Designs, Tricks, and Schemes

Gazing Globes: Yeah or Nay?

Gazing_Ball_at_Breda_Cloisterphoto by Les Hutchins

The New Jersey town I grew up in was carved out of farmland in the 60s. There weren't a lot of older houses, and what older houses there were, were generally simple Victorian farmhouses.  So, the one stylish 20s brick Tudor near a major crossroads was unusual.  Even more unusual was its garden, with topiary yews and high hedges, and all kinds of other things never seen in New Jersey suburban gardens: rooms, paths, geometry, painted gnomes, and blue gazing globes.  From the road, the whole thing looked like a super-sharp miniature golf
course. It was clearly the garden of a childish old person. It was…magical.

I have wanted a blue gazing globe ever since.  But I never buy one because A. my husband thinks they are the tackiest of all possible garden ornaments, and B. this makes me feel that if I do buy one, it had better be super-nice.

Unfortunately, I can never find the right stand for a gazing globe.  Once, in a magazine ad, I saw a white painted cedar stand with trellising on its sloped sides.  It was very crisp and Nantucket-y, a very Protestant stand to silence all critics of the flagrantly showy gazing globe. "The gazing globe," this stand announced, "is a classic."

But I failed to track down that stand, and have never seen another.  Yesterday, wandering in a local nursery in a post-deadline daze, I was very tempted, again, by a blue gazing globe. My choices of stands were, again, unfortunate: either the ugly ceramic bottoms of bird baths, or too spindly and industrial-looking iron.

I suddenly thought, well, maybe the iron would be okay, if it were hidden behind some stocky perennial.  But I couldn't make up my mind, and so I march on into middle age, still, oddly enough, without that gazing globe I have wanted since childhood.

Posted by on June 29, 2010 at 5:25 am, in the category Designs, Tricks, and Schemes.
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43 Responses to “Gazing Globes: Yeah or Nay?”

  1. naomi says:

    Must it be on a stand? Can’t you just roll it into a border, an unexpected surprise? Or is part of having one that memory of one on a stand? Go for it – what an easy pleasure to fulfill, and life is too short with too many hurts to deny such an innocent lust.

  2. Katherine says:

    agree with poster above–I see them stand-less all the time in VT, usually at the edge of a border. No one ever said they had to be on a stand. :-)

  3. Sandy says:

    I love gazing globes! I have a couple, one blue that my daughter brought back from Mexico on a vacation, for me, carried it the whole plane trip on her lap from California to Missouri. Not round like most, it is eliptical. Coolest stand I ever saw for one was an arm with a cupped hand, in bronze…..with a price tag I would have had to mortgage my house to buy! Mine is now in a patch of red milkweed, on an old plastic birdbath stand I rescued from a landfill. Maybe a cool stand…someday!

  4. Janet M. says:

    Make your own tufa gazing ball stand!

    My husband thinks pink flamingoes are the tackiest ever – but I think they’re a thumb in the eye to garden snobbery. Perhaps I draw the line at planters made from whitewashed tired with jagged edges – although I have seen a whole line of them in a yard in Eastern NC that looked – well, pretty cool!

  5. Jan says:

    I like spheres in the garden, but not gazing balls and definitely not elevated on a stand. I put my old bowling ball (blue, marbly colored) on the ground peaking out from some hostas. I think when globes are on stands, from a distance they look like they are hovering, and from up close you notice the stand. I say skip the gazing ball and stand and get a concrete sphere instead.

  6. John says:

    I once bought a cheap gazing globe at a junk store. It was supposed to be metallic silver but whatever they had used to paint the inside of the glass sphere had started to flake off, leaving it more like a really old, worn out christmas tree ornament. At that same store I found a big bag of small peel and stick gift bows made of a silvery ribbon that did the prismatic thing when exposed to strong light – like laser rainbows. I stuck the bows to each other back to back and stuffed them inside the gazing globe til it was full of them. Placed out in the ornamental grasses, when the sun was shining it certainly drew your eye.

