Wednesday, Jun 20, 2018
One of America's Great Newspapers ~ Toledo, Ohio

Amy Stone

Your garden can grow on canvas, too

When your garden is weedy and brown, it's nice to have a pretty picture of it to remember it when it is vibrant and strong.

How about capturing your living work of art on canvas? That's what Rossford artist Christine Helvey did. A master gardener, she blended her gardening know-how with her experience as an interior decorator and artist.

With a new house and a new garden, Mrs. Helvey and her husband rolled up their sleeves to relandscape their backyard. The project has taken four years, and they still ended up with holes here and there.

Vines on a trellis didn't grow quick enough to fill in the bare spots in her new backyard landscape, so Mrs. Helvey decided to paint one in on a mural she created of the backyard. "It all just fit together. I really like to use color inside a home, so why not keep it going outside? Color makes you feel good and lively, so I copied the flowers in the garden below."

Her paintings are filled with allium, ferns, hosta, and other plants in the garden. "I have painted murals for other clients that want to keep the tropical plants blooming in their garden all summer."

Her garden murals are hung on a garage wall between low-growing boxwood shrubs. "They lift your eye up into the landscape, just like any other hardscape like a trellis or pergola." She starts by coming up with a color scheme that fits the surroundings. "I like to take my cues from the plants that are already growing in the garden, and I also work in some of the focal points in the garden like urns and outdoor lanterns."

Sometimes, the murals are just painted with a gardener's favorite plants.

"One client loved black-eyed Susans and red geraniums. The two colors looked great together and really pulled her landscape and outdoor furniture together."

Mrs. Helvey says you need to think about decorating in layers, both indoors and outdoors. Indoors, interior decorators consider the floor the first layer. The first layer of decorating outside is the ground and hardscapes in the garden, such as decking, fences, retaining walls, and anything else that is permanently in place.

Indoors, the next layer is fabric. That equates to the evergreens and other deciduous trees and shrubs that will go into your landscape. Furniture inside and outside is the next layer. Then come window treatments for inside. "Outdoor window treatments are like your perennials and bulbs in your garden. They add a lot of color to the whole room," she says.

Indoor accessories are the last layer, and that translates outside to annuals and small yard ornaments in the garden. "Don't overdo the small ornaments," says Mrs. Helvey. "You want to keep the attention on one or two well-placed focal points. If you get too much in the garden, it will look cluttered and not intentional."

Once Mrs. Helvey picks the floral scene she wants to paint, she prepares a gallery-wrapped canvas. Because the canvas is tightly secured to a large wooden frame, no decorative frame is needed. These are easy to find at your favorite art supply store. Mrs. Helvey paints the landscape on a canvas that may be up to five feet wide. "It just depends on the space you need to fill. These work great on the side of your garage, or on the side of your house near the patio. The landscape wall art really connects the interior space to your outside space.

The murals are treated with varnish so they can withstand light rain and some sun. "I like to bring them in during severe weather," says Mrs. Helvey. "It will just help them last longer."

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