Ear to the Ground: The Insider Dirt to Gardening in Upstate NY

The Magic of Garden Follies

by janem on August 26, 2014


England and many parts of Europe are known for their enchanting and beautifully-designed gardens. A quintessential English garden typically has some sort stone ruin or a garden “folly” that adds, as a point of interest, an accent of antiquity and creates a bit of magic to the layout and flow of the garden. As an architectural term, folly is a building constructed primarily for decoration, yet suggests through its appearance another purpose. 18th century English gardens and French garden landscapes often featured Roman temples, which symbolized classical virtues and ideals. Other 18th century garden follies represented ruined abbeys, Chinese temples, or Egyptian pyramids, to represent different continents or historical eras. Some follies, particularly during famine, were built as a form of poor relief, to provide employment for peasants and unemployed artisans.


Typically follies have no other purpose than as ornamentation, to add a sense of majesty and magic. They will often have the appearance of a building constructed for a particular purpose, such as a castle or tower. If they have another purpose, it may be disguised. They are buildings, or parts of buildings, and thereby distinguished from other garden ornaments such as sculpture. Follies are deliberately built as ornaments and are commissioned and built for pleasure.

— Liza Savage-Katz (Lizasavagekatz@gmail.com). Photography by Tracy Grier (Tgrier@juno.com)

Upstate New Yorkers have a rare opportunity to learn the art of building garden follies with dry laid stone with two highly skilled and accomplished artisan craftsmen, John Shaw-Rimmington (founder of Dry Stone Walling Across Canada, or DSWAC) and Norman Haddow (Official dyker of Balmoral Castle, Scotland). The “Walling Weekend” will take place at Sara’s Garden Center in Brockport the weekend of October 11th & 12th. At the workshop, students will build a castle ruin folly. Student space is limited. To register or for more information, contact Kathy at Sara’s Garden Center via email: Kkepler@rochester.rr.com or phone: 585-637-4745.


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