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News: Fake It ‘Til You Make It: Faux Bois


June 25, 2020

The Archives of American Gardens is a wealth of information for researchers and garden enthusiasts looking to understand trends in gardening history. Over 6,500 gardens and landscapes are documented in the archives; they illustrate the work of hundreds of landscape architects and garden designers. One unique gardening trend is faux bois, which has its roots in trompe-l’oeil, the tradition of ‘deceiving the eye.’

Faux bois focuses on creating art that resembles something else in a convincing way. Faux bois (literally French for fake wood), was a natural progression of this style. First crafted during the nineteenth century, faux bois furnishings were shaped out of concrete slathered over an iron armature (rods, bars, and chicken wire being the usual implements). The form was then sculpted with iron tools to create a piece having a wood-grained pattern. It’s no surprise that stumps and branches are a typical faux bois motif.

Faux bois was incorporated into numerous garden furnishings ranging from chairs and tables to bird baths and plant containers. Mexican artists created variations of Faux Bois called trabajo rústico (or ‘rough work’) in the first half of the 20th century. It was considered a type of folk art.

The fact that pieces disintegrated over time and needed repair, no doubt contributed to their waning demand. However, with traditional faux bois now considered a highly prized craft, inspired reproductions are readily available on the market. 


Images from The Garden Club of America Collection at Archives of American Gardens. By Jessica Brode, AAG/GCA Garden History and Design Intern. August 2014.

Barbara Hunt Crow Garden, Dallas, TX, May 2013, Elsie Norman Dunklin, photographer


Boxwood, Birmingham, AL, October 2011, Margaret Porter, photographer.    


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