Debra Prinzing

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Circles, spheres, orbs, and globes in my garden

June 14th, 2010

In the July 2010 issue of Better Homes & Gardens, I wrote a short item for my “Debra’s Garden” column called “Curves Ahead.” It could also have been titled “Three Cheers for the Circle.”

I am obsessed with round shapes — balls, spheres and orbs — and I love to dot the garden with these forms. This design trick relates to one of those basic lessons anyone who studies the art of landscape design is taught: Choose an idea and repeat it frequently.

My eye is naturally drawn to orbs and globes. They are so pleasing to me – in fact, I wrote about this passion previously – in an earlier blog post, “Zen of the Circle.”

Ornamental globes, obelisks and balls have taken up residence here in my Southern California backyard — check out the photograph below.

And it’s not just the three-dimensional geometry that puts a smile on my face. Curved outlines, such as the edge of a perennial border, patch of lawn or a turn in the path echo the orbs and reappear as arcs or crescents in the garden.

My interest in the sexy, organic globe shape has come “full circle” (pun intended) from a single idea to a cohesive design theme and a nice way to use ornamentation. Look around your own garden. Wherever you see a bare spot, perhaps it’s calling out for an orb or two.

I included a post-script note in my BH&G piece, promising to share my gallery of rounded and curved design ideas with our readers. Here it is – enjoy! Please send me your own photos and I’ll include the best ideas here, too. Check the bottom of this post for some of my favorite shopping resources.

My cluster of orbs in a dreamy palette of green, blue, and teal - with a wonderful mosaic orb by Vashon Island, Wash., artist Clare Dohna

A stunning, cool blue ceramic globe in a Yakima, Wash., garden. You can tell it is mounted on a pedestal to elevate it above the foliage.

Yes, these awesome orbs are actually vintage bowling balls. Each one rests on a painted flowerpot and is stair-stepped outside the porch of Berkeley, Calif., artist Marcia Donohue.

A finely-carved spiral woodworking detail appears at the end of a beam that forms the roof of a dining pavilion in our book, Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways.

The open circle - a "moon window" or "dreamcatcher" - provides a beautiful perspective in my friend Mary-Kate Mackey's Eugene, Ore., garden. It is mounted beneath an arbor where a hard kiwi grows.

My friend Kathy Fries designed a square-in-a-circle knot garden in her Seattle area landscape.

Plants like these golden barrel cactuses are naturally orb-like. You can see these at Lotusland, an estate garden in the Santa Barbara area.

This graduated set of concrete orbs just knocked me out when I first saw it in Sun Valley, Idaho a few summer's back. Thanks to my friend Mary Ann Newcomer, I got to visit some pretty amazing landscapes there.

A visit to any well-stocked garden center is likely to showcase the myriad choices of balls. I spotted a rainbow of gazing balls at Green Thumb Nursery in Ventura, Calif.

Restful, zen-like. Three types of moss are sculpted into a gravel garden display designed by Southern California landscape architect Graham Stanley.

Look for circular forms in public gardens - you'll find them. The arches of a lovely stone bridge are reflected in this pond to create an almost perfect circle. This bridge is at the classical Chinese Garden, recently opened at the Huntington Library, Art Collection and Botanical Garden in San Marino, Calif.

Artist Robert Irwin sculpted flowering azalea shrubs into a circular maze at the Getty Center in Los Angeles. The clipped, concentric circles bloom in white, pink and magenta flowers.

The pebbles in a path detail, arranged on edge and curved into an eye-pleasing pattern.

A round "carpet" laid with sand-set concrete cobble-style pavers. Designed for my Seattle friends Rand Babcock and Tony Nahra by Daniel Lowery of Queen Anne Gardens.

If stone isn't your thing, try turf. This tiny grass "throw-rug" appears in the Seattle backyard of landscape architect Erik Wood and designer Carina Langstraat

Wow! Metal obelisks - powdercoated in orange (or turquoise), designed by Annette Guttierez and Mary Gray from Potted, in Los Angeles (see ordering details below)

Best resources for spherical garden ornamentation:

Pot-ted Store: Three graduated sizes of balls made from steel strapping will lend a lovely moment of architecture to the landscape. I have the medium-sized one in weathered steel (my preferred material). Annette and Mary, owners of Los Angeles-based Pot-ted, now sell a series finished with bright orange and turquoise powder-coating – their fav hues. Oops – I mean “aqua” and “tangerine.” Inquire about custom colors! Prices: $98 (18-inches); $139 (24-inches); and $169 (30 inches). Shipping available.

Bauer Pottery Garden Orbs: My friend Janek Boniecki has revived the classic California earthenware known as Bauer Pottery. In addition to making reproduction urns, dishes and serving pieces (in that awesome, sun-drenched palette), Janek and crew also create ceramic garden orbs glazed in Bauer colors. Yellow, dove gray, French blue, Federal blue, chartreuse, lime green, midnight blue, parrot green, turquoise, white, black and aqua (for some reason, the Bauer orange pieces are slightly more expensive, perhaps because of the glazing involved).

