broken that some flower is going down, another plant will get your attention," Richard says.
An example is along the front patio. Marigolds fill the bed with blooms in mid-summer through frost; in spring it stars tulips and yellow and white varieties of daffodil. Ever-bearing strawberries make a great border plant, and are evergreen and a sweet treat to boot.
The large rocks double as seating. "We just come out here and it's heavenly," says the busy sculptor.
"This is my saving grace. It's one of the few ways I can slow down."