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: Gardening: Ornamental Overtures; Please send club diaries and gardening queries to Peter Surridge, PO Box 37, Hoylake CH47 1WA.

Byline: Peter Surridge

DO you take gardening too seriously? I certainly do. What with trying new plants, planning extra features and trying to keep everything immaculate, I sometimes forget gardening is supposed to be a pleasure.

So this week's column is a strictly frivolous look at garden sculpture to remind me and other gardeners to have some fun - with nearly pounds 200-worth of prizes to help you enjoy yourselves.

With statues and ornaments made of wood, stone, metal and glass springing up in gardens across the country, I approached the organisers of Southport Flower Show, who have adopted sculpture as a theme for this year's event, and asked if they had found that the choice of sculpture provided an insight into people's characters?

``The way a person designs his or her garden says a lot about the personality, and sculpture is exactly the same,'' said Mike McLeod, the show's general manager.

``Whether you're an introvert or an exhibitionist it comes across in the materials and shapes that you choose.''

As luck would have it, the team behind the country's largest independent flower show - and the North's major horticultural event - has assessed the purchasers of some of the most usual examples of sculpture found in British gardens today. By considering each one's appeal to the gardener and the use to which it is put, the survey has matched common garden ornaments to personality traits.

Gargoyles, they admit, are pretty uncommon outside of stately homes, but examples can still be found in most garden centres. Gargoyle owners like to portray an air of mystery, with their choice of garden ornament illustrating a ``deep and meaningful'' personality.

Garden gnomes, it seems, are so out they're in. With many garden shows, including those run by the Royal Horticultural Society, refusing entry to gnomes, it seems snobbery has driven these traditional favourites into the wilderness.

But gnome lovers cannot be deterred. They are stubborn, contrary and more than happy to fly in the face of fashion. Most of all they have a great sense of humour.

Sculpted fountains and waterfalls are a popular choice with loners. They love nothing more than enjoying peace, tranquillity and solitude with just the sound of running water for company. Water feature fans, the Southport team reckons, know exactly how to avoid the pressures of everyday life and handle stress with ease.

A birdbath is sure sign of a nature lover. These people love the countryside and want a little piece of it for their own garden, even if they live right in the middle of a city.

Caring and considerate, these gardeners have a real yearning for the great outdoors. Look carefully and you will probably find other statues of squirrels or hedgehogs hidden between shrubs.

Of course, nobody uses a sundial to tell the time any more, but these ancient timepieces are still a popular feature in many gardens. Sundials are the choice of romantics. Their gardens have a real sense of history, having usually been built up over many years.

More abstract sculpture is likely to be a passion of the fashion-conscious gardener. Metal is an increasingly popular material for planters and ornaments, adding a touch of the 21st century to even the most ancient of plots.

Abstract fans live for the day, throwing themselves whole-heartedly into things before moving on to something else very quickly.

The use of topiary is a clear indication of creativity. Enthusiasts are loath to buy something off the shelf, preferring instead to take their time over a creation of their own. However, creating topiary can be a long job, with large designs taking years to complete. But rest assured, I was told, a topiary fan has the patience of a saint.

The fact that ornamentation is a theme at the Southport show is evidence of its popularity with the nation's gardeners. There will be numerous sculpture displays, ranging from traditional topiary to willow designs and from arty to humorous.


STATUE FOR; SOUTHPORT: Top - a too-serious gardener?; GLORIOUS GARDEN:; One of the show's creative exhibits
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jul 13, 2002
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