Garden Art at Helen’s Haven

Posted by on January 12, 2011

Garden Art Curator
Helen is passionate about adding garden art to the private landscape, and teaching people how to do so effectively, enhancing both the garden and gardener. Through her contacts across the nation, Helen matches garden art to the right place in her client’s gardens. Helen has brokered sales from $100.00 to $200,000.


We always remember our first.  Mine, or at least what I thought of  as art at the time, was this molded resin thingy.  I actually still have it.  It’s important to keep these reminders of how far we’ve come, so we can look at how much we have grown. Not everyone is a lover of garden art, although I can’t understand why.

Art is personal and it takes a real skill to place art in the garden to best represent the art and the garden. The art and the garden should work together – whether it’s a focal piece, a color echo, or a piece that whispers for attention, tucked among the foliage and spied during a journey through the garden.

During the winter months, several of these whispering pieces need to be stored until the spring foliage returns, and only replaced in the garden when the art’s hiding place returns. Otherwise, the garden will begin to look like a garage sale.

My garden, Helen’s Haven, has about 25 pieces of what I think of as good garden art, and many more pieces that are better than average garden accents.   I’ve even included natural art and stone design by a notable designer, because his pieces demonstrate what I view as art. In my mind, the difference between garden accents and art is that art is handmade. Each person will define art differently. The garden art pieces presented on this page, represents my view.  As time permits and new pieces are found,  I will continue to chronicle  my garden art on this page.


For the first time in 17 years, I attended Tinka Jordy’s Annual Art in the Garden Sculpture Invitational.  I first learned of her work when touring at the North Carolina Botanical Gardens in Chapel Hill during their annual Sculpture in the Garden tour with the Garden Writers Association in 2009.  Her work drew me in immediately.

Her prices matched her talent, but not my pocketbook.  I needed to save for one of her pieces and knew I would not be able to afford a life sized piece. When I attended the tour, it was my goal to find a piece of her work that spoke to me, as well as, working within my budget.  To my surprise, there were several pieces from which to choose.  In the end, Moving Forward, moved me the most. Meeting Tinka for the first time, I found her to be delightful.  Before, I was an admirer from afar.  Today, I’m an admirer near and dear.



Thomas Sayre showing me how the model of Terrior goes together

Before Thomas creates earthcastings for clients, he takes his vision and forms a model of the commissioned piece.  He might created anywhere from 1 – 8 models until he is satisfied with the overall look of the design and to ensure he can work out any structural issues that may arise.  You see, Thomas’ works of art are larger than life.  The model Thomas is pictured here, is the one of the models for Terrior. In the photo, Thomas is showing me how to assemble the piece.  The final art piece is 30 feet tall.   Story on this earthcasting. The Sayre Garden

Disk model

Disk concept model is from a 2010 installation of public art in Oklahoma City.  From Thomas Sayre’s website,  Disk refers, in name and concept,  to an evolving Oklahoma.  The three rough, earth-cast concrete disks located to the south, refer to the rich past of Oklahoma’s relationship to the earth: of farming, of the land rush, and the State’s historic challenges. The intricate, shiny, stainless steel disk to the north speaks of new Oklahoma: of technology, craft, and ingenuity of the unknown future.  Disk seeks to provide new thoughtful spectacle for the passers-by on Lincoln Blvd.” Location: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Materials: Earthcast concrete, stainless steel, earth berms, lights “Disk”, © 2010, Thomas H. Sayre Commissioned by Oklahoma Art in Public Places


I first learned about Andy Fleishman from his wife’s stepping stones. Stamped on the side of each stepping stone was Kate Fleishman.  When I went to her studio to purchase some for a few of my clients,  I learned about Andy Fleishman.  Andy made a turtle, bunny, fish, snail, and other critters.  I was hooked  and I collected all he made.  I collected Kate’s cat stepping stone, as well.  Kate’s cat is a very popular designs that was (and probably still is) found in catalogues such as Plow & Hearth.

It’s an adventure going to the Flieshman’s studio  in Chatham Country, NC.  Or at least I think that was the county.  The lines blur in that part of North Carolina where Orange and Chatham seem to be the same, and yet so different.  It’s also been a very long time since I’ve been there.  Once Andy was picked up by  Ann Sacks, no doubt he moved on to doing too many other cool things other than stepping stones. I suppose so anyway.

During one of my visits there, he shared with me some of his other work.  Andy is an amazing artist working in concrete.  His polished work takes concrete to a whole new level.  Those pieces, although coveted, were out of my price range.  But the education of his work and to be able to admire his work in the raw surroundings of his property was priceless.

During one of my visits, haphazardly lying around his studio yard, were pieces that never came to be.  There were 5 interesting men he called The Kingsman. I may have the name wrong, but it’s at least close to that.  Andy made them to be a base for a table.  I don’t remember the details of what happen to the table, but there were not to be used.  I asked to buy all 5 pieces.  He sold me 4 saying he likes to keep one of everything he designs.  Deal.  The Kingsman sits in my garden and 3 others are in client’s gardens.  They only went to client’s who truly understood their worth and value.

A post script.  On February 12, 2011, I received an email from Andy.  Andy writes, I am still designing tile for Ann Sacks, working on two new lines, one in a different material. Andy also shared with me a new product he will be introducing.  In a word – Genius!  OK two words – Must Have.  Andy, so glad to hear from you.  I still think of the spillway structure in your pond.  I go there in my mind when I need a moment to refresh.  I wish you continued success.  If you ever have a showing, please remember me.


Steps into Mixed Border

I consider the steps through the Mixed Border in Helen’s Haven as garden art.  In my experience, anything Phil Hathcock designs and builds is art in its purest form.  Phil has an uncanny knack of flipping over a few rock to see what may be.

