I tend to be very food-focussed in my garden. I overcrowd the beds hoping for the most production possible, leaving gnomes, plastic deer and umbrella-carrying frogs to other people. I don't even plant many flowers, except ones known as pest deterrents or if they are proven indispensable companion plants.
(This year, I will admit that I have had to resort to awful nylon whirlygigs to keep the quail out of my lettuce beds. But they are hardly there to beautify. In fact, I cringe when I look out into my raised beds and see these Dollar Store-wonders spinning around.)
However, there is something to be said for sticking a few ornaments in and around the basil, even though I can't really tell you why. The herbs don't grow any faster or better, and I'm convinced that bobbles in the garden do little to deter hungry birds or rabbits. The best answer I can give is that it's just fun or when done right, downright funny. There is a lot to be said for humour's place in a food or community garden, just as some gardeners are guided by an aesthetic directive.
Case in point:
Last summer, I stopped by Our Urban Eden, a community garden in downtown Edmonton. Etablished in 1999 (though it moved to its present location in 2007), this garden now has 50+ gardeners and 37 plots. (New gardeners start with a half-plot, 4 feet by 7 feet, and then graduate up to a full 4-by-14-foot plot.) The dues to belong to this community garden are $45 CDN per year plus deposit for a full plot, and $25 CDN per year for a half plot.)
As with any community garden, each plot appeared to be a mirror of its gardener, an alternate version of the Myers-Brigg Personality Test if you like. Some plots were messy, some were chaotic, others were utilitarian, and others were overly regimented. As we walked through the plots, the garden coordinator pointed out a couple of planters with bizarre flea-market collections of figurines, toys, shiny trophy tops, and the like. It was brilliant, like a small comic village of characters out of Toy Story just doing their thing among the broccoli and cauliflower.
I have come across this sort of thing in other community gardens. Just blocks from my condo, the Oliver Community Garden in Edmonton provided a nice suprise last summer as well.
OK, so out in my Okanagan garden, I do have a metal pig and a metal sheep looking out from a rock ledge. They're not fall-off-your-chair hilarious, but they amuse me none the less. Which is reason enough to include them in the garden landscape.