You could call it the march of the garden gnomes.
As home gardening steadily grows in popularity, so does the desire to add to a yard’s visual impact with ornaments such as a bird bath, pagoda and maybe a bunny or turtle. Or you might be brave enough to place an emerald green Loch Ness monster next to your peonies.
Whatever your taste, chances are that Ornamental Stonecraft in Oak Bluff will have a design that appeals to you.
"We have, by far, the largest variety of ornaments," said owner Rod Schroeder, estimating that they carry about 1,000 designs.
Rod and wife Barbara opened their business 19 years ago. Their larger concrete ornaments, including an eye-catching trout (though Rod admits he didn’t make that one), are visible to drivers on the Perimeter Highway.
"The location was perfect for us," said Rod.
The process of making concrete sculptures involves creating a clay model, then using that to make a latex mould which can be used up to 500 times to form identical shapes. The Schroeders first had local artists work on the clay models, but now they usually buy ready-made moulds.
Rod said customers want an exacting level of detail on their concrete sculptures, such as fine lines depicting an animal’s fur. Barbara adds to the realistic look of some creations by painting or staining all or parts of an ornament.
The Schroeders are willing to take on custom orders. For example, four years ago they produced a statue for the City of Thompson honouring local firefighters. The three figures that make up the statue weigh a total of 1,500 pounds and the monument is about six feet high and 12 feet wide. Stain was applied to give it a bronze finish.
While the statue resembles bronze, Rod said, the price was a fraction of what a real bronze statue would have cost.
The popularity of a design determines whether or not the Schroeders continue to carry it. Rod said their most popular design is a bear cub standing next to a "Welcome" sign.
Although similar designs are available in plastic and some concrete ones are imported from other countries, Rod is confident that his will last longer since they are manufactured to withstand Manitoba’s harsh winters and hot summers.
"They will definitely outlive me," he joked.
Smaller ornaments can be taken indoors for the winter, while larger ones should be covered with a breathable tarp. Care should be taken to ensure water doesn’t get into any recesses and freeze, then thaw, as this can damage the structure. Planters and pots can be filled with dirt to prevent moisture accumulation.
Rod is always on the lookout for new designs.
"I can’t pass a concrete place without stopping in," he said.