I can’t believe I did this: Mosaic Bird Bath Purchase

– Posted in: Acquisitions, Hardscaping and Projects

image of a classical birdbathI’ve wanted a birdbath for a long time, but most birdbaths I’ve seen just didn’t appeal to me. They either seemed too crude or too faddish, and every single one that didn’t look shoddy was too expensive. I really liked the classical good looks of this one, but it was $375 in an upscale catalog, and that was several years ago. On top of that, the advertising copy advised to protect from frost. The last thing I need is to ruin a four hundred buck investment with one night of forgetfulness.

This past Thursday I was out running errands and the first store I entered was HomeGoods. If you’re not familiar with this store, it sells kitchen, bath, and decorating items that didn’t sell somewhere else. The prices are reduced from the original, but the selection can be erratic and eccentric. That is, just because something is on the sales floor doesn’t mean they can order more or additional items to match what they have. What you see is all there is.

The first thing I saw when I entered was, you guessed it, a birdbath. It was grouped with a coordinating cafe table and two chairs. They were all made out of mosaic tile in shades of green, though they had plenty of mosaic pieces in pink and purple. It was garden whimsy teetering on the edge of kitsch, and it utterly charmed me. And that surprised me. “I can’t believe you like that thing,” I muttered to myself (inside my head). “But I do,” myself replied. I threaded my way through the store, not finding what I was looking for, and somehow found myself back at the birdbath. “It’s not anything like that one in the catalog,” the interior conversation continued. “I know. But it looks like it would be perfect for a cottage garden. My garden.”

I looked it all over for a price tag and couldn’t find one. I finally asked a sales clerk, and she found the price on the bottom of the base: $99.99. A hundred dollars. A hundred dollars. Crestfallen, I left the store. I didn’t dare buy a birdbath like that for a hundred dollars. What if I stopped liking it? That would be a very expensive mistake. I wished someone would buy it for me so it wouldn’t be my hundred dollar mistake. But none of the people likely to give me a gift could afford a hundred dollar mistake, either.

I trudged through the rest of my errands with a heavy heart, hardly able to keep my mind on what I was doing. A hundred dollars. It would be hard to keep clean. A hundred dollars. It made me happy to look at it. A hundred dollars. I’d have to remember to bring it in every fall. A hundred dollars. It’s just not practical.

Picking up my kids at Grandma’s, I told my mother-in-law I had seen a birdbath I really liked. “You can have mine,” she immediately responded. I looked at her blankly. “Don’t you remember it? You put sand in the bottom to weight it down…” I realized this was not about birdbaths, not really. As the catalog copy had stated, “If birdbaths served only for avian hygiene, a tin washpan might suffice.” If my primary goal was to provide water for birds, there was probably a dozen ways I could cobble something together. No, what I was really hungering for was garden ornament–the birds would be an added attraction. And hadn’t I written about garden whimsy not too long ago? ” …art in the garden is a very personal thing, and it should consist of objects that really speak to you, and speak of you.”

If no one was going to buy it for me, I at least wanted someone to tell me to go for it. “I saw a birdbath I really liked today,” I mentioned at the supper table. “And you didn’t buy it because you knew it’d be broken in two months if you brought it home,” said my oldest child. Oh, yeah, I forgot about that. If the frost doesn’t get it, some kid will probably topple it. “No,” I said dejectedly, “I didn’t buy it because it cost a hundred dollars.”

Poor me, in every sense of the word. But I did have a gardening budget. I could buy that birdbath, but it would mean I’d have to give up buying something else, like certain plants in a certain mailorder catalog that I’ve been drooling over. That birdbath was not only expensive, but impractical. It was a hundred dollar gamble, and did I like the odds? “…perhaps I’m just not listening when something speaks to me.” Did I say that? I thought of other times in my life when I had done the right thing–well, not so much the right thing as the expected thing, and had not been happy about it, and had gone on to discover that it was an expectation that I had placed upon myself, and I had made myself miserable for nothing.

