Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Rock Pirate and the Artist: Appreciating Garden Art.

I'm not a fan of yard art. To me, the phrase “yard art” evokes images of tired bathtubs repurposed as front lawn container gardens, filled with petunias. Perhaps a neighboring toilet is its companion, displaying fire-engine red geraniums.

My yard art snobbery might stem from my mother, who grew up in a rural area where bathroom fixtures likely frequented lawns. Maybe my aversion comes from my inability to decorate our house—I'm missing that gene that coordinates window treatments and area rugs. Whatever the reason, I've never paid much attention to yard art.

Until now.

Welcome to Wamboldtopia.

For four days, I abandoned my family and my endless garden tasks. Instead, I self-indulgently galavanted around Asheville, North Carolina with the Garden Bloggers' Fling—a group of approximately 90 passionate garden folks who—you guessed it—blog about gardens.

A tireless group of organizers arranged garden tours, receptions, dinners, and most popularly, incredible ice cream from The Hop. (Holy salted caramel deliciousness. I think a weekly road trip to Asheville is on my agenda.) While this was my first Fling, it was the fifth annual event, with the next Fling slated for San Francisco in 2013.

We bounced our way on a school bus (I had the ever-popular-as-a-kid, now not-so-kind-as- an-adult back of the bus hump) to the first garden, where we found...

The Rock Pirate.

An apt name for Ricki Pierce, a man who creates amazing structures from stone. Arches, walkways, fences, ponds...all sporting exquisite, extravagant stone work.

If you've ever worked with stone, you understand—this garden wasn't built in a day.

Yet, the gracefulness of Pierce's stonework and its seamless transitions into the surrounding landscape tease the garden guest into thinking: we need this pond in our garden. (Warning, Peter: new project idea!)

Entering Wamboldtopia is daunting—you don't know where to look first. Pierce's stonework is a show stealer—but tucked into every nook and corner is a surprise, some delightful...

...others disturbing.

Interplaying with the stonework is the art of Damaris Pierce

To quote her website, Wamboldtopia is a place where the “...perfect imperfection of life is allowed to evolve and flourish in all its mystery.”

Mysterious it is. Skeletons...

...fairy hideaways...

...guardians of the garden...

...gnome adversaries...

...and inspiration abound.

Stumbling upon certain displays can be unsettling.

(“Mommy, “ asked Kristen when looking at photos from my trip, “are those really James Sprouse's bones?” Hmmm. Good question. I'd rather not know.)

Others provide sheer delight.

For plant purists expecting an orderly display of the latest, greatest hybrids, Wamboldtopia shocks the senses. Instead, the painstakingly created natural garden provides an ideal marriage of blooms...

...and bizarre.

From the barren house and yard acquired in 1999...

...to the lush, funky, provocative, garden created with passion by the Pierces...

...Wamboldtopia is a labor of love.

Gardeners and artists can agree to the saying which greets guests of Wamboldtopia:

Wamboldtopia. FIlled with light of inspiration, passion, and creativity.

More gardens to come...but now, I must visit our garden. After all, we'll have visitors from the CFSA Farm Tour here in less than two weeks—oh my.

XO ~



  1. What a great write-up of our visit to Wamboldtopia, Julie. I enjoyed getting to know you at dinner and hope to see you next year in San Francisco!

  2. Great post! You saw so many things that I did not (the skull in the wall, the grave marker, etc.)

  3. I really enjoyed reading your take on this garden, Julie. Nice job! I'm glad I got to spend a little time getting to know you at the Fling. What fun! Hope to see you again soon.

  4. Julie, you've wonderfully captured the experience of visiting Wamboldtopia! It was an amazing place.

    Have fun with the CFSA tour -- I just printed out the program and hope to make a few stops on my way back 'up the hill' on Saturday.


  5. Great posting, Julie. Your photos turned out beautifully and I loved your commentary.

  6. Great pictures and views of this garden. I missed the Fling this year, so I really appreciate this post! I think I would have loved this garden.

  7. Oh Julie, how wonderful that there is so much that I missed...thanks!!! How did I miss the 'before' picture? Utterly incredible transformation. Super pictures, as always. We need to get together soon. I know everyone will LOVE your place on the farm tour. take care.

  8. Oh gosh your words and photos are just perfect! I love the pictures of Ricki and Damaris-super good shots. That outfit he wore in our honor was a special touch. You saw so much more than I did-what a good eye.

    I enjoyed so very much getting to know you from the first night to the last! Now if we both go to the Charleston one we will already know one another and get started early.

  9. You have summed it up very well, Julie. It was a joy to see Wamboldtopia through your eyes and your heart.


  10. And the next layer of the Fling begins, seeing it all again with fresh (and rested) eyes. Thank you for seeing things I was too overwhelmed to catch.

  11. I enjoy your take on Wamboldtopia! I did not see the skull in the wall! There was so much to take in that I did not want to leave. Smart you snapping a pic of the before. I never thought of that and it really does show how much work has gone into this place in such a short period of time. A Labor of Love for sure... Nice meeting you and hopefully we shall see each other again some day...

  12. Thanks so much for stopping by, Flingers! @Pam, Daricia, and Janet--I so enjoyed our dinner! @ Philip, Tina, Skeeter, and vbdb--I may have seen the skull, but guess who didn't notice the immense dragon that greeted us? I can't believe I didn't see it until reading others' posts! @Lisa, I'm anxious for a trip to the Botanical Gardens--it's been more than a year, but I suppose I have to wait until the tour is done. Too much to do in the next week--eek! @Frances and Dirt Diaries--I think I was a bit shell-shocked at Wamboldtopia--so much to take in, and I (obviously) missed some things. @Alison--I'm so sorry you missed the Fling. It was my first, but it definitely won't be my last!

  13. Great ideas, like always! I am very much impressed with your work..

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  14. i think you captured the place perfectly julie, well done! so nice to meet you on the trip! andrea