We have a dragon in our garden. Not a real dragon like a type of frilled lizard, but the mythical kind found in old legends and fantasy tales.
Before we had any garden features our back yard looked rather boring. Several years ago Ellie and I decided we needed some kind of focal point at the rear of the property. We visited garden centres and couldn’t find anything we liked to suit our style of house. It is a cross between the early 20th century Australian Federation and California bungalow styles with a modern red brick addition on the back.
Looking in some books on how to renovate houses of these eras, we saw some terracotta roof dragons hand-made by the local architectural pottery. Our roof has a couple of original terracotta finials but is not high enough to take a large dragon, so we decided to get one of these beautifully modeled terracotta sculptures to put in the garden. We went to the pottery and looked at all the designs, chose a large French style dragon (actually a two-legged Wyvern) and placed our order. After several weeks it was delivered in separate pieces to its new home.
The dragon needed some kind of plinth on which to sit so we cleaned a lot of old bricks left over when a front verandah was enclosed. With the help of a friend, the brick plinth was constructed under a wooden pergola needed to protect the dragon from falling branches. The tree next door is an African Coral tree that sheds limbs in storms. This structure has proved very effective, as we often find fallen branches that have been deflected by the framework.
The foliage surrounding the dragon prevents it from being viewed from all parts of the garden, so it does not compete with other garden ornaments and retains its dramatic impact. We named it after Ramoth, the dragon Queen in Anne McCaffrey’s wonderful books about the dragons of Pern. Our dragon has gained a green patina of moss and lichens and has become a home for spiders, the kind that make interesting funnel like webs in the dragon’s mouth. Every time I tried to remove the webs they kept returning because the spider lives inside the dragon. Not a wise idea to put fingers into any crevices as I have since found Redback spiders in the garden so the webs can stay, no matter what made them. For those unfamiliar with these spiders they are Australian native members of the deadly Black Widow family and like to live in damp and dark corners of the garden or shed. Or maybe down a dragon’s throat.
The dragon is a wonderful symbol of both the creative and destructive forces of nature because it represents the four elements: earth, air, fire and water. It lives in the earth, flies in the air, breathes fire and has the scales of a fish. In western Myths and stories, dragons have often been seen as an evil serpent, like St George’s dragon and Tolkien’s cunning talking dragon, Smaug. In Chinese culture usually they are lucky and are one of the 12 zodiac animals. Also on the positive side, a dragon is the symbol of Wales and the magical friend of little Jackie Paper. I was always sorry when Puff “sadly slipped into his cave”. Dragons continue to inspire new works for children and adults, like the movie How to Train Your Dragon and the books and TV series of Game of Thrones, where they are dangerous but heroic creatures. Never a wise idea to mock a Queen’s dragons. Barbecue anyone?
It is great to have one of the architectural dragons at ground level because only birds would appreciate the sculptural detail when they are placed upon a roof. To me Ramoth has a smiling face, but she looks quite powerful and ready to defend her territory so is a perfect garden guardian.