How would I feel if I didn’t get the birdbath? How long would I feel regretful? What if it didn’t get broken? What if, instead, it turned into a family icon, an heirloom that was treasured precisely because of its quirkiness? I wanted someone else to buy it for me because I was afraid of the risk–of what? Of not doing the proper, the expected thing. I was afraid of being impractical and profligate. What I really wanted was permission to own something for no other reason than because it gave me pleasure, and I had mistakenly been looking to others for that permission, when in reality I had to grant it to myself.

“Perhaps I could find it on the internet for less,” I thought the next morning. But every mosaic birdbath I managed to find didn’t look as nice, and cost just as much. The ones that looked as nice as “mine” (or nicer, I concede) were not only more expensive, but handmade, one-of-a-kind. And I came across a thread about cleaning them–a good soaking in bleach solution works wonders. “It’s probably sold by now,” I thought to myself. “But you won’t know until you call,” myself replied. So I called. And it wasn’t sold. And they put it on hold for me. And I bought it yesterday, along with the week’s groceries. Groceries that were purchased from a very carefully considered list, because I am, on the whole, a frugal shopper.

And now it stands in my bedroom, as safe from rambunctious children as is possible, and, like me, waits for spring.image of mosaic birdbath bowl interiorimage of mosaic birdbath sideview

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

If winter is slumber and spring is birth, and summer is life, then autumn rounds out to be reflection. It’s a time of year when the leaves are down and the harvest is in and the perennials are gone. Mother Earth just closed up the drapes on another year and it’s time to reflect on what’s come before.

~Mitchell Burgess in Northern Exposure

Comments on this entry are closed.

kelly March 8, 2011, 7:10 pm

I can see why you were so torn- I love it! Sometimes you just have to go for it! (Not always, but sometimes!) I think you made a good investment.

Kathy Purdy March 8, 2011, 7:28 pm

I do, too. Last summer my daughter said, “I just can’t imagine that bird bath not being in the garden.” Sadly, despite being carried into the house each winter, it is starting to show some cracks. I don’t know how long it will remain in one piece. Don’t regret it one bit.

LYNN July 31, 2008, 12:08 pm

Beautiful! I too have a mosaic birdbath, as well as a ceramic cobalt blue and a couple made of concrete. (thankfully, I have a friend who works where they were sold and I got them at her cost!) I bring them in in the fall to my front porch and fill them w/gazing balls, greens, berries, other dried flowers and pinecones from the garden for Christmas and and the rest of the season. (One may even make it into the living area.) I also bring in the urns to the porch and add dried grasses, etc, to them. It gives me another whole “garden” to enjoy inside while the snow falls on our garden outside. (but I don’t have to worry about kids either!) Enjoy your birdbath guilt free, sometimes we just deserve it!!

Matt April 4, 2008, 4:14 pm

That is a nice birdbath. i am also very fond of bird baths.

Shady Gardener January 4, 2008, 3:05 pm

I love your birdbath! You will love having your birdbath. Your birds will love your birdbath (if they get the chance!) Congratulations!

I have a plain concrete one to which I want to add mosaic… perhaps I’ll print a copy of yours for inspiration! 😉

Steve May 16, 2006, 3:07 am

The mosaic tile bird bath turned out really nice.
I like the way you did the mosaic tiles under the bowl. Most people wouldn’t do that.


Gwen Holt March 4, 2006, 1:28 am

I enjoyed your article so very much, however could not read the last notes in boxes.
Your bird bath is exquisive and I love it too.

Gwen Holt
Master Gardener
Isle of Wight..Rescue, Va.

Keith February 23, 2006, 12:08 am

Hey, I just read through this blog and was so curious about the birdbath that I read all the way through, not allowing myself to see the birdbath until I’d finished reading. When I finally saw it I gasped. I sold the same brand of birdbath/ mosaic furniture at a discount retail store which recently went out of business. In my store the retail price was 149.00 so you can still consider yourself frugal. I, on the other hand, should be ashamed of myself. Since I worked in the store and had to look at all the wonderful mosaic items month after month I now own a mosaic planter, $50, a pedestal, $80, a finial, $30, a vase, $16, and lastly a complete barstool set for the patio I don’t yet own, $150. I am surrounded but in bliss.
p.s. I have left my mosaic pedestal outside for the past two years and have not had any tiles come off due to thermal expansion, though the winters here have been mild. It did survive an icestorm this season, so if you forget one night it should not damage the art at all.