I am a bit addicted to these “globally admired” orbs, thanks to the company’s occasional factory outlet sales in Los Angeles. I have five or six of these gumball-shaped objects, which look tres-bien in and among foliage, flowers, blades and stems. Prices: $75-$82 (8-inch); $100-$110 (12-inch); and $150-$165 (15-inch). If you think you’ll be in the Los Angeles area sometime, make sure to check the Bauer web site to see the warehouse sale schedule. You will definitely find great prices and maybe even an orb or two (if I don’t get there first!).

Clare Dohna, Mosaic Artist:  Based on Vashon Island, Wash., artist Clare Dohna makes vibrant mosaic tiles in dazzling botanical shapes (flowers, bugs, leaves and more). She uses these tiles to adorn the surfaces of all sorts of wonderful garden sculpture and art, such as bird baths, bird houses, egg shapes and — my favorite – mosaic spheres. You can see one of her pieces at the top of this page; it plays nicely with the solid-colored Bauer orbs. Contact Clare directly (from her web site) to inquire about color schemes and prices.

14 Responses to “Circles, spheres, orbs, and globes in my garden”

  1. Diane Jankowiak Says:

    Debra, I saw your article in the July issue of Better Homes and Gardens today, and thought I would share an idea with you regarding bowling balls in the Garden, such as the one Pictured in your article.

    I have acquired several bowling balls, and made gazing balls out of them for myself and family. You purchase enough half glass marbles, at the craft stores, such as Michael’s, to cover the ball. I then fill the finger holes with clear water proof caulk and marbles, then you cover the ball with the marbles using the caulk, and then let it dry, and then you can put it on a gazing ball stand, or make a stand from clay pots also glued together, and painted if you want to, or simply lay then on the ground. If you would like a picture of these, I will be glad to send you some. They make great gifts.

  2. debra Says:

    Hi Diane,

    Thanks for writing! I’d love to see pics of your cool bowling-ball “makeovers” – sounds like a really creative way to add round shapes as focal points to the garden. Thanks for sharing the idea. If you send me pics, I’ll post them here.

  3. Christina Salwitz Says:

    Wonderful idea for a post Debra! Circles have recently become “a thing” for me too! Thinking about my own little “throw rug” lawn in back right now.
    Lovely pics too- thank you!

  4. Lorene Says:

    Circles just seem like a smile in the garden! I was thinking of you on Sunday when a few of us made a side trip to Marcia’s garden…great fun.
    .-= Lorene´s last blog ..Edible Heirlooms – a book review =-.

  5. Debra Prinzing » Blog Archive » Food for the Wild: best plants for hummingbirds & butterflies Says:

    […] Contact « Circles, spheres, orbs, and globes in my garden […]

  6. Debra Prinzing » Blog Archive » More spheres in my garden Says:

    […] a follow-up to my last post about round objects in the landscape, I thought I’d show off a few more of my spherical works of art, from my backyard. You can […]

  7. Kathy Says:

    I love spheres in my garden and was so excited when I saw you had a website. I had a Better Home and Gardens magazine from a year ago, which showed glass floating balls in a water feature. I loved how these looked and though “how am I going to find these glass floaters” I was so excited when I wend to the Madison, WI Art show and a artist had a ton of these beautiful floaters and showed them in a water feature.

    In my garden the water feature is one of my favorite spots and I love the colored floating balls. I can’t wait to buy some more.

  8. Kathy Says:

    I see on your website you have floating balls in your water feature, can you tell me where you purchased them from?

  9. Eb Says:

    I love the idea of recycling bowling balls into garden art. How cool is that?

    To Diane Jankowiak:
    I would love to see pics of those gazing balls. Can you e-mail some to me at

  10. Vicki M Says:

    would also be very interested in learning where to purchase the floating balls for my water feature!!! Thanks in advance.

  11. Linda Says:

    In the July BH&G issue and above you feature the three dark blue ceramic orbs which are not shiny like the ones I see on the Bauer website. Where did you get those?

    Thank you!

  12. Debra Prinzing » Blog Archive » Concrete orb how-to Says:

    […] posted two photo galleries of spherical ideas, emphasizing design principles for using circular and round elements in the […]

  13. Mortimer Brewster Says:

    Pretty impressive. Is there a word for people who are fascinated with orbs, globes, balls, spheres? I am one.

  14. Nancy Reineke Says:

    Just finished pouring cement into some old globe light fixtures. Question 1) How long do they have to sit in the globes before I crack the glass? Question 2) One of the globes I poured has cracked. Is there a particular reason for that? I’m sure looking forward to seeing the results.

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