Kaysville woman has a ball in the garden

Aug 21 2009 - 11:27pm

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(NICHOLAS DRANEY/Standard-Examiner) Datherine Piper poses for a portrait in front of her bowling ball collection in her yard.
(NICHOLAS DRANEY/Standard-Examiner) Datherine Piper poses for a portrait in front of her bowling ball collection in her yard.

Katherine Piper's garden is filled with beautiful colors. Of course, there are light greens and deeper greens, but there are also pinks, blues, reds and yellows. The color is there year-round, even in winter, because it doesn't come from flowers. In Piper's garden, the color is provided by bowling balls.

A few brightly colored bowling balls sit outside the front door, but most are in the backyard, near the patio. Some are nestled among the plants; others sit on pedestals and plant stands.

The Kaysville woman didn't plan on collecting bowling balls -- it's just that she was having trouble with her garden's gazing balls.

"My grandkids would come, and take them and toss them," she said. "They're glass, lightweight and easy to break."

She looked for nonbreakable versions, but couldn't find any.

"Then I was at the thrift store, and I just saw this really gorgeous ball," she said.

She put it in the garden, against a fence.

"It looked good," she said. "Then I got another one, then another one, and now I have 104."

A universe of color

Piper didn't go gung-ho into bowling-ball gardening right away.

"I put some out in the winter, just to test, to see it they'd crack or break," she said. "I kept checking them, like they were going to hatch."

They didn't, so she got more.

"I just love them because they're all so unique, and all different colors, and you don't have to water them," she said. She keeps them shiny with furniture polish.

Piper's first bowling ball was covered with red, white and blue swirls. Since then, she's collected several with marble patterns.

"They just look like planets to me, when they're all together," she said.

The balls with glitter are her favorites.

"If you get real close, it looks sparkly," she said. "You can get them in greens, and in the marble color, and the blue and the red."

Yellow is the most difficult to find.

"Men like the color blue, and I think that's why there are a lot of blue bowling balls," she said.

There is only one black ball in the Piper yard, hidden under foliage.

"The solid-color black ones, they don't stay shiny," said Katherine Piper. "It's just different stuff they're made of."

Garden art

Piper likes a garden that looks like "controlled chaos," and the bowling balls fit right in. She says her husband has different ideas.

"He would have this looking like Home Depot," she said of the yard.

But Dan Piper says he was immediately taken with his wife's use of bowling balls.

"I thought it was extremely creative," he said. "She never ceases to amaze me. When I think I've seen it all, something new comes up. She's very artistic, and it's kind of neat -- it keeps you guessing."

Piper's daughter, Sarah Hesselton of Kaysville, says her mother has always had a flair for art and recycling.

"That's how we grew up -- making something out of almost nothing," Hesselton said. "She sees the beauty in everything."

Any item could wind up as art in the garden.

"She's used dinner plates she no longer needed, or silverware that she didn't need, and cups," said Hesselton.

And the bowling bags that came with the balls?

"She's given them to me for purses," said her daughter. "They're pretty cool."

Striking it rich

New balls cost as much as $200, Piper says, but she never has to pay full price.

"The generation that's coming up doesn't bowl as much, probably," Piper said. "With Wii, they don't have to go to the alley or buy a bowling ball."

So old balls wind up in thrift shops, and finding more than 100 has been pretty easy.

"All of my friends and relatives are like, 'Oh, I found one over here -- I'll bring it over to show it to you,' " Piper said. "If it's two bucks, they'll pick them up."

With so many people helping, it took just two years to fill the yard.

The collection is a hit with her grandchildren: "It looks like it rained gum balls out here."

Final frame

Piper says there is a limit to her bowling-ball collection, and she thinks she's reached it.

"I've heard that before," said Dan Piper. "Just when you think you've seen the last one, you see one you've got to have."

But Piper says she's serious -- no more. Unless they're really unique.

"Dan says we should do the walkway, but I say no. I don't want it to be institutionalized," she said. "I just think it's fun, and I don't want to get too heavy-duty with it. When it loses its fluff, I don't want to play anymore."

Besides, she says, someday they'll probably move.

"I don't want to have to hire a crew just to move bowling balls," she said. "Maybe I'll take a couple that I like, that are super special ones."

The rest she'll sell, unless her children decide to keep the ball rolling.

"Knowing my kids, they'll want to take them, and pass them down -- it's their inheritance," she joked.

But it's true.

"I love the pink ones," said Hesselton. "I would love to take them and do the same thing she did."

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