Every year I enjoy the happy faces of Tyler’s resident snowmen, which can be found on the patio next to the Visitor Center. Warm or cold, they will stay with us. Have you ever wondered where they came from?
In the fall of 2017, we had an opportunity to collect some wood. The site of our old vegetable garden was being cleared to create Lucille’s Garden. As several trees were brought down, “tree cookies,” as we call them, were cut. Tree cookies are a familiar item at Tyler, and they are nothing more than a cut across a grain of the wood, but in this case, they were from trunks of trees rather than slim cuts from branches. Large holes were drilled through the diameter of the cookie, and a stainless-steel pipe was inserted, which was screwed into a solid base that provided us with a 360-degree display. The biggest challenge was drilling the hole straight.
Now the fun part of decorating began. We created hats using leftover flower pots from when the Barn Garden was created. The plant materials adorning the hats came from around the property, often from the Scenic Loop or behind the Maintenance Building. Both are replaced each year.
Frosty the Snowman was used as inspiration for the body and face decorations. In prior years one has sported a corncob pipe made from a corncob that fell from a cornstalk during Pumpkin Days cleanup. The red button noses and black coal buttons were painted tree cookies cut from rhododendron wood from some winter maintenance pruning in our Wister Rhododendron Collection. The eyeglasses were made from wire found in the Maintenance Building, while the scarves were machine-knit using leftover yarn from my personal stash. Each is a little over seven feet long! You don’t realize just how big those necks are!
What I love the most is we didn’t have to go and buy anything to make them. Instead, we just used what we had on hand. So, in the spirit of “Recycle, Renew and Reuse,” our snowmen really hit the mark!
The wood has weathered well, but it will not last forever. Cracks appear as the snowmen age. While they are on the patio in the winter, they spend their summers enduring the mid-Atlantic heat and humidity in one of our poly houses, where the wood swells and contracts from the weather.
Our snowmen are a group effort among staff and volunteers and were so much fun to put together.
Spring will be here soon, and the snowmen will be gone. But, while they are still out, come over to Tyler and take a picture — it’s a great photo op! Even Santa Claus thinks so.