Garden ornaments enhance outdoor beauty
GUILDERLAND — Nestled just off Route 20 in Guilderland, rows of statues wind around a building and overflow behind it into a scape of small fishing boys, jesters, cats, and busts of ancient Greek deities.
Renaissance Floral Design is surrounded by these statues, and the floral and event planning business also has a wide selection of bird baths, flower urns, and indoor décor.
David Michael Schmidt is the owner of Renaissance, and despite having no formal training in décor, he has been successful through teaching himself about indoor and outdoor decoration and aesthetics.
“I travel all over the United States to buy for my store,” he said. “I buy things I like.”
Schmidt has amassed a collection of garden ornamentation pieces including flower urns, statues, bird baths, and furniture made from a variety of materials such as cast iron, cement, and teak wood.
Spring and summer are the most popular months for people to come in looking for something, Schmidt said. “Lots of people come in wanting to fill a space in their garden,” and Schmidt makes suggestions, sometimes based on his knowledge of what the customer likes.
“I know most of my customers so well I can pick things I know they’ll fall in love with,” he said.
That personal knowledge comes in handy at a store with hundreds of statues, bird baths, and other ornamentation of varying sizes, materials, and subjects.
In choosing something for a specific space, Schmidt recommends knowing the maximum height of flowers or other plants that will surround the piece so it will always be a focal point and not become hidden among greenery.
Schmidt considers large urns a great way to display flowers, but knows filling them can be difficult. Instead of planting bunches of petunias or pansies, he recommends buying a hanging basket that is overflowing with full, colorful flowers, and simply transferring it into the urn with proper potting soil and fertilizer.
New York can be particularly inhospitable to outdoor garden ornamentation through all seasons, but Schmidt prides himself on carrying a plethora of items constructed to withstand the freezing winters all the way to the thaw and warmth of summer. If taken care of properly, a cast-iron statue can last up to 300 years, he said.
Many of the outdoor pieces at Renaissance are what Schmidt calls “estate” pieces, meaning they are meant to last through many generations.
He sells reproductions of statues that first appeared hundreds to thousands of years ago. The term, or terminal figure, has been around since ancient Greek and Roman times.
The name comes from the Roman god Terminus, who presided over boundary markers, even though termini were used before the Roman deities overshadowed the Greek ones. In ancient Greek vernacular, the tops of terminal busts were called hermathena, and were composites of Hermes and Athena, usually showing both of their profiles facing opposite directions and were often used inside the home.
Later on, the tops of termini didn’t necessarily feature a main deity, as sculptors opted for minor figures like Pan and the followers of Dionysus known as maenads, and made the move from being used in homes to being a staple of gardens owned by the wealthy, well into the 16th and 17th centuries in Europe.
Termini sometimes had little knob-like pieces protruding from the “shoulder” area, which were used to hang garlands of flowers or fruit for celebrations.
These pieces, like many others at Renaissance, help bring a historical flavor to any garden space, adding a focal point that will last for years to come.