  7. Pam J. says:

    I pretend to be outraged at the word “tacky.” I pretend that I’m so open-minded that nothing is really tacky to me. But I’m a big hypocrite. Garden globes? Tacky.

  8. Kaviani says:

    They are kinda tacky, but they could fit in well in a putt-putt type of setting like the author mentioned.

    The most tastefully presented one I’ve seen was on a bamboo or wooden tripod covered with pole bean vines of some sort. And the globe was silver, not blue.

  9. emily says:

    This post took me back more years than I’d want to say. I remember as a small child in the back of a car, looking at the houses as we drove past and being absolutely fascinated by gazing balls. I, too, have never had one.

  10. Patti in NNY says:

    They’re only tacky when stuck out alone in the middle of a lawn on a pedestal like some sort of homage to mystical gypsy fortune telling. I like gazing balls when tucked into perennials beds. I don’t know if they can be really considered gazing balls, but I’ve made a few by glueing those colored glass crafters beads to old bowling balls.

  11. lifeshighway says:

    What is the matter with tacky? I love tacky in small doses. And I love it in big displays of wanton abandonment. I get the childhood yard ornament desire. My own is the seahorse birdbath. Over the top southern kitsch at its finest.

    Get the big blue ball. Buy it and the stand will come.

  12. Karen Russ says:

    I agree with Naomi. Skip the stand. Usually when gazing globes look tacky, it’s the stand or location (plopped in the middle of a lawn for instance.) Gazing globes can look great just set into a section of border.

    You could also use a stand that is just a very slender support, such as a piece of padded rebar (paint so it blends into foliage) so that you can position the globe hovering within the border, stand obscure. Move with the border’s seasonal change.

    One of the most beautiful uses of globes that I’ve seen was clusters of various sized and related color globes hanging from trees.

  13. Get it! Unless it’s dangerous, you ought to be able to put what you want in your own garden. A little old lady down the street from me fills a dozen hanging baskets in her trees (in the front yard) with red plastic flowers. Of course, they are awful, but I love that she’s CELEBRATES them so! Go for it!

  14. Kate says:

    I think they’re tacky, but also, like other posters, am fascinated by them! My grandmother has one nestled next to her azalea bush, and it looks fantastic.

    Most importantly, I don’t think it matters what trends or conventional wisdom dictate or not, its your garden – if you like something, get it. If other people don’t like it, well then they don’t have to come to your garden anyways!

  15. Hap says:

    I have harbored a secret covetousness of them ever since seeing a ancient lichen encrusted gilt gazing globe, lost in my great Aunt’s rambling garden as a bored child on a family visit… It resided like an alien artifact or dragon’s egg, forlorn and abandoned on a stone pillar near the equally strange wisteria tower (an amazing wisteria spiral that had subsumed a cottonwood tree and survived structurally, after the strangled tree died and rotted away…). I was small enough to climb through the huge vine trunks to get in to the interior and climb the chimney of vines to a surprising height… much to my mother’s dismay, since she had dressed me in my sunday best, to visit Great Aunt Sylvia. But I was only five or six at the time and had visions of finding the goose that laid golden eggs at the top…

    If I ever find a gazing globe that has such an amazing patina I might give in, after all I recently came home from a trip to the dump with a delightfully battered bowling ball named “Denise” which is now tucked in the cacti in my front garden

  16. peg37771 says:

    If you want a blue gazing globe that badly, you must have it–to hell with what anyone else thinks. Don’t agonize over what to mount it on, grab anything that pleases you even remotely, and let time work out the rest. Sometimes it’s fun to have a garden secret–tuck your globe away where only you know it’s there and in a spot where you will enjoy it. I have a rabbit figure, a dreadful resin one, not a nice one, but so cute, under some hostas that I pass everytime I get in my car. Only I know it’s there, and somehow that enhances the guilty pleasure I get from it.

  17. peg37771 says:

    Garden designer Tara Dillard (www.taradillard.com) has great ideas about how to display objects in a garden–”just let it touch” is one of her guidelines; that is, tuck your gazing ball into foliage that just touches it. Then it looks integrated into the garden. You could also mount it on a low pedestal rather than the usual taller one. In the end, though, you must do what pleases your eye and makes your heart sing: that’s what a garden is for!

