Plants are the focus of most gardens in Newton, but sculptures also add humor and drama.
For example, on Homer Street, six giant chickens stand in front of a large green house. The red, yellow, blue, green and orange chickens range from 3- to 8-feet tall and are framed by dark evergreen shrubs. Donna Cohen, owner of the house and the colorful chicken statues, also keeps 15 live chickens in her backyard.
“I love chickens. They have great personalities,” she said. Cohen has even installed solar lighting to illuminate the sculptures at night and plans to add to the delightful decorations by installing a sound system to play chicken noises.
Nearby, John Overaker has created a dog-friendly garden in the front yard of his Colonial house on the Commonwealth carriage road opposite City Hall. A few years ago, Overaker installed a low faucet and puppy bowl filled with water for thirsty dogs walking along the street. When passersby said they were thirsty too, he added a stone water fountain for people. To complete his garden, Overaker added sunflower-themed benches and a stone plaque that reads “Welcome to the Carriage Lane Pooch & Puppy Bowl. The Paws That Refreshes.”
Many marathon runners, power walkers, leisurely strollers, and dogs have enjoyed this quiet place to sit and drink.
Motorists and walkers at the complex intersection of Chestnut, Valentine, and Highland streets in West Newton are treated to the exceptional beauty and grace of the statue “Child with Calla Leaves.”
This Art Nouveau-style statue is bronze with a bluish-green patina. Water cascades from the head of a winged cherub into a large receiving bowl decorated with leaves and vines. It is a replica of a statue designed in 1893 by Ann Whitney for the World’s Columbian Exposition. Whitney was a prominent sculptor, poet, and strong advocate of liberal social issues, including women’s rights, equal opportunities for African Americans, and forest conservation. The statue and garden on the traffic island are supported and maintained by the neighborhood community. The garden includes attractive low-maintenance species such as roses, pachysandras, spiraeas, day lilies, crab apples, and hostas.
“Game of Thrones” fans will appreciate the fanciful fairy rock garden of Laurie Halloran and Gary Bagnall the side of their Queen Anne Victorian house on the corner of Hunnewell and Elmhurst roads in Newton Corner.
“We wanted to create a rock garden that evokes the scenery of my home on the northern Irish coast across from Scotland,” said Bagnall.
The seven large upright stones in the middle of the garden represent the giant standing stones or megaliths that are found prominently in many areas of the United Kingdom, such as Stonehenge. A stream adds motion as it flows through the rock garden, with water supplied by a hidden pump. Water sounds from the stream reach the adjacent porch, creating a pleasant background soundscape. Massive flat stones, some weighing thousands of pounds, border the garden and provide a walkway. The fairy garden theme is emphasized by smaller fanciful fairy houses and sculptures placed unobtrusively among the plantings, which include brilliant orange flame azaleas and Solomon’s seal.
Wander Newton’s neighborhoods and you will see more sculptures. Dozens of plastic dinosaurs keep watch over a perennial wildflower garden on Gibbs Street in Newton Centre.
Arrangements of flowers, urns, pots, driftwood, stones, and small sculptures of frogs, mermaids, starfish, cats, dogs, and numerous other creatures add a fantastical flair to a front yard along Ward Street near the intersection with Exmoor Road. These and many other sculptures add unexpected joy and complexity to Newton’s gardens.
This is the eighth in a series on Newton gardens. The next article will focus on vegetable gardens; please let me know about your favorite vegetable gardens.
Richard B. Primack is a long-time Newton resident and a biology professor at Boston University. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org