Sunday, March 11, 2018

All about spheres

Looking at photos of the garden, you might have noticed cement balls placed in strategic spots. These are chiefly ornamental, although they also serve practical purposes. Their use is even historical.

I first saw such spheres in  photos of Victorian gardens reproduced in Des jardins oubliés, 1860-1960 by Alexander Reford, a collection of photos of Quebec gardens taken between 1860 and 1960. Here is a good example:

 ISBN 2-551-18097-X
Photo reproduced from Des jardins oubliés 1860-1960 by Alexander Reford 

I expect that in the past such balls had mostly practical purposes. In the photo above,  they would have protected the plant border from vehicles (horse-drawn carriages) as they circled  this magnificent island bed (a testament to what Victorian gardeners could achieve with annual bedding plants) to reach the front door. In fact, next to the balls in the above photo, you can actually see marks left in the gravel by such carriages.

Photos reproduced from Des jardins oubliés 1860-1960 by Alexander Reford 

The purpose would have been the same in the above examples: making sure no one took a short cut across the planted areas. Placing them at the intersection of two roads makes for a classical, balanced use of ornaments. The balls frame the space, serving as markers.

We have similar cement balls in the garden. They serve the same purpose of protecting the planting and better defining the space by framing it.

Used singly, as in the two pictures below, they can act as a focal point that brings together unrelated elements and anchors the view. They are eye-catching because of the strong contrast between the permanence of the concrete and the ever-changing plants through the seasons.

They can also be used in various fashions as a finials.

Finally, you can see them as a connection to the past, a link between contemporary gardens and gardens from previous centuries.


  1. You wrote about garden balls once before, and shortly thereafter I read how to make them. We never did, and now we have a new garden.
    That appears to be a stand of colchium there in the last picture.

    1. I hope I didn't repeat myself!
      You are right about the colchicum

  2. I often use the natural boulders to limit lawns around beds, Alain. The problem is to cut the grass near them. Yours look nice.

    1. You are right. One of the advantages of balls is that you can roll them off when you are mowing and roll them back in place when you are finished mowing.

  3. This gives me a good idea...enjoy your blog...

  4. Alain this IS very interesting .. I would not have guessed about the historical connection if it were not for your post here. A very practical and artistic usage indeed !
    Strangely enough I found instructions on how to make them by pouring cement mixture into a round light fixture ... letting them set and then just breaking the glass around them .. I am almost tempted to try it out now .. I like this post very much. Well done you !

    1. This is actually how I made these but was hesitant to suggest a technique that requires breaking glass!


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