A second Phil Hathcock birdbath in the front Sidewalk Garden

Rock Standing on One Foot




Doug Sargent’s Arrangement

During each scouting trip  whether it is for personal pleasure or for work for Better Homes and Gardens or Country Gardens magazines, I look for great local garden art.  While in Buffalo for the 2010 Garden Blogger’s Fling, Urban Roots Community Garden Center was on our list of places to visit.  Here,  I found several pieces of  Doug Sargent’s sculpture, but I had to narrow down my choice to one piece.  This piece is called  Arrangement.



When I first heard of Joe Carnevale’s work, I wasn’t sure what to make of it.  And he was a bit of a renegade. On a lot of levels, that interested me and made me take notice. After he moved past the Barrel Monster phase, I was hooked on his very unique style of art.

At the NC State Fair, I saw a huge, larger than me,Praying Mantis made from recycled garden supplies and equipment.   That was when I was most definitely hooked.  After tracking him down, we talked about doing a commissioned piece.  With one revelation of my gradening style, in that I was a wildlife gardener, he suggested a hummingbird.  As so it was.

He got started right away with finals and graduation looming, he build Hummingbird.  Hummingbird was made for me with a weed-whacker, 3 lawn mowers, street signs, and some big ‘ole google eyes, all recycled.   The base to hold it is a lawn mower deck, with notches to raise the wheels, allowing for easy leveling.


Virginia Gibbons

Virginia Gibbons is the only artist of work I have, that I have not met.  I hope to meet her one day.  I found this piece from Virginia Gibbons in a garden I scouted checking out a Thomas Sayre patio design.  It also happened, the garden was opening for the Triangle Land Conservancy and the owner, also an avid garden art collector, was showcasing a few of Virginia Gibbons pieces.  This piece was one of many from Gibbons.  This piece of garden art spoke to me and now resides in the Red Bed of Helen’s Haven.


Lasting Impressions Leaf

The pair that make up Lasting Impressions are friends of mine. They are long time volunteers at the JC Raulston Arboretum, part of the team that make up the Border Babes. In 2008, I wrote a how-to story on making hypertufa troughs, for James Baggett, editor of Country Gardens magazine. From there, it went to the Better Homes and Gardens and also BHG’s website .  If judging from the number of hits this story has received (over a MILLION the first year), the making of hypertufas is a hot topic. Today, it continues to be one of their all time most popular stories visited on-line.



Jean McCamy’s Owl

Jean McCamy’s Cat

During the Larkspur Party held around the first weekend of each June, I met Jean McCamy.  I knew of her before we met because I’d seen her work in another garden while scouting for the Garden Conservancy.  I plan to add more of her work to my collection this year when I see her again  in June. During the 16th annual Larkspur Party I picked up two more animals by Jean McCamy — a bird for the savanna and a giraffe for the Mixed Border.




Color Stacked Totem

I found this color stacked totem at Niche Gardens in Chapel Hill, NC.  All I know of the artist is her name is Corey.  If you are reading this and know more about Corey, please share.

LISA OAKLEY Lisa Oakley’s work was first known to me whenI attending my first Larkspur Party,  I like her take on gazing balls.  A subtle garden accent, it has lasted about 3 years, despite the kids and their natural play.

Lisa Oakley blown glass ball


I found Deb Leonard at Larkspur.  As a nature lover and birder;  you can imagine why I was attracted to this piece of Deb’s work.

Deb’s concept in creating Wise Old Birds, based on, “The concept of birds as souls, embodying the human and cosmic spirit, is as widespread as the belief that there represent goodness, foreseeing immortality and joy.  The inspiration for these sculptures has come from my enjoyment of an d fascination in watching the different birds that visit our yard.

Theses Wise Old Birds come with human attributes mingled with thie bird forms, making them Wise Old Souls — perfect for the watching over the garden.” “Each Wise Old Bird has been hand formed & sculpted form stoneware clay.  It is mounted on an “Ironwood” (Carpinus caroliniana) stick which was yanked out of our beaver dams, hauled up a BIG, LONG hill, smoothed, cut, shaped, drilled & stained, [purple.]  Deb Leonard 919-554-3768.


Keith Keiper makes birdhouses form recycled materials.  A few times a year, particularly when the weather was nice, Keith would come the Raleigh flea market to sell.  That is were I first learned of him.  It’s been a while since I’ve seen him and he didn’t come up on a Google search.  I hope he is still producing his art and that one day I can add another piece to my collection.


It was more than getting caught up in the moment when I was asked to produce a story at for Country Gardens magazine at The Biltmore Estates covering the Tiffany exhibit.  The estate created gardens inspired by the Tiffany Lamps, using the dragonfly motif.   In the fine style everything Biltmore does, they also commissioned a regional glass blower to create dragonfly pot sticker to sell in the gift shop.  Once I learned of this, there was no question I would buy one.  Finding one was another story.  I got the last one, in the least likely place to buy it, but buy it I did.




ANTHONY ARKUS I saw it.  I liked it. I bought it.  I like this blacksmith’s work and thought it was cool.         I picked it up in Asheville, although Anthony Arkus is from PA.



It will do no good to go on about how much I miss Smith and Hawkins. For years, I put off getting these birds because, well, they were pricy. But in the end I got them. And now, of course, I’m glad I did. The pair have moved around the garden some, but now reside next to the fountain. It seems a good place for them to land.



Say what you wIll, but I value gnomes in the garden.


Helen  Yoest is an award winning writer and speaker through her business Gardening with Confidence ®.

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