Story: Tiffany Burgess | Styling: Chip Jones |
A collection of vintage architectural elements adds intrigue to a beloved outdoor sanctuary
COLLECTOR Rebecca Thompson HOMETOWN Magnet Cove CURRENTLY RESIDES Little Rock HER OBSESSION Vintage statues, finials, tools, benches, chimney pots, planters, and keystones—anything with a back story or bit of history to bring architectural interest to her sprawling garden HOW IT BEGAN Thompson’s collection started with gardening tools from the early and mid 1900s. “I am drawn to old tools, because they carry a history and connection to the earth,” she says. WHY SHE LOVES THEM “I love mystery and the story behind all of these pieces. They have lived so many lives, and it’s fascinating to think about the ways they were used. The garden itself is a reflection of me as a person, and the architectural elements that have been enjoyed and cherished in so many ways throughout their lifetime are a big part of this,” Thompson says.
HOW DID YOU BEGIN GARDENING? My grandmother was an avid gardener, so I learned by watching her. I love the different composition of all the elements you find in a garden. That eventually led me to studying more about the art form and then become the gardener at the governor’s mansion when Jim Guy Tucker was in office. So it’s something I have really always enjoyed.
YOUR OWN GARDEN HAS EVOLVED THROUGH THE YEARS. IT SEEMS THAT MANY OF THE ARCHITECTURAL PIECES THAT ARE PROMINENT IN IT ARE EXPERIENCING A SIMILAR EVOLUTION. I have been in this house since 1989, and the garden has changed a good deal since I started. I am always adding something to it. The pieces that I display have a similar life. I add them to the garden as I pick them up at local sales or find them here and there. I have a sort of laissez-faire approach to it all. In fact, when something breaks, I still find a place to use it and experience its beauty in a different way. You can see that with many of my planters and the concrete pieces.
THERE ARE A NUMBER OF FROG STATUES IN YOUR GARDEN. ARE THOSE OF ANY SPECIAL SIGNIFICANCE TO YOU? Yes, I have a special little portion of the garden I refer to as “The Frog Walk.” All of the frogs I have came from Arkansas. I think a lot of them have a distinct 1930s look. When I was a child a toad came up on our porch, and I began to think of him as my pet. I guess that started my fondness for frogs. There’s something magical about how they can live on land or in the water, and they are also a dream image for rebirth. Many things draw me to them, and of course they are a natural fit for the garden.
ARE THERE ANY OTHER WAYS YOU USE THE RELICS? I now work as an artist in my home studio, so the garden pieces come in handy for my compositions. I move the pieces around to capture them in different lights. It’s amazing how different something can look when you move it from one area to another. I think that’s one of the things I love most about the relics; they are all constantly being reinvented and reimagined through their life in the garden.