Friday, March 16, 2012

Fall At The Garden

Fall is one of my favorite times of the year at the Atlanta Botanical Garden because of their annual Scarecrows in the Garden exhibit.  This year was no exception and I was happy to be in town a couple of days so I could swing by for a visit.  Every year the Atlanta Botanical Garden invites local companies, groups and individuals to bring their creative juices and add crazy and wild characters to lurch in corners and along the walkways throughout the garden.   This year was the 11th annual event which attracted over 100 entries. Participants are encouraged to come up with a theme for their human like figures which ranged from witty and whimsical to bold and bizarre.  Their final creations are displayed throughout the garden for visitors to admire and imagine.
As I walked through the garden,  I wonder what the story of the scarecrow is. Where and how these creatures came about? Today they are primarily cosmetic but traditionally,  these characters where employed (of course without pay) by farmers to guard their fields and keep birds such as crows and sparrows away.  The human like figures date back to 712 where a scarecrow who sees all and knows all shows up in the oldest Japanese book known to be in existence Kojiki.  At that time,  Japanese farmers created kakashi (meaning smells badly) by hanging clothes, bones and even meat on bamboo poles to protect their rice crops.  These kakashi were a distant relative of today's more ornamental version.
In Egypt along the Nile,  farmers acted like living scarecrows to keep quail and other birds from eating their fields.  Waiving their arms as they ran towards any birds that dare invade their crops.  Greek farmers would carve a frightening figure based on the mythological figure Priapus to put in their fields and ward off both the seen and unseen pests.  In Britain and Europe scarecrows were lives boys who would patrol fields carrying stones ready to toss them at any crow or other bird that landed in the field.  After the Great Plague of 1666,  many farmers had to stuff sacks with straw, carve faces on turnips or gourds, and make scarecrows that stood against poles as there were not enough children to protect the fields since a large number of them had perished due to disease.   Shortly after this time, the industrial revolution all but ended this occupation as children were attracted to higher paying jobs in factories and farmers had to rely on these hand crafted scarecrows to take over the roll of crop protector.
 Native Americans in both South and North America would spend hours and take turns protecting their crops from the birds. Often dressing up as human scarecrows and finding other creative ways to keep these birds from devastating their harvest.  When the pilgrims came to the America's they brought their version of the scarecrow with them to protect their fields.  Each region of European immigrant brought their customs to the new world and it blended with those of other regions.  Scarecrows commonly protected fields until just after World War II when farmers replaced them with chemicals to control pests.
Over the years scarecrows have graced the silver screen in movies such as "Wizard of Oz" and "Children of the Corn". They have inspired music, comics and festivals such as Scarecrows in the Garden with their wobbly arms and life like figures.  The journey through the exhibit at the Atlanta Botanical Garden this day was sure filled with a ton of creativity celebrating this craft of historic proportion.  Hope you enjoy the photos below and if you are in the area during October or November, I suggest you swing in for a visit.

This post is in memory of my good friend Patti Thomas who passed away November 16, 2011.  Patti had a passion for plants and gardening and I am blessed to have shared a few years with her. I loved to spend time at the Atlanta Botanical Garden with her where her love of plants naturally shined through.  
Patti, you will be missed! 

Please let me know if you would like a personal tour of Atlanta-I would be happy to share this beautiful city with you! All inclusive packages available--
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(( thanks again wikipedia for the information)) 

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