  18. Lisa, Ontario says:

    I also think stand-less. Tucked into the border I agree with everyone else that they can be a nice little surprise. Something to discover, isn’t that the sign of a really good gardener? You have to discover things, everything isn’t in your face. But the one with patina and lichen, ohhhhh that would be truly lovely.

  19. Sheila says:

    Good lord! Someone buy this woman a gazing globe already!

  20. Ginny says:

    I have a pretty blue glass hummingbird feeder that looks very much like a small gazing ball. It doesn’t work well as a hummingbird feeder (drips all the time) but it’s a nice piece of garden art – no stand – it hangs from a small shepherd’s crook.

  21. Lochlanina says:

    There was always something magical about garden globes and in particular one garden globe filled garden that we used to pass on our way to church every Sunday when I was a child. To a five year old the fascination does not go away simply because your parents say “That’s so tacky.” — actually, at that age I was not sure that tacky was such a bad thing as my parents made it sound. True I have never bought a globe for my own garden (if I did I would leave it on the ground beside a plant not put it on a stand) I have lost some of my fascination with them over the years.
    … but I AM currently being teased unmercilessly by my entire family because I expressed my desire for a garden gnome. A small tasteful one, with a bright red hat. One that would peak out from under bushes or behind perennials and suggest the world is a happier, more carefree place than we dour grown-ups ever permit ourselves to think it is. Just one little gnome to hide in the garden… but even the suggestion of getting a gnome has led to ridicule. Oh the scorn that whimsey envokes!

  22. sara says:

    I hadn’t really thought about a gazing ball, but if I had one it would be on a tripod, amongst my salvias (by then they’d be much taller, hope hope hope), and black nightshades. I don’t care if it is tacky or not, but a gazing ball brings to my mind fortune-telling, or at the least a pool of water for scrying.

  23. Michelle D says:

    A sphere is a classic iconic shape.
    Nothing garish about it.
    The stand on the other hand is usually where the gaudy-ness comes in.

    Point in case, your picture. The stand is horrid.
    The sphere is simple , classic and timeless.

    Lose the stand, nest the sphere in a thicket of foliage for an artistic statement.

  24. emily says:

    It’s hard to predict what people will think. I live out in the woods in a place reminds of dragons (primarily as portrayed in movies). So I got a fake dragon skull and put it by the front door. My then teen-aged sons thought it was fun. Then I found out that the Welcome Wagon lady was afraid to come to our house because she thought we were devil worshippers. Which we’re not. We just have a fake dragon skull.

  25. Laura Bell says:

    I don’t like them myself, but my garden is primarily utilitarian (everything must have at least one useful function, preferably more). Never found a use for reflective globes beyond making me look even more like Humpty Dumpty than I usually do. Thus, none of those in the place where I go to relax & forget my anxieties.

    But we all deserve to have our little bits of tackiness, childhood whimsy, garden bling, what-have-you. For me it’s a garden gargoyle (not cute, either), a statue of St Fiacre, patron of gardeners, and – someday – a junkyard dog sculpture (made of cast-off garden implements).

    How much of the gardening does your husband do ? That’s how much say he should have in the decision to add a gazing ball to your design. Tuck it somewhere you’ll see it more than he, and call it your guilty pleasure. I agree with many others here – the stand & location have the power to make it or break it. Get the sphere & the stand will come. Or not. Either way you will love it !

  26. Gene says:

    Do they float? All this discussion makes me curious, I’d put it in my tiny fish pond.

  27. Nora G says:

    Like most design elements, context and simplicity is key. Gazing balls can be tacky, of course, but can be beautiful too! I have a large silvered glass ball sitting atop a rusted cast-iron Victorian pot, which is itself resting on a simple, lichen-encrusted stone plinth. The arrangement is in the centre of a small clearing in my shaded woodland garden, and adds a mellow silvery glow to that area of the garden.

