Did you ever wonder how to bring your garden alive with garden art? Well take a peek into Joan and Arthur Bluethenthal’s courtyard garden in Greensboro, NC. With some treasured sculptures, they’ve been able to transform their yard into a gallery of hidden treasures.

Frog sculpture

A frog seems right at home in the lush foliage.

Photo Credit: Jennifer Manning

Pig sculpture

This is one pig that won’t be rooting around in the garden.

Photo Credit: Jennifer Manning

Sentry sculpture

A garden sentry oversees the comings and goings of the garden.

Photo Credit: Jennifer Manning


The birdbath may be too small for these curious geese, but it’ll do just fine for smaller feathered friends.

Photo Credit: Jennifer Manning

At first look, the Bluethenthal’s garden is simply a delight to the senses. Chip Callaway, a landscape architect who specializes in garden restoration and design, envisioned a Charleston-type setting when he planned it. And the couple wasn’t disappointed with what Callaway gave them.

They can take in the beauty of the courtyard below from any window at the back of their home. When they gaze down, they can see their blooms of wisteria and clematis trailing over the tops of the walls and the creeping fig vines and variegated ivy lazily creeping up the walls to add color to the brick. But a closer look into their private garden reveals a collection of riches tucked among the foliage.

The courtyard is flanked with boxwoods, camellias and holly ferns, but it’s among the hellebores, columbine, hostas and other shade-loving perennials where you’ll find the sculptural elements of Tom Suomalainen, a clay artisan who’s been exhibiting his work since 1964. The Bluethenthals have been avid collectors of his smooth-textured pieces for many years.

When the garden was completed, the pieces of artwork were nestled into special homes throughout the garden. As time’s gone by, the garden has grown and filled in, but the artwork, too, has taken on a life of its own. The creatures, in particular, have become an integral part of the landscape, peering through the leaves – showing their own unique personalities.

The Bluethenthal’s frog, for example, looks rather mischievous popping up under a magnolia tree, surrounded by ferns, hostas and azaleas. In a planting of Japanese anemones, impatiens and poet’s laurel, a graceful gooseneck peeks out. And nestled under a dogwood rests a cheerful-looking pig, surrounded by more impatiens and hostas.

The sculpture of a man, perhaps a gardener, surveys the garden, stationed in front of a grouping of boxwoods and flanked on either side by a sweet-scented gardenia and a rich, green laurel. Any avian visitors are welcomed by two geese to take a dip in a wonderfully detailed birdbath. The geese gaze curiously upward as if trying to spy their flights of fancy.

The Bluethenthals love their garden. The creative mix of rich plant material and stately – yet informal – sculptures offer sweet surprises of delight for garden guests as they explore the carefully designed and tediously-cared-for courtyard. And while the garden itself is a place of beauty, it’s the homeowners’ treasured clay sculptures that really bring it to life.