Marianne February 16, 2006, 9:41 am

I am so proud of you for casting reason aside and good common sense to give to yourself something that will give you great joy and a smile when you look at it

Alice February 16, 2006, 2:18 am

I think it’s a lovely birdbath and I’m sure the birds will think so too in the summer.

Zoey February 15, 2006, 4:29 pm

Good for you, Kathy. Sometimes an indulgence is good for the soul. I hope you enjoy your beautiful bird bath for many years to come. Looking forward to seeing it amongst the garden flowers.

Kathy Purdy February 13, 2006, 6:48 pm

Nantinki–I do not know if they have a store in Alaska. This is their website: http://www.homegoods.com/index.asp but it doesn’t tell you much.

Nantinki February 13, 2006, 6:13 pm

Where is this store>???
I live in Tok but will be in Anchorage for a month. I would like to shop there if possible.

jenn February 13, 2006, 1:32 pm

Nice craftsmanship on that mosaic work.

I’m going to paint the picnic table this year, and maybe the round table, too. (Both salvaged items, hand-me-downs) Mark strenuously objects to my color choices, but he’s like the tv mikey – he hates everything – until he sees it and concedes that maybe it’s okay after all.

Purple and celedon aren’t that unusual in a garden setting. People just aren’t used to seeing them as picnic sets and tables, that’s all.

You have to follow your whimsey. It’s the heart that’s talking.

Kasmira February 13, 2006, 1:31 pm

Your birdbath is de-gorgeous. My birdbath also cost around $100 (maybe a little less), but the sting of the sticker shock has worn off less than a year later. Mine comes in for the winter too.

Judith February 13, 2006, 10:12 am

I love the color of the mosaics –nice color combination. It’ll make a lovely statement in your garden. I will look forward to seeing where you put it. I tend to “furnish” the garden over the house interior…

monarda February 13, 2006, 1:37 am

Mosiac things are often more expensive than a hundred dollars. And just think, it will last you longer than one or two pairs of shoes.

Cynthia February 12, 2006, 10:31 pm

Oh Kathy, I do like the birdbath you chose. I agree with Bill that it is more beautiful than the catalog birdbath. I remember that you once bought a red tea kettle after struggling over the same issues. Just now I am wishing that I could visit with you, drink some hot tea, and take an up-close look at your new purchase!

Kathy Purdy February 12, 2006, 7:19 pm

Thank you for all your sympathetic support. And yes, Bill, there will be a photo when it gets placed outside, which will be sometime around Memorial Day. I read the sticker on the bottom; it says to avoid exposing to heavy frost. Our last frost is often sometime in the first week of June, but usually by Memorial Day we don’t have any more heavy frosts.

OldRoses February 12, 2006, 5:16 pm

I couldn’t live without a birdbath. I’m so glad you decided to buy it. It will bring you years of enjoyment. The mosaic is great! I’ve never seen one like that.

Alice Nelson February 12, 2006, 4:51 pm

I need a birdbath, too, so I purchased a nice large blue shading into tan cermaic saucer large enogh to be a bird bath. Now all I have to do is come up with a base. I also have a perfectly round glaciated rock that needs a base, somaybe I’ll find a couple of tiles to use under them – you know, the round hollow ones. and I don’t think yours looks kitchy. In fact, if someone is good with that kind of craft, they could make one. I don’t think I could do a good job.

Judith February 12, 2006, 3:20 pm

Oh, good job Kathy!!

Life is meant for enjoyment. As the Poet said, ‘If I had two loaves of bread, I would sell one and buy Hyacinths to feed my soul.’

So you can’t let it freeze–(it would likely spall)–you can’t let cans of housepaint freeze either, and nobody thinks it’s odd to protect them.

Chan S. February 12, 2006, 1:11 pm

Beautiful. I think it was a bargain.

bill February 12, 2006, 1:08 pm

The mosaic pattern is quite nice. I like it better than the more expensive one you preferred at first.

I want to see a picture of it in the garden this spring.

Mary Ann February 12, 2006, 12:43 pm

Well, I for one think it is beautiful. Not at all kitchy (SP?), I covet it as well, and I am glad you listened to your innerself. Let us know how you incorporate it into the garden.