    I say get the globe, and try it out in different parts of your garden until it feels right. Start simple (no dedicated stand) and go from there.

  28. anne says:

    Seems like most people find the stands tacky, not the gazing ball itself. I would put it on an old stump, or an appropriate rock in the garden, to be stumbled upon like a treasure. I love garden “secrets”. I have little plastic cowboys, indians and soldiers, dinosaurs and farm animals that my now-grown kids cast off, tucked away in spots through the garden. You can’t see them by just looking; you have to get up close.

  29. Tibs says:

    Never lusted for a gazing ball, but the tacky thing I want is white wrought iron benches that circle a tree trunk. I have a tree big enough. I probably should get black since I have a black iron gate, but I want white.

    My sister found 2 pink flamingos in the basement of the house they bought. She knitted them little ski caps and scarfs in red and white stripes and put them out for their Christmas decorations. She also has a gazing ball, actually a bowling ball because it is unbreakable.

    And I agree, get your gazing ball and tell your husband to suck it up. (you obviously have not been married as long as me, my husband knows never to question any gardening decision. MY garden. You are here to mow the ever decreasing lawn and provide any muscle needed. No opinions.)

  30. susan harris says:

    Wonderful, hilarious comments, y’all. And I’ll weigh in to say: Buy the damn globe! No stand, though.

  31. Rosella says:

    Drat it! Now I want two pink flamingos so I can knit them little hats and scarves! I agree –Elizabeth, get the gazing ball and enjoy it and if anyone says “tacky”, say “yes, isn’t it wonderful?”

    I find myself thinking about a cement goose for the front walk; I could sew little aprons for her, with embroidered carrots on the pocket. I must go lie down in a darkened room now.

  32. Deirdre says:

    I have a gazing globe like a big, irridescent pearl. It is great for lighting up a shady corner. You’re right about the importance of the stand. The stand is key. I found a cement one in a simple, Romanesque style. It broke my heart when the globe broke during my last move. It took two and a half years, but I finally found a new one, and am very happy. My husband isn’t thrilled with garden ornament in general, but so long as it isn’t too prominantly displayed, he’s okay. My “pearl” is under the big fir tree where I sit in summer.

  33. I think it adds sweetness and character to the garden when you see something tucked in that isn’t exactly sophisticated but that is meaningful to you. I kept a faded cement squirrel near the base of my evergreen clematis at my old house that I just loved. It was missing its back legs and looked a little sinister to my friends, but I couldn’t part with it-embrace your inner tacky!

  34. Pam/Digging says:

    For heaven’s sake, get yourself a blue gazing ball already! Just tuck it in among similar or contrasting colored foliage, and it’ll look beautiful and mysterious.

  35. Heavens, do what you love. Who cares what people think. Conviction is the best designer. I have an oversized, old plastic silver ‘gilt’ globe that I bought in an after-Christmas sale. I tuck it here and there and love the convex mirrored effect in my tiny garden.

  36. Amy Stewart says:

    I have a friend who mounted bowling balls on copper pipes from the plumbing store. They were awesome.

  37. rochelle says:

    no blue. no stand. and not too small. All these are quite tacky…. Clean Clear stainless steel, over sized (at least a foot in diameter), perhaps grouped with a few friends, and used as a focal point then ok.

  38. Lisa, Ontario says:

    I also have a strange urge now to find flamingo’s and knit hats for them. That will have me chuckling for days. My neighbours would love it, they already watch to see what I’m going to do next.

  39. Marie Tulin says:

    It is all ok. It is your garden.

  40. greg draiss says:

    NAY NAY NAY
    As in NAY ON O’BAMA
    Nay on this economy
    Nay on can any politician get my trust.
    NAY NAY NAY
    All gazing balls should be shot with the people who own them
    The TROLL

  41. You have to accept whatever comes and the only important thing is that you meet it with courage and with the best that you have to give.

  42. Laura says:

    why should you care what anyone else thinks of your garden and what brings you enjoyment? Go for it!

  43. Kaveh Maguire says:

    A million times